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Case study

Punching above their weight

How a small law firm solved for an unexpected boatload of documents with Thomson Reuters eDiscovery Point and Managed Review Services

The Coopersmith Law Firm (San Diego, CA) is an innovative and award-winning corporate litigation firm familiar with managing complex, document-intensive cases. One of its recent cases was particularly large. Steve Coopersmith and his two associates represent, among other clients, a coalition of 22 trade unions in a dispute with the City of San Diego about the constitutional delegation of permitting and planning in its downtown. For months, Coopersmith and his team conducted document review, handling, as Coopersmith says, an “enormous” volume of documents. They were getting ready for depositions when the opposing side dropped another 20,000 documents. Coopersmith and his team would have just a few weeks to review them and incorporate them into the preparation for intense depositions planned on a tight schedule. 

1. Hire a team of paralegals

That seemed to introduce as many problems as it solved. Would he have to set up computers for each of them in a separate conference room? Who would monitor and supervise their work? “Was my job going to be answering every single one of their questions about document review and what they find?” he wondered.

2. Overwork his team, and try to obtain more time 

Alternatively, his own team could work around the clock. Coopersmith shares office space with another firm, so maybe he could hire some of their lawyers to help, too. “They would have been here night and day, and I don’t like having people work that hard,” he said. He got the feeling his staff wasn’t looking forward to it either. And he still would have to go to court or to the opposing counsel to get an extension.

3. Work with a larger firm

Coopersmith could partner with a larger law firm. But that would signal to his client, and to the larger legal community, that his firm wasn’t able to handle this important case on its own.

4. Partner with Thomson Reuters Managed Review Services  

“Then somebody on my team – somebody smart – remembered that when we were doing eDiscovery Point training, at some point a Thomson Reuters representative mentioned that they also could create teams to do managed document review.”

After meeting with his team about the new onslaught of documents, Coopersmith got on the phone with Thomson Reuters to ask about their managed review services. He admits he was skeptical, even though his team was hoping it would work out. “If we had to do this ourselves, it was going to greatly affect our lives,” he said. “Could a group of lawyers working remotely really get to the bottom of thousands of planning documents from the City of San Diego?” he asked. The documents were not linear in any easily identifiable way. They covered the permitting and planning of more than 100 projects over four years. It would take diligence and insight to piece them all together.

Meeting the managed review team

Coopersmith was reassured when he learned that everyone working on his case would be an employee of Thomson Reuters, because he felt that full-time employees would have more skin in the game than a rotating cast of contractors. But he still wasn’t sure they’d be qualified to do the work. He asked to see resumes, and he got on the phone with the people who would eventually form his document review team. “As it turned out, my concerns were not warranted,” he said. “They were fine lawyers.”

Working with the managed review team

Once Coopersmith got his client’s approval, he was assigned a team of five people, whom he was assured could complete his work in two to three weeks. Then came the tricky part: Putting together the workflow. The Thomson Reuters team brought templates and a lot of process expertise to the table, but there were still many details to work through. It took a bit of thought to figure out the parameters that would govern when a document should be escalated because 
it wasn’t clear if it should be flagged. Although Coopersmith says this was the most time-consuming part of the process, he also found it valuable. “I actually found that refreshing,” he said. “Putting together that workflow allowed us to think through the issues in the case.”

The Legal Managed Services team completed the assignment in our preferred ediscovery tool, eDiscovery Point, in two weeks and two days. Says Coopersmith: “I was overjoyed with that.”

The experience with Legal Managed Services has also changed the way Coopersmith looks at big cases that have the potential to produce massive amounts of documents. It’s been hard to accept those cases, he says, because he can’t know how many documents might show up, or what his workload will be like when they do. “There will no doubt be another situation where I will have boatloads of documents thrown at me,” he said. “That’s something I now feel comfortable with. I can reach out to Thomson Reuters and get it done.”

Ediscovery technology that makes a difference

This small law firm has never been afraid to experiment with new ways of running its practice.

The firm started using an ediscovery tool back in 2011. “At first, we had smaller cases, but then when we started competing against big law firms, if someone produced 25,000 documents or 100,000, we needed the ability to get them on a system and review them,” said Coopersmith, the managing partner. He and his colleagues didn’t like the first document review software they tried, and they especially disliked the interface. “It was like you had to retrain yourself to use your computer,” he said.

The firm didn’t give up, though, and switched to Thomson Reuters eDiscovery Point™. Coopersmith says eDiscovery Point allows him to get through what would have been a “mountain” of paper and “to tag it in a reasonable way, and then if you’re looking at a particular issue you can just pull up the documents related to that issue.” His associates found it easy to filter documents up. The turnaround times on the uploads were good. And if the team did have any difficulties, his associates reported that the support team was excellent. Without eDiscovery Point, there is no way he would have come even this far on the city planning case. “We’re a small firm,” he noted. “There is no way I could have the practice that I have – in that city planning case we had something like 100,000 documents.”

“It has also allowed us to compete with those large firms. Otherwise, I’d have to turn down those big cases, or partner with the larger firms.”

About Steve Coopersmith

Steve Coopersmith founded The Coopersmith Law Firm a decade ago, after substantial experience as a business litigator and service as a military prosecutor in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. The firm has grown substantially since its founding, representing businesses and individuals with business interests at all stages of litigation, advising clients on methods to avoid and minimize the risk of litigation. The firm’s primary practice is business and corporate litigation, including partnership and corporate disputes, executive-level employment matters, financial fraud, and fine art dispute matters. The firm also handles select public interest and municipal matters based on merit and importance.

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