Vendor Consolidation: The Records Management Strategy Law Firms Can't Afford to Ignore
One of the biggest challenges law firms face trying to get their records
management under control is the fact that they have countless records in
multiple locations under the control of too many different vendors.
In most cases, this situation was not a strategic decision — it simply evolved.
Perhaps through acquisitions, local office preferences, or a simple lack of
centralized management, multiple vendors were signed on to store and
manage different records.
However, many firms are recognizing this approach to be costly, complex
and confusing, and inefficient. Having multiple storage locations and vendors
makes it difficult to effectively serve clients, efficiently meet court deadlines
and swiftly assist firm attorneys who need their documents — yesterday.
Managing multiple vendors is costly in terms of storage expenses, additional
personnel and training costs, longer retrieval times, and inconsistent file
destruction schedules. Not to mention, operating consistently under your
established methods becomes a struggle, gaining far less control over
deploying and enforcing firm-wide policies and processes. Leading law
firms recognize the costs of such inefficiency — 81% of large law firms
planned to increase investments over the next three years to make their
practices more efficient.1
Moreover, multiple vendors leads to utilizing different systems and
processes for active cases, long-term storage, cases on appeal, legal holds
or preservation orders on behalf of clients, as well as document destruction,
thus increasing your firm’s overall risk. The firm needs to minimize risk for its
clients, as well as for the firm itself.
According to one report, “The impact for noncompliance with a hold is quite
severe, both financially and potentially legally. A company’s failure to properly
and promptly impose a legal hold can result in court-ordered sanctions, in the
form of both monetary fines and perhaps even a spoliation charge.”2
Consolidating vendors allows firms to consistently implement policy and
retention schedules firm-wide. Firms receive consolidated activity reports,
allowing firms to view and track all assets that are eligible for destruction
across the organization. By properly destroying documents, firms can lower
costs and risks.
- Too many vendors: Many law firms store records across
multiple vendors, perhaps because individual partners,
departments, and offices developed their own systems
and relationships as needs evolved.
- Sector consolidation: Mergers and acquisitions pose
records management challenges for any industry,
but the M&A trend affecting law firms brings greater
complexity as consolidation sets off massive file
transfers and the integration of all records into one
records management system.
- Lateral hires: Bringing attorneys in from other firms
opens new client relationships and opportunities, but it
also requires large numbers of records to be incorporated
into the firm’s system.
- Lost productivity: Managing multiple vendors can be
time consuming, especially when it comes to searching
for vital information across various systems. Firms that
aren’t fully staffed and resourced will need to spend even
more time handling records management tasks.
- Client satisfaction: The key to winning new clients while
keeping existing ones happy is providing excellent client
services. The longer it takes lawyers to access what they
need, the harder it is for them and their firm to serve
clients in a timely manner.
- Firm obligations: The law firm’s legal, regulatory, and
ethical obligation to keep client information secure and
confidential is more difficult to meet when multiple
vendors are involved and electronic records are stored
within different systems.
- Lawyer needs: Firm lawyers want access to documents
24/7, no matter where they are, whether at a client site,
using their laptops, on the phone, or in court.
- Unnecessary expenses: With multiple vendors and
systems, the law firm fails to maximize economies of scale
and likely overspends on document storage, discovery
costs, personnel, training, management, and equipment.
In litigation on behalf of clients and for the firm itself,
discovery becomes significantly more complex and time
consuming, creating exponentially higher costs.
- Higher compliance and discovery risks and costs:
Destructions and holds are inconsistent, and without
consistent tagging and policies, finding specific
documents for discovery and even routine filings
is much more difficult. This can lead to significant
discovery expenses as well as court sanctions or
- Litigation risks: Representing clients is the main
business of law firms, but law firms are businesses
too. With multiple records management vendors and
inconsistently applied policies, they may be more
susceptible to a weak defense and litigation losses if
records cannot be found. For a law firm to be forced
into a settlement because its records management is
disorganized can be expensive, disquieting and not to
mention, bad for the firm’s reputation. A forced settlement
on behalf of a client because of records mismanagement is
even worse. All of which can be avoided.
- Informal approach: Law firm records and information
management is often a patchwork of processes that
serves neither the firm nor its clients well. Clients want
lower costs, more efficient services and the knowledge
that their data is secure and confidential. But because
the firm’s records management professionals and
attorneys deal with multiple vendors, the firm fails
to achieve maximum business value from records and
Many law firms hesitate to look at consolidating to one
vendor for fear that the process will be complex, costly,
time consuming, and that productivity will suffer during
the move from one vendor to another. Firms that have
consolidated with the right provider show benefits that
include streamlined workflows, increased productivity,
volume cost savings, consistent disposition, better
inventory control, improved client service, reduced risks,
and simplified manageability. Furthermore, any concerns
— particularly about the time required to complete
consolidation and the associated risks and productivity
losses — can be mitigated with a strong implementation
plan that is properly designed and executed.
