Saturday 14 December 2019

Use of technology brings exciting change to the legal landscape

Technology has transformed data analysis, especially with regard to due diligence, investigations, discovery and compliance

Karyn Harty
Karyn Harty

Karyn Harty

Last week saw McCann FitzGerald launch a new Data Investigations Group - a pioneering model for the management of high-volume document review and reporting.

There has been a seismic shift in the international legal market over recent years. Clients expect legal advisers to make greater use of technology and offer more imaginative pricing solutions.

Businesses are used to integrated project management in their own organisations - and they expect their lawyers to speak the same language and provide cohesive services that add value.

Nowhere is this transformation in the legal market more apparent than with data review, where technology has completely reinvented data analysis.

The need for data review arises in many aspects of legal work, including due diligence, investigations, discovery and compliance.

Since 2011, McCann FitzGerald has been using predictive coding technology, which can significantly reduce the volume of documents that need to be scrutinised by reviewers, track down 'hot' documents very quickly and provide useful insights into the data. Based on our experience with this technology and the US courts' approval of technology-assisted review for discovery, we believed it was time for a similar approach in Ireland, given that it is a faster, more accurate and more cost-effective option.

To their credit, the Irish courts have responded pragmatically and approved the use of technology-assisted review for discovery last year, considerably ahead of the UK courts, which have only recently given similar approval.

Over the past five years a suite of diverse data analytics platforms has become available, with tools that enable speedier and more accurate document review and reporting.

The challenge for law firms and their clients is to understand how these technology platforms work, how they differ and how best they can be used to manage large projects in a cost-efficient way.

This requires senior lawyers to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in - and to know when technology is right for the task and when another approach might be a better fit. We have found that our experience in using these platforms has given us a valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses, giving our clients an edge.

Following more than a year of strategic planning in which McCann FitzGerald looked at how we provide services to our clients, our new Data Investigations Group brings our expertise in technology-assisted review and managing large projects to all aspects of the business.

A key theme in the changes we have seen in the international market is how to resource and provide the more commoditised aspects of client work at prices that clients are willing to pay.

Clients are increasingly distinguishing between premium work and more commoditised work that should not carry premium rates. We are doing the same - with savings of up to 40pc on traditional review costs.

Data review for transactions and litigation has a commoditised element, but there are risks in approaching it on the basis of process alone, where the subtleties of legal procedure, compliance and risk might be missed.

By establishing a dedicated hub using state-of-the-art technology to support projects across the firm, with agile resourcing ensuring that work is carried out at the right level, we are enabling clients to continue to benefit from our legal and strategic expertise, while seeing reduced costs on more process-driven work.

With the greater emphasis on regulation and compliance now facing businesses, an integrated approach to legal services is an essential part of this new model.

Clients want to know that they can tap into the right expertise with sufficient breadth to anticipate and manage the issues their business is facing.

Law firms organise themselves into departments, which can operate almost like individual sub-businesses if the firm does not have a sufficiently collaborative culture.

This silo approach to legal services can make it difficult for clients to access the right advice from the right people.

We are getting out of silos and working through multi-disciplinary teams such as our Investigations Group, which draws together regulatory and compliance expertise from all of our key teams in an agile way, so that clients get advice that is complete and responsive.

The opportunity to respond to these changes in the legal market is exciting and has the potential to reinvigorate the profession, enabling transactions and facilitating business.

The challenge for the future is to maintain excellence while resourcing work more flexibly and to be prepared to innovate and drive change.

Karyn Harty is a partner in McCann FitzGerald

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