Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Greg Harris. Published: 2012-03-16 05:00:05Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. The following article is based on notes taken during The Cowen Group’s Leadership Breakfast hosted in Atlanta on March 2, 2012.

The guest list for the morning event included forty professionals with responsibilities ranging from Litigation Support staff and eDiscovery Technologists to Staff Attorneys and Partners in large law firms.   Some of the industries represented in the discussion were:

  • Air Delivery & Freight Services
  • Broadcast Media
  • Credit Monitoring
  • Financial Services
  • Legal Services
  • Hotels & Motels
  • Telecommunications

David Cowen, Managing Partner at The Cowen Group, started the morning by asking each participant to introduce themselves, and define their biggest challenge with regards to people, process and technology.  Over eighty percent of the answers revolved around “people”, though the context was different.  For some, their challenge is finding the right people to build their eDiscovery team.  Do they hire from the outside, or build a team within the organization.

Another angle for the people challenge is being able to set appropriate expectations.  Technologists find it difficult to explain how long a project will take, or how difficult the task is.  The problem is that the technologist is trying to explain a very technical process at a high-level, and information is lost in the translation.  The attorney or manager does not necessarily understand how long the collection and processing will take.  One analogy was that we live in the “Google world”, where everything is indexed, and searchable on a moment’s notice.  If only that were true for eDiscovery.

Mr. Cowen began writing on a marker board in front of the room, and explained how the eDiscovery field has evolved over the last 8 years.  In 2004, we had little to no understanding of what eDiscovery encompassed.  From 2004 to 2008, over 10,000 positions were added to the eDiscovery workforce.  Between 2010 and 2011, the industry became established, which brings us to where we are today.  Now that the industry has matured to some point, where do we go from here?  Not all companies do eDiscovery the same way.  Some corporations have created in-house teams with highly technical people.  These teams are able to cover the full spectrum of the EDRM, which results in significant savings for the corporation.  Other companies handle collection, but outsource processing and review.  The rest simply outsource eDiscovery in its entirety.

Because there are so many different ways to handle eDiscovery, how do companies go about hiring?  What does an eDiscovery professional look like?  A resume gives a list of skills, and a work history, but it does not give much insight into how a candidate will fit with the team.  One member of the panel said, “I can teach the skills, but I cannot change the personality.”  Hiring managers around the room shared some of their favorite interview questions.  Without giving away too much detail, the questions involved turtles, fairy tales and other abstract thoughts.  Of course, this challenge is not unique to eDiscovery.  The point is that every company has a different need for their eDiscovery team, and that hiring managers need to look for passion and intellect when selecting their candidates.  You can teach the skills.

Mr. Cowen moved the discussion into Executive Development, and how managers can make more time for themselves, while developing their staff.  First, be proactive.  Have regular conversations with people that you can learn from.  This can include mentors, peers, and even your staff.  This is especially true in eDiscovery as some of us were grandfathered in during the time from 2004 to 2010.  Next, focus on who you need for your team.  Look for the right people, with the right talent, and the level of competency that you need.  The “people” part of this goes back to finding the right personality for your team.  The “talent” part could be anything from a computer programmer to a paralegal – it just depends on how your organization plans to run its eDiscovery function.  Finally, the “competency” part goes back to the idea that you can teach the skills.  As long as you find people that fit your organization, with the right level of talent and competency, you can teach the skills.

Once you have developed a team that has the “capability” to run the eDiscovery function, you have the “capacity” to focus on executive development.  This gives you more time to have conversations with your peers in the industry – to learn something new, or get a sense of how the other firms are doing it.  Mr. Cowen’s point here is that every time you develop capabilities in your team, you give yourself capacity to take on new tasks, or focus on growth.

eDiscoveryJournal Contributor – Greg Harris


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