Ten things to know before you buy law technology

Cheat Sheet

1. Plan before you act  
Organizations purchase technology because they can. Of course, the hope is that this new shiny tool will fix or improve a process. However, oftentimes the acquisition is prompted by a good sales pitch or demo, without input from the entire team that will be affected by the acquisition. View the acquisition of any new technology as a project. Treat it as you would a business acquisition. Using Lean Six Sigma techniques, such as a Kaizen event, make a plan that includes scope, initiation, planning, execution, performance, and monitoring.

2. Know your user
One of the biggest mistakes any organization can make is not getting buy-in from the actual users. Your user could be internal to the organization or external. He or she could be set in traditional ways of doing things and be hostile to a change. Your user could be a technology-loving geek who will have strong opinions on what technology is better suited. Ignoring the reality of the end product’s use and the user could set you up for failure. At best, the new technology may not be exploited to its full capacity; at worst, the technology is simply ignored or bypassed by the user. Communication, top-down support, and management advocacy are vital to your new tool’s successful rollout and implementation. If no one knows about (or even worse—wants) the new tool, whatever you buy could quickly turn into a high-priced digital paperweight.

3. Know what you have
You may have what you need already. Technology platforms have all kinds of features that are never used at all or even considered by the user. Also, many readily-available office document management systems, like SharePoint, can be used to create tools customized to your specific needs. This saves the pain of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, as well as, of course, money.  

4. Training, training, more training
We cannot emphasize this enough. Have a training plan. Set a schedule of who will be trained, when, and how. Tailor your training to your audience. The end-user needs to be fluent in the tool and may require continuous training. Others, like the sponsor, stakeholders, or business people, should receive training that suits their specific needs.

5. Vet the sellers  
In many cases, there is stiff competition for what is essentially the same technology. Get multiple bids for the same and competing technology; do not shy away from a bidding war. But if you don’t have the time or the expertise to prepare a detailed RFP, do the vetting, check the pros and cons, compare pricing, understand the offerings, check out the references, make sure that the help desk exists, handle the contract negotiations, etc., hire someone to do these things for you. Or hire someone—like us—to do it for you. You’ll save time and money.

6. The “all you can eat” model
A top complaint of our clients has been pricing opacity and the add-on charges for every additional step (e.g., OCR, analytics, project management). This is not a problem if the client knows how to audit an invoice. However, oftentimes they do not have the technical expertise in-house to do so. Tapping into that feedback, some vendors have latched onto an all-inclusive pricing model. While there are many benefits to this structure for budgeting purposes, that also means you are paying for all the add-ons, whether you use them or not. Find out what you need. And pay only for what you need.

7. Privacy and security
The only secure computer is one that’s disconnected from the Internet. Unfortunately, that also makes it useless. There is always the potential for a security breach. Address contingencies in the contract. Make sure there is available cyber insurance. Make sure privacy protections are provided to fulfill all laws and regulations. Understand how the data is secured, what audits are conducted, and how frequently, etc. While any reputable company should ensure that the products they market are safe for the end-user, it is still incumbent upon you to ensure that you are informed about the security protections in place, the interaction of the technology with your preexisting network security, and what sort of auto-updating or notification system is in place for the tool’s ongoing security. Make sure your contract specifies the level of security for that data, and that it provides indemnity.

This warning may sound like something for tinfoil-hat circles, but the fact is that you are responsible for your data and for maintaining client confidentiality. With the growing list of major tech companies allowing access to “private” data, either intentionally or through lapses, it is incumbent upon you that privacy and security must be considered when you assess any new technology—particularly in the cloud.

8. What’s in the black box?
If the technology you are buying or licensing for document review or production purposes uses AI or analytics, this question may come up: how does the algorithm work? Or, who hides behind the curtain? These are risks that should be addressed with the technology company in advance, with agreements put in place to avoid uncertainty.  

9. When is the new model coming out?
Technology companies are in a constant race to put new tools out there all the time. Even if you buy an old, tested review platform like Relativity, for example, a new version may be around the corner. Understand the lay of the land and how it may affect you. For example, if you have Version A of a review tool, how easily can you upgrade it, how much will it cost, can you transfer the coding of reviewed documents to the new version without losing work product, and who will pay for training on the new version?

10. Your data is not a bargaining chip
Your data, or your client’s data, must never be held hostage. Craft your exit strategy from day one and put it in the contract. You own your data and need access to it; any billing dispute or disagreement should be secondary to the paramount importance of data access. Work out dispute resolution scenarios in your engagement. Do not view a vendor contract as a formality; view it more like an essential prenuptial agreement. Cover all contingencies in the contract, including an agreement from the vendor that it will assist if you want to transfer the data to another platform, for whatever reason.