Leading law firms recognize that keeping the status quo
is actually more expensive, time consuming and risky —
and that consolidating to a single vendor and single
system for records management is far more effective and
Reframing The Challenge
In a market that is ultra-competitive, leading law firms
have reframed the challenge of consolidating vendors into
opportunities to achieve significant business value, such as:
- Save money by leveraging volume pricing through a
single records management vendor and reducing vendor
- Provide a single point of access to documents for firm
lawyers and support personnel to better serve clients in a
- Improve consistency of compliance, e-discovery and legal
holds, as well as file destruction workflows.
- Reduce the need for multiple records coordinators.
- Strengthen the firm’s ability to keep up-to-date with
shifting compliance requirements on behalf of clients and
for the firm, itself.
Here’s an example of how one
law firm is differentiating itself
from competitors by simplifying
records management with a
An international law firm with 19 offices
and more than 1,100 attorneys on staff was
juggling multiple records management
vendors and facing rising costs. In an effort
to bring expenses down and streamline
administration, it turned to Iron Mountain
to consolidate its storage and destruction
Together with the firm’s director of
information governance, Iron Mountain
developed an implementation plan that
included a single, firm-wide records
database and online ordering system —
giving the firm more control and visibility
into its inventory, faster records location
and delivery for attorneys, and better
client service. The plan was implemented
seamlessly and in almost half the time the
firm had expected. Now, not only does the
firm have better querying capabilities and
stronger control over records destruction,
but it is leveraging volume pricing to
manage its costs.
Driving Business Value
The process of consolidating vendors brings significant
business value to the law firm, which can far exceed
the challenges involved in undertaking a consolidation
effort. Along with achieving major cost reductions
through consolidation, the law firm will reduce the risks
of huge expenditures for compliance and discovery. With
e-discovery expenses continuing to skyrocket, risk is no
longer the “soft” cost it was once considered to be. The
business value of consolidating records management
vendors for law firms includes:
- Significant cost savings, particularly for physical storage costs
from one vendor rather than multiple locations and vendors.
- Improved productivity, especially for mobile lawyers, as
well as within the records and information management
- More efficient and timely client service delivery.
- Reduced risk of court sanctions, compliance violations
and litigation losses.
- Potentially dramatic savings in e-discovery fees for the
firm and its clients.
- Reduced risk of missed court deadlines, mainly in longrunning
cases and appeals, plus fewer requests for
- Higher quality partner to ensure all assets are secure and
accessible by all locations.
- More consistent management of records for legal holds, as
well as retention and file destruction workflows.
Most law firms prefer not to deal with the challenges involved in using multiple vendors for records management. Nor do they want to endure what they perceive as the headaches involved in consolidating vendors. In reality, the right vendor can make consolidation simple.
Not only will you eliminate a lot of headaches, you will deliver additional business value to the law firm by reducing costs, lowering risks, enhancing client service and enabling consistent management and enforcement of policies for all records across the firm.
What’s more, in these competitive times, you will put your law firm in a much better position to strategically manage all records — paper and electronic — in the future.
A Discussion Guide for Consolidating Vendors
These questions are designed to facilitate discussions among directors of information
management, COOs, CFOs and procurement managers within law firms, and help you apply the
material in this brief.
- How many records management vendors does your law firm have active contracts with?
Are any of those contracts up for renewal? Why do you use the vendors you rely on:
proximity, longtime relationship, service quality, or inherited association through a
merger or acquisition?
- Have you seen any situations in which relying on multiple vendors led to problems, such as
difficulty in finding records, requests to extend filing deadlines, missed court deadlines, poor
client service, limited resources to train firm personnel on multiple systems, or incorrectly
executed legal holds or file destruction orders?
- Have you, on behalf of the firm and its clients, been responding to e-discovery requests in
a timely manner? What have you spent on e-discovery costs in the past three years? What
have your largest clients spent? Could you reduce those costs by consolidating vendors?
- What can you do in the next 30 days to assess potential cost savings associated with
consolidating the firm’s records management vendors? How could you reinvest that money
into your firm’s top business priorities to demonstrate the value of your records and
information management program to the firm and your clients?
1 “2011 Client Advisory,” Hildebrandt Baker Robbins, Citi Private Bank, 2011.
2 “Nowhere to Hide: Courts Place Responsibility for Managing Legal Holds on Shoulders of Corporate Executives,” LexisNexis, 2011.