Applying Technology to Litigation for Improved Efficiency and Control
3M, a $32 billion global sciences company, has been applying technology-driven solutions to the practice of law since 1984. In the past four years, however, the in-house legal department has upped its game, leveraging a nine-person Litigation Technology Services (LTS) team to lower cost, improve quality, and save time within litigation and non-litigation areas. This represents an evolution, as the department has looked at measures of control every step of the way, explains Managing Counsel Joe Otterstetter.
The team is made up of experienced litigation technologists averaging over 15 years of general litigation and litigation-support experience gained in corporate, vendor, and law firm settings. The makeup of the team is crucial to its success, Otterstetter says. LTS has been led since 2011 by Melissa Anderson,who has worked at 3M since 2004. “It was good to have a litigation background when I stepped into the role,” she says. She sees internal expertise as the secret sauce to LTS’s success, supported by a foundation of tools and resources that had been developed and upgraded over the years: “The paralegals bring litigation understanding, and the IT people help us to drive processes that we can use to collaborate with the legal teams and the larger organization.”
LTS manages document and information handling in more than 170 litigation, compliance, and labor and employment matters annually, supporting a 500-person global legal team that includes 231 lawyers. Collection, review, coding, and production are the purview of LTS, which leverages a unique combination of internal and external resources for maximum efficiency. 3M paralegals do upfront interviews with internal clients to determine the parameters for searches.
“We have the best understanding of the documents and proven, consistent processes across litigation,” explains Anderson. “We know what data we need, how it is unique, and with whom it resides. We work closely with counsel to ensure that we are capturing the right sources and the right data. That work on the front end then contributes to the total amount reduced before we even apply a filter.” Once LTS has the appropriate set from working with inside and outside legal teams, they then apply the filters that account for another 13 percent reduction of data that does not have to be processed, saving 3M several hundred thousand dollars annually.
The importance of appropriate search parameters also can’t be overstated. “LTS takes a proactive approach by working with inside and outside legal teams to ensure that keyword search terms are on point. Identified keywords are then tested against the data,” explains Anderson.
Once the data is collected and processed, they use an internal tool to cull the data, then upload it to Ringtail, the internal review platform that 3M purchased and customized. An internal document review platform allows the team the flexibility to customize and organize data in a way that best suits their collection and review requirements.
The use of the internal platform eliminates user and hosting fees; combined with other efficiencies, Anderson estimates that it produces annual savings of over $300,000. A network of contract attorneys assists with document review on big cases; 3M estimates that their use, rather than law firm associates, has reduced costs by 70 percent annually.
Cost savings are not the only benefit the technology solution conveys. LTS processes ensure that Electronically Stored Information (ESI) collection and processing is done consistently and in ways that enable the company to defend chain of custody and to locate the right data sets for any given matter.
“What you do at the beginning of a case has a huge impact,” says Anderson. “A few key decisions by the legal team on the front end regarding what needs to be reviewed can have the greatest cost savings impact prior to processing or review of the documents.” LTS has invested in an early case assessment tool to help cull non-relevant data. In 2014, LTS added predictive coding to its toolbox, resulting in a 47 percent reduction in volume and cost over traditional, linear review. Soon, Anderson plans to explore a new managed file transfer tool to send largeamounts of data with low risk. Otterstetter also mentions replicating these processes in areas outside of litigation, such as mergers and acquisitions, but notes that they are only necessary in matters that are very document-intensive.
The culture at 3M has enabled the success of LTS, says Otterstetter. The company, involved as it is in scientific discovery, has a tolerance for risk-taking and for “letting people flourish in the areas in which they are passionate.” Anderson encourages other in-house counsel who have a steady diet of litigation to explore similar solutions, involving the IT department early in the process.
From left to right: Amy Olsen, Deborah Monturiol,
Kenneth Hayden, Sarah Riedel, Kate Karshna,
Alexandra Grand-Sutton, Melissa Anderson,
Jon Gilbertson, and Jean Klisiewicz