Vendor Consolidation: The Records Management Strategy Law Firms Can't Afford to Ignore

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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 compliance violations.
  • 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 information management.

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 cost efficient.

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 management costs.
  • Provide a single point of access to documents for firm lawyers and support personnel to better serve clients in a timely manner.
  • 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 single vendor:

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 services.

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 organization.
  • 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 deadline extensions.
  • 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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.