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Four observations on a statement about data mapping software

The responsibilities of Leslie Lawson, the paralegal in charge of e-discovery for Eastman Chemical Co., include reviewing software that might help her tasks. In Corp. Counsel, Vol. 15, April 2008 at 76, an article describes Lawson’s role and mentions that “Eastman recently considered purchasing a software program to handle data mapping that would have cost about $300,000.” The company decided to “build the same thing on a customized basis for about one-tenth the cost.” That statement triggered several thoughts.

1. Legal software can be very expensive (See my post of Dec. 23, 2005: cost of a matter management system. Very roughly speaking, this particular offering costs as much as almost two lawyers, or four paralegals, in the first year, and then probably a paralegal a year for maintenance fees.

2. Automated solutions are available even for niche functions of a law department (See my posts of Feb. 9, 2008: 27 packages for law departments; Feb. 6, 2007: PSS Systems for litigation hold management; and March 19, 2006: nuts and bolts of hold requests.).

3. The law department budget may often bear the full cost of software that meets a need for the entire company. When the general counsel puts in a budget, the senior executives need to understand the reach of that budget.

4. It troubles me that the law department went through demos of software, took careful notes, and then chose to write its own program. That must drive software vendors mad! Yet, if the home-grown application can actually do what the licensed package does, but for a fraction of the cost, the do-it-yourself argument is compelling. I still fret about the ethics of picking up all kinds of ideas for free and then writing your own application (See my post of Oct. 1, 2005: the ethics of using good ideas in RFP responses.).

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