This post originally appeared as an article in the November 2015 Los Angeles Paralegal Association's Reporter newsletter.
As technology continues to evolve and data continues to grow exponentially, intricate eDiscovery projects associated with complex legal issues will continue to pose challenges. Here is what you can do to limit the headaches on the front end and come out winning on the backend:
1. Have a Plan
Prior to the project commencing, it is critical that a plan is in place. With eDiscovery projects, time is always a big obstacle and cutting corners can become second nature. Most dive in head first, and feel the effects down the line with missed deadlines, faulty workflows and the need to redo things because of errors. This can all be avoided if you set aside a few hours to plan.
2. Document Everything with Email Communication and Reporting
As tedious as this may sound, keeping a comprehensive audit trail will assist with identifying what has been done and what still remains to be completed. It is very important that all project stakeholders are kept abreast of the project status at all times. To accomplish this, memorialize all meeting notes and phone conversations via email. Also, keep detailed reports of (i) data collected and processed, (ii) filtered document counts, (iii) review statistics and (iv) data produced. Thorough reporting will allow you to make implications for use in planning next steps. If you have access to a central repository/database for the project, definitely use it. E-STET for example offers LIVE which is a project managemen platform that retains all project knowledge and documentation in one location.
3. Be Proactive
For the most part, eDiscovery projects are very fast paced. Although there is “up-time” and “down-time” for almost every project, the one thing that should remain constant is how proactive you are. On a regular basis, revisit your plan and address outstanding tasks. “Follow up” and “follow through” are both vital to project success. Being proactive means identifying loose ends and making sure that they are addressed OR anticipating issues that may arise and addressing them before they materialize. Being proactive will ensure smooth sailing every time.
4. Manage Expectations
The accuracy of information can make or break a project. Every stakeholder in the project has different expectations and will require different information. Understanding a stakeholder’s expectations will assist in managing those expectations. It is important to note that meeting expectations are important because they build trust. Once expectations cannot be met and trust is broken, well we all know what happens next.
5. Take a Step Back, Reflect and Learn
Once the project is complete, do a quick case study to understand what worked well and what did not. Remember, the goal is to “work smarter not harder” and analyzing the project will assist with that goal. Learning from mistakes made in one project and avoiding those mistakes down the line means progress towards mastering the skill of eDiscovery project management.