Thirteen years ago, when an India-born, US-trained attorney formed the alternative legal services provider QuisLex, there was resistance from law firms, which saw such providers as competitors, taking work away from them rather than providing assistance. Then came the Great Recession.
Like just about every business, the legal profession was forced to cut costs and become leaner and meaner. Suddenly, paying law firm associates high salaries for nuts-and-bolts work such as document reviews and due diligence made less economic sense, and alternative legal services firms gained traction as a smart option for corporate legal departments. Companies such as QuisLex were clearly ahead of the curve.
Today, that curve continues to bend, and QuisLex is transforming to provide more sophisticated services to its clients. Initially, the company was considered part of a group loosely known as legal-process outsourcers (LPOs), focused primarily on litigation document review and other similar tasks. QuisLex now falls into the recently minted category of alternative legal services providers—ALSPs or ALPs, for short—and handles a broader array of complex projects. “Our work is a mix of services related to litigations and investigations as well as corporate work related to contracts, compliance, legal operations, and M&A,” says Josh Rosenfeld, the company’s vice president of legal services, adding that QuisLex can use its project-management skills, technology, and experience to do such work more cost effectively while maintaining a high level of quality. “We are continually enhancing and expanding our services in order to take on more complex and sophisticated projects for our clients.”
The company’s expertise is in managed document review for litigations and investigations, contract services such as summarization and contract life-cycle management, contract compliance, and other “high-volume” compliance services. “And, we are increasingly being hired on mergers and acquisitions projects to handle the due diligence piece of the transaction,” Rosenfeld says.
QuisLex’s work is becoming ever more valuable as its clients remain pressured to keep costs down. The company is expanding its US presence as a result, including recently opening a new service center in New York City. “We have capacity for two hundred staff there,” Rosenfeld says. “India is all permanent employees, while New York is intended to be project-based.”
Along with attorneys, the US office is staffed with senior executives with operational experience in both the in-house and private-practice spheres of the legal field. “A number of our people here are big-firm refugees who, in prior lives, managed major document reviews for massive matters and now are operations experts,” says Joe Polizzotto, QuisLex’s senior vice president of strategy and client services. “Their deep hands-on experience provides comfort and client touch on these projects.”
Along with the shift toward the need for more complex services, the company has noted another change in its clients, the majority of which are based in the US and Europe. “When the company started, and for many years after, our work was primarily sourced and directed from large corporate law departments,” Polizzotto says. “Over the last several years, we have been getting a fair amount of work from law firms themselves. The financial crisis in ’08 had an impact on many industries, including law, and firms and companies are increasingly interested in value-enhancing solutions provided by alternative legal services providers such as QuisLex, both in litigation and corporate areas. This evolving strategy for big law firms is to collaborate with players like us, as opposed to more of a quasi-adversarial approach before ’08.”
Technology has also played a role in ending the previous era, Polizzotto adds. New innovations are changing much of what lawyers can do, and QuisLex is at the forefront. “Tech is rapidly developing, and we have always integrated technology into the work we do,” Rosenfeld says.
This frequently means helping clients get more out of the technology they already have, including contract-management, matter-management, and e-billing systems. “We can help customize and run them, so they get more value out of technology they’ve already invested in,” Rosenfeld says. The company also has an internal technology development team. “They create bespoke solutions for specific projects,” he adds.
With newer technologies emerging, including artificial intelligence and data analytics, all legal providers are going through a transition. “As it comes online, we are trying to figure out what works well, what doesn’t, and how to integrate it into our services,” Rosenfeld says. “It will change what we do and how we do it over time, but it is still in the early days. A lot of technology doesn’t quite live up to its hype. We spend a lot of time trying out and testing new products to see where the efficiencies are.”
Technology will never completely supplant people in any industry, though. “We decided early on that rather than try and be a tech company, we would be nimble and adapt to the technology in the market, and that sets us apart,” Polizzotto says. “It turned out to be a prescient decision. A lot of other players invested in technologies they own that ultimately got superseded by newer products. We believe that technology is an essential part of every project but is not the exclusive answer. You need process-management expertise, and that can only come from experienced, highly-trained people. That’s what we bring to the table: people, process, technology.”