RPC has grown an eight-strong claims handling team in its Bristol office to a team of 22 that is now responsible for firm-wide document review and litigation support under the banner RPC Choice.
The team, largely made up of Legal Practice Course-qualified paralegals plus two legal executives, three apprentices and one solicitor who has qualified through an alternative career path, has become a central junior resource for a wide range of tasks across the 342-lawyer firm.
RPC launched in Bristol in 2012 with the hire of a 28-strong team from CMS Cameron McKenna, largely to focus on insurance and reinsurance work. While RPC Choice still handles claims work, it now manages litigation support from cradle to grave, including taking responsibility for managing key relationships with eDiscovery platform providers.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Austin Milne, legal production innovator at RPC who joined in April 2014 and spearheaded RPC Choice, said: “In the olden days, for great big litigation claims if you needed more resource you had to manage teams of temps and equipment, whereas we now manage document review on behalf of our litigation teams.
“Within RPC Choice, the litigation support team manages the relationship with platform hosting providers and works closely with them. The team provides a packaged service from hosting data collation through to document review and preparing trial bundles. We’ve got relationships with a number of providers; each has their strong and their weak points and we assess what is right for any given client and matter, taking into account their preferences.”
Internally ‘outsourced’ litigation support has long been adopted by law firms such as Herbert Smith Freehills, which through its nearshore Belfast office (now being replicated globally), is the posterchild for the model.
Milne said: “It’s a sensible internal service, not unlike an internal legal process outsourcing service. We haven’t got a particular goal to be like any other firm, it’s about what the right set up is for us and our clients.”
RPC Choice, which is headed by operations manager Rob McKellar, who came from the The Co-operative Legal Services in February, also helps with tasks such as customer due diligence, including money laundering checks.
Milne says: “Having a centralised team of junior resource means the firm can better manage the peaks and troughs, so it becomes more efficient just by the nature of the structure. In terms of processes, if any given team does a particular task often, it will become expert. We can say ‘give this work to us because we have become the experts in a particular range of tasks.’”
Milne is keen to stress that the team, in which tech is high on the list of qualifications but not a prerequisite, has been set up in order to be supportive of its paralegals. He said: “We recognise that legal careers are changing and entry to the profession is harder. We are seeking to identify an alternative career path and focus on what we can do for our team members.”
There are no set growth targets for RPC Choice and Milne said: “Growth will come down to the strategic direction of the firm. It’s not about sitting in a bubble and building for the sake of building.”