Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Babs Deacon. Published: 2012-11-20 09:00:56  In case you were still recovering from Frankenstorm, also known as Sandy, and missed last week’s Thomson event in “can’t-keep-us-down” town Manhattan, the PM panel I was lucky enough to moderate, offered some pithy, real world insights.The panel members reflected the most common big-case partnership of eDiscovery: service provider, represented by First Advantage Litigation Consulting’s General Counsel, Michael Flanagan, and law firm, represented by Bingham McCutchen’s, Director of Legal Technology, Peggy Stulberg.  As a member of a panel earlier in the conference reflected, cooperation isn’t just for litigants, it’s just as important for the client-service provider relationship.Let’s get to the take-aways:Law firms and law departments are beginning to deploy eDiscovery project management.  Corporate PMs are able to standardize discovery processes across the organization and across outside counsel methods.  Very importantly, classic PM is the perfect skill-set for running litigation budgets and tracking matter burn-rate.  Corporate Project Management is helping to fuel the trend in growing law firm PM ranks.  Outside counsel selection RFPs are asking, “How good is your firm’s project management?  Who are and how experienced are your firm’s project managers?”Service providers have long had project managers, by that title, as integral members of eDiscovery teams.  Mike likened today’s eDiscovery PM to an “air traffic controller”.  He also remarked that eDiscovery has gotten so complex that a PM has to be the equivalent of the JFK traffic controller, not someone in the Binghamton tower.  Service provider senior PMs need to be able to juggle many projects and priorities and can be helped by more junior team members who can assist  while gaining valuable experience.Law firms and corporations have project management that is provided by PMs, legal assistants, paralegals, case managers, eDiscovery analysts and attorneys.  Contrary to my stated opinion, the title, “Project Manager”, does not convey additional gravitas with the organization or case team.  It’s all a person’s experience, demeanor and diplomatic abilities.  Also, neither the panel nor audience agreed with my theory that the title “Project Manager” on a resume is worth more in compensation than “Senior Legal Assistant”.The panel and the audience did agree that successful project management is all about proactive communication.

  • Begin the project with a communication plan (who’s speaking to whom) and set up specific expectations for communication schedules and report formats.
  • Communicate changes, priority switches, problems, and ask questions as soon as possible.  Be willing to over communicate when necessary.
  • For service provider PMs, make sure you are communicating with the right client representative.  Know who your contacts are and what their participation level is in the project.  You don’t want to go over someone’s head but you may want to keep asking the question until your contact goes up their chain of command for more information.
  • Document, document, document.

A question came up during the following break: “Why can’t we apply more classic PM methods to eDiscovery?  My answer, “because the PM has so little control over the project participants, methods or deadlines.”  To help jump this hurdle, Peggy Stulberg advised:

  • Get project management involved as early as possible.  In a law firm, market PM participation and get senior firm buy-in to support the participation of PMs early in discovery matters.  For a service provider, make sure the hand-off from business development to project management happens early and seamlessly.
  • Embed the PM in the case team as much as possible so that they are up to date on new developments that can impact progress and deadlines.

A final important topic in the panel centered on eDiscovery appropriate project management tools.  Experiences among the panel and audience seemed to be that service providers often use a hybrid of a ticketing system with email while law firms have developed their own hybrids combining spreadsheets, document management systems and knowledge management systems such as Sharepoint.  In my opinion,there remains an unfilled need in the industry for an eDiscovery-centric project management system that can really gain traction.eDiscoveryJournal Contributor and eDJ Group Consultant – Babs Deacon

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