Litigation Support vs. Practice Support

In your research for jobs in Litigation Support, you may come across references to Practice Support and wonder what the difference is between the two. In the beginning there was an IT department dedicated to the entire firm. The IT department was responsible for providing all technical support, both hardware and software related, to all of the lawyers and administrative staff in the firm. Litigation Support did not exist yet.

When it became apparent that the litigation practice group began to require technical support on a regular basis and that the support was very specific to the nature of the work in litigation, the Litigation Support department was born. A litigation support department typically supports litigators only and will span all of the litigation practice groups. Some litigation groups such as White Collar and Antitrust tend to use litigation support services more often, but it really depends on the firm. There are firms that specialize in Health Care litigation or Product Liability litigation that use litigation support services frequently.

Before electronic discovery, most of the support related to scanning and coding of documents and creating litigation support databases for those documents. In some firms, it also included trial presentation technology. Now that most of the documents exchanged in a litigation case are in electronic format, many of the litigation support services we now provide relate to electronic discovery.

As technology continued to become more prominent in the work place, software companies began creating practice specific software for non-litigation lawyers. There was new software emerging often for practice areas such as Bankruptcy, Real Estate, Estates & Trusts, and Intellectual Property. Who was going to provide technical support for these practice groups? Within some firms, it was decided that the Litigation Support department should change their name to Practice Support and begin to support all practice specific software and their technical support in general. If it is not a firm wide software, it lands in the lap of the Practice Support team.

I was with a large firm that made this decision and I was happy to help. However, our familiarity with litigators and their work processes did not transfer over to the other practice areas. Each one had their own workflow and there was a learning curve repeatedly for our team. Believe it or not, when I left that firm in 2004, our team of 12 was supporting 85 practice specific applications not including litigation. I had to divide up members of the team between litigation and all of the other practice groups. It was amazing how quickly the needs grew during that time frame.

Lastly, some firms will combine Records Management or Docketing with Litigation Support. Other firms will combine the paralegals and/or case managers with Litigation Support. Each firm handles the distribution of technical support in whatever way seems to make sense for their firm at the time. So, if you apply for a position with Practice Support in the title, I would suggest that you clarify with them what their department is responsible for supporting.



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    • Jere Wilson

      Another excellent article Amy.  In our firm, Litigation Support reports to me as Practice Support Manager.  We are positioned within the IS department.  You are absolutely correct that there is a vast difference between supporting Litigation and the other, non-Litigation practice groups.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the comment, Jere. Good to hear from you.