Cutting Out the Middle Man in Your Legal Profession

14 10 2010

Recently, the managing partner in our firm asked that we begin looking for ways to cut client costs. I noticed that prior to my arrival , members of the support staff often outsourced projects I normally would have handled on my own, so I decided to adopt a policy of using a vendor only when absolutely necessary.

We use Summation and I have never used Summation prior to this job, so I began by learning as much as I could about the software. This involved talking to the vendors, reading manuals and “playing” in the system. In two and a half months, I have learned how to create .tiff files, write my own .DII load files and mastered some advanced coding and editing techniques. I’ve found this to not only be cost effective, but also more efficient. Vendors may employ technicians who understand software and programming, but not necessarily the litigation process.

Earlier this week, I learned that we needed to export a large amount of electronic data (over 60 GB) to a client. This required us to run a digital sweep of our servers for all electronic data related to this particular client. In the past, the firm outsourced these types of tasks. I refused to see my firm incur such expenses, so I volunteered to do the job myself. The process turned out to be very simple and painless and I lost no billable time while working on it.

My next challenge? Tackling the large copy jobs we are forced to outsource. I’m still searching for the perfect solution to this problem, but have several good leads.

Is your firm/office forking out big money to a middle-man to perform jobs you could do in-house? Are there ways you could help cut costs, produce a better product and make your firm/office more efficient? I would love to hear your ideas.

 

 

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Vendors

4 06 2010

About a year ago, our firm conducted an on-site document production for a client. Attorneys sifted through a storage building worth of boxes, flagged documents they wanted and our firm outsourced the scanning of these documents to a third-party vendor. The vendor scanned all documents onto external hard drives, sent them to our home office, where they routed them to the proper party. Our home office coordinated much of the project, but since the third-party vendor leased space in our building, they returned the finished hard drives to me to give to the vendor. The same agent from the vendor visited our office on each occasion and each time he asked to present a demonstration to my section on a particular software program his office designed. I told him that our section had no use for this particular kind of software, but he insisted that he could convince me otherwise.

After avoiding his phone calls and e-mails, I finally gave in and arranged for a demonstration for myself and one other paralegal in our section. We took the elevator up eight floors, arrived on time and found that the agent had forgotten our appointment. He apologized, invited us to his office’s conference room and patched in a sales call to our demonstration. After going through his entire presentation, he turned to us for gratification.

“Isn’t this program amazing? How often have you needed something like this?”

When we told him “never” and explained to him the areas our section focused on. He agreed that we would get little use out of his program.

I had a similar experience a few weeks later. Opposing counsel provided medical records through a third-party document production company. When I called to order a CD of the records, the agent tried to sell me another product. When I told him we had little use for that product in our practice, he began to ramble off a list of clients our firm represents out of other offices that would be perfect for the product. Again, I told him that we handled different clients out of our office and we had no say in the purchasing decisions of our other offices.

It seems like every week, another vendor contacts our office wanting to give presentations for their various products. They eat up valuable time that could be used on billable work and they refuse to listen to you when you tell them you have no use for their products. I’ve been in this position long enough to know the services I require and have a pre-set list of vendors I’ll call for these services. No amount of candy, lunches, gift cards or other perks will convince me to switch my loyalty.  I am not for sell.

Anyone else out there have any “horror” stories to relay regarding vendors?