Before I talk about next year, I first want to offer overdue congratulations to our friend Craig Ball, who was recently named LTN's Consultant of the Year. Over the years, we've made many friends in the EDD world but some are especially close. Craig's wealth of computer forensics knowledge, his rapier wit and his integrity have endeared him to us. Congratulations Craig - richly deserved. When next we meet, we shall raise a glass together in salute.
And now to 2010 in EDD . . . indeed, I feel like I do see through a glass, darkly because the economy remains the joker in the deck. For the first time in a long time, there genuinely seems to be hope in the economic indicators - and we know historically that the uptick in jobs always brings up the rear in a recovery. But, like most Americans, I remain cautious. And do I believe that anyone fully understands the globalization of the economy? Nope. We've never been this inter-connected. We've never seen a global domino effect before. I would like never to see those dominoes fall again.
Over the course of 2009, there has been a lot of shake-out in the EDD market. Though many won't admit it, they tapped their credit lines and pleaded with those who have been providing capital. They ran up credit cards and they sought loans that were practically non-existent. For many, profits were hurt by law firms who were suddenly being pressured by clients to rein in costs.
Indeed, much of EDD is now a commodity - and that has changed the structure of the market. As I've said many times, the EDD gold rush is over. Prices are now more predictable and, frankly, more realistic. There will be some in the industry who will survive in this more competitive environment, where overhead costs must come down - and some who will perish.
The challenge in 2010 is going to be to reinvent ourselves with new economic models. Just as law firms are reluctantly saying goodbye to the billable hour, we are going to have to come up with new ways to provide quality services at reasonable prices. There are those who think that, if the economy improves, the gold rush will return. I think those days are over for good.
In the reinvention process, those who have succeeded have capped fees, set flat fees or worked with various forms of pricing estimators. They have also stressed early case assessment and winnowing relevant data down to reduce the number of documents to review (always the most expensive part of the process). And let us not forget cooperation amongst the parties - a key element in reduction of costs. EDD experts can and should facilitate this.
Our own experience has proven that anything we can do to reduce costs while providing quality service is greatly appreciated by the law firm and the client. We may make less per case, but the repeat business and the referrals result in more volume.
So we venture hopefully into 2010 - and will keep our crystal ball handy. Perhaps futher illumination will come.
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