With E-Discovery, Lawyers Face Loss Of Client Fees
A growing number of tech companies are riding the rising flood of corporate email and electronic records by pitching software to sift them -- and meeting resistance from lawyers who want a piece of the action.
Lawsuits increasingly rely on electronic documents being produced early on, feeding demand for tools that help archive and retrieve those records, a process known as e-discovery work. Much of that work requires little brainpower or legal training, says Michael Lynch, chief executive of British software company Autonomy Corp., which last year acquired e-discovery company Zantaz for $375 million.
"The old-fashioned way of doing this was having a lot of lawyers doing a lot of simple things," he says. "You would literally have lawyers reading through things saying 'there was chicken for lunch.' You don't need lawyers to know it's a lunch menu."
Among those who have jumped into the field are Hewlett-Packard Co., Xerox Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and EMC Corp., some of whom have bought smaller companies specializing in the work. They say in-house teams using their tools can cut e-discovery costs by half.
But big law firms, facing the loss of lucrative client fees, are crying foul. They question how much of the discovery process can be automated and how much money the tools will really save. They also say companies could end up spending more to fix mistakes. "You need to have some kind of quality control," says Robert Brownstone, a partner with the Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West, which consults with companies on how to combine software with lawyer supervision.
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Source: The Wall Street Journal
By: Justin Scheck