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Striking the Right Balance: How ALSPs and Law Firms Create a Winning Collaboration

Lucy Melendrez-DiazOver the last decade, the legal ecosystem has expanded and evolved. Alternative legal services providers (ALSPs) – with their expertise in undertaking projects at scale and using technology to drive efficiencies – have entered the ring alongside the traditional law firms who possess deep subject matter expertise and dispense valuable strategic counsel.

The complementary nature of these two types of organisations has led to partnerships and collaborations that are valuable for law firms and ALSPs alike, but most importantly, deliver value for the client.

So, how does the magic happen? How do these two types of organisations strike the right balance, and work together for maximum benefit and results?

A Real Partnership

It starts with creating a real partnership and understanding the roles that each organisation will play. 

Law firms will still own the strategy and negotiation while representing a client – but the ALSPs will have the expertise and best practices around project management, technology, and how to execute on time and on budget to deliver a high-quality final product for a due diligence review process, for example.

Imagine that a client has undertaken a massive contract review project, involving tens of thousands of contracts. ALSPs have been doing this type of high-volume, repeatable legal work for many years and have developed sound processes around doing them efficiently. They often have Project Management Professionals (PMPs) on staff, many of whom were practicing lawyers at some point and are now focused on managing that process as efficiently as possible. 

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In addition to having the project management piece nailed down, ALSPs have considerable expertise around what technology is available to help create efficiencies for each project. The fact that ALSPs are conducting these types of large, repetitive projects – like document review, contract review, and so on – all the time, for multiple clients across various industries, has given them familiarity with a vast array of tools.

ALSPs are constantly vetting various technologies to identify which works best for specific projects and document types. This gives ALSPs a solid understanding of which products work best in which scenarios, so they know which tool to reach for on their tool belt. 

For example, AI solutions can be tremendously useful for large-scale contract review projects. Instead of manually going through thousands of multi-page contracts and trying to find three specific, related provisions that will determine whether or not the contract needs to be repapered, AI can quickly analyse a document and flag it if it needs further downstream attention, thus vastly culling down the data set. Additional functionality around workflows can eliminate any duplicate work among larger teams while ensuring that proper quality control and reviewing processes are taking place, to ensure the model is being properly trained with the right documents.

During a task like the above, gray areas are bound to pop up as to whether a certain document or contract requires further attention or not. This is where the close working partnership between ALSPs and law firms is crucial. ALSPs can turn to the law firm – the ones with the subject matter expertise – and get them to weigh in on the matter and provide clarity, thus ensuring the best end result for the client.

Who’s in Your Rolodex?

There are some law firms with a service delivery arm that focuses on the type of work that ALSPs do. However, not every firm has the resources to provide the same level of service delivery that ALSPs provide.

Even law firms that have invested in the right technologies may not be able to handle large-scale projects because of the resources requires where large document volumes are involved. They might have the expertise and the technology, but not the scalability to handle a particularly voluminous assignment. 

For this reason, it’s a good idea for law firms to establish relationships with several ALSPs and keep them in their “back pocket” as preferred providers. 

A client who has never had to undertake a massive document review or e-discovery project might turn to their law firm looking for guidance. The law firm, in turn, can say “We have preferred ALSPs that we’ve partnered with and can attest to the quality of their work and service, their expertise, as well as their ability to deliver on time and within budget.”

The Only Agenda is Success

As ALSPs and law firms work together, a certain level of transparency in the relationship is key. There should be no hidden agendas. 

The goal is not for the law firm or the ALSP to shine. The goal is for both parties to work together to execute the project, meet the client’s deliverable on time and on budget, and to ‘wow’ the client.

This type of collaboration is only going to become more common moving forward, and it is to the benefit of all parties.

About the author - With over 15 years of experience in the legal industry, Lucy consults to help law firms leverage technology to unlock the knowledge within their organisations. Prior to iManage RAVN, Lucy held several positions at Relativity, and Axiom. She is a lawyer by training. 

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