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More Companies Are Turning to Alternative Legal Service Providers, Study Shows

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Consider the traditional law firm service model officially disrupted. According to a new study, a sizable majority of companies are now using some sort of "alternative legal service provider," moving away from the classic model where a firm guides every aspect of a legal matter.

In today's legal market, "consumers of legal services find themselves beneficiaries of a new and growing number of nontraditional service providers that are changing the way legal work is getting done." And it's not just companies that are getting nontraditional legal services from a variety of providers. Firms, too, have begun integrating alternative legal services into their practices, the report finds, both as consumers and providers of the services.

A Growing Reliance on ALSPs

The study, conducted by Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, along with the Georgetown University Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and the University of Oxford Said Business School, surveyed more than 800 firms and corporations on their use of alternative legal service providers. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.) A majority of them, the report found, were using such services -- 51 percent of law firms and 60 percent of corporate legal departments.

What counts as an "alternative legal service"? ALSPs, as defined by the survey, are those services that "present an alternative to the traditional idea of hiring an attorney at a law firm to assist in every aspect of a legal matter." These services are "alternative" because they "are delivered via a model that departs from the traditional law firm delivery model," the study states, "for example, by using contract lawyers, process mapping, or web-based technology."

More Than Just Discovery

As you might expect, much of the use of ALSPs is in "low-risk or standardized, high-volume tasks," such as document review. Thirty-one percent of firms and 11 percent of in-house legal departments used ALSPs for discovery services last year, according to the survey.

But alternative legal services also go far beyond discovery. Law firms were most likely to use ALSPs for eDiscovery support services and litigation and investigation support, while corporate legal departments are using ALSPs most commonly for regulatory risk and compliance services and specialized legal services, such as requiring lawyers with expertise in a particular area.

What's driving people to turn to ALSPs? Contrary to what you might expect, cost-cutting isn't the primary concern. Expertise is. Both firms and in-house legal departments cited a need to gain access to specialized expertise as the most common reason for using ALSPs.

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