by Ken Lopez
There are a handful of large law firms that have in-house graphics departments and use them as profit centers with their corporate clients. When a big case is on its way to trial, the large firm develops its own litigation graphics, and the law firm bills the client for in-house graphics in the same way (albeit at a lower rate) that lawyers are billed out.
By and large, I think the law firms win and the clients lose in these scenarios.
You would think that having an in-house litigation graphics department might make some sense. After all, the corporation being represented by the large law firm likely has an in-house marketing department. That works out pretty well, right?
As someone who has watched the insourcing and outsourcing ebb and flow of law firm litigation graphics departments over the past three decades, I have seen one thing remain constant: High-end outside litigation graphics firms are radically better than in-house law firm graphics departments. Here are some reasons why:
- The vast experience gap: A firm like A2L may go to trial 50 or 100 times per year - and those are mostly big-ticket cases. No large law firm comes close. Large law firms typically have fewer than a dozen big-ticket cases across many offices. Common sense would tell anyone that the creative staff working on one or two cases in their office probably get less experience toward being a master of their craft compared to those artists working on dozens of cases per year. See, With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now?
- Law firms rarely retain good talent: Most litigation graphics artists worth their salt are either working for firms like A2L or freelancing for a firm like ours. We're always hiring full-time and contract litigation graphic artists with true intellectual curiosity, considerable artistic talent, and the ability to work wonders in PowerPoint. See, 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint.
- Outside litigation graphics firms are a better value: When you have $10 million or even $10 billion at stake and getting the most persuasive litigation graphics may vary your graphics spend by $5,000, isn't the best value the choice that gives you the best chance of winning? See, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think.
- No adjustment for venue: In a firm like ours, jury consultants are mingling with the litigation graphics team. Juries in the Southern District of New York are different than those in the Northern District of California. Our information designers understand this and know to question the jury consulting team about varying their message accordingly. Very often, our customers have no idea they are getting this value, but I'm fairly certain they are not getting it from their in-firm departments.
- The same thing over and over (law firm department): Not only are there few trials in a big law firm, but there are very few trial lawyers in most law firms. So, the same artists are likely working with the same trial lawyers who only go to trial very rarely. How could one reasonably be expected to grow as an artist. See, 3 Observations by a Graphic Artist Turned Litigation Graphics Artist.
- The same thing over and over (art department): More so than most people, artists grow based on working with other artists. This is true if you're a performing musician, and it's true if you are a litigation graphics artist. See, How I Used Litigation Graphics as a Litigator and How You Could Too.
- Outside litigation graphics firms provide input - and it's credible. See, Why Lawyers and Litigation Graphic Artists Need to Work Together.
- My firm is quite passionate about building a relationship over decades. It's part of our culture. So, with every engagement, we're weighing how best to serve the long-term relationship. This might mean that some cases need different billing treatment than others. This might mean that some cases need different payment terms than others. See, 12 Alternative Fee Arrangements We Use and You Could Too.
- You should have bandwidth fears: No law firm has adequate staff to handle many simultaneous big-ticket trials well. If you're the client, will it be your case that gets compromised treatment? See, 13 Reasons Law Firm Litigation Graphics Departments Have Bad Luck.
- Flexible staffing: We can flex our litigation graphics team size by a dozen people overnight, and we've done it many times. A law firm has no capacity to do this. See 7 Reasons It's Okay to Procrastinate on Your Trial Preparation.
- Onsite staffing: Some lawyers from law firms with in-house graphics departments promise that their staff will be onsite, but it's hard for them to deliver that and do it well. In big cases, more often than not, we have on-site litigation graphics personnel on-site and the technology and systems to support them.
- Global staffing for 24/7 work: We have staff spread out across many time zones so that we never have to stop working. Law firms typically concentrate their creative staff in one office.
- Specialty people are available with a firm like ours: We have specific people we use for chemistry-heavy exhibits and medical illustration. Law firms do not have these resources. Many of these artists know their niche better than the lawyers do.
- Animation is always an option: We use many types of animation in service of our clients at A2L. Law firms cannot realistically offer this service, and sometimes you need it. See, Legal Animation: Learn About the Four Types Used in the Courtroom.
- Profits vs. Proven Results: Do you really want a law firm that is trying to profit by using its in-firm graphics department or a firm that is known for getting results that the law firm cannot ethically profit from? See, $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation.
- Antiquated tools: Law firms are notorious for using PowerPoint 2007. Does this even seem like a good idea? Or would you rather that your smart and trusted advisors used the best tools available?
- The complete creative environment just isn't there: A good consulting firm will immerse its artists and lawyers in a creative environment. That won’t happen in a law firm. See, How Does a Trial Presentation Consulting Firm Do What It Does?
Other articles about the value of litigation graphics firms, how a litigation consulting firm operates and why using an outsourced litigation graphics firm is a good idea from A2L Consulting:
- 10 Types of Value Added by Litigation Graphics Consultants
- The Real Value of Jury Consulting, Litigation Graphics & Trial Tech
- The Value of Storytelling: A Current Case in Point
- Explaining the Value of Litigation Consulting to In-House Counsel
- Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important
- Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers
- Free A2L Consulting Webinar: Persuasive Storytelling for Litigation
- Storytelling at Trial Works - But Whom Should the Story Be About?
- Free 144 page A2L E-book download: Storytelling for Litigators
- Free A2L webinar - Storytelling as a Persuasion tool
- How Does a Trial Presentation Consulting Firm Do What It Does?
- With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now?