Essential Skills for E-Discovery Project Managers

Happy New Year!

Project Management has remained a popular topic in the e-discovery world for the last few years… I think 2013 will not be different. In fact, the upcoming Legal Tech NY trade show has dedicated at least one of its e-discovery track sessions on the next level of the e-discovery project management discussion: Process. Here’s an excerpt from the session description:

What is a Quality eDiscovery Process and How Do You Defend It?

The lack of formalized standards in eDiscovery poses challenges with respect to both methodology and defensibility. With the high stakes of litigation, growing expectations on the part of the judiciary, and the increasing frequency of spoliation motions, the components of the eDiscovery process continue to be susceptible to attack. As a result, litigants are often forced to focus on defense of their process, rather than the merits. Moreover, courts are frequently asked to evaluate the reasonableness of a particular process in retrospect, only after a party has made a significant investment in technology and resources. These issues should be considered and faced head on, from the inception of a matter.

An article from nearly a year ago supports the idea that the tools are not as important as the process.  It’s easy to focus our energy on the technology used to support e-discovery, but the real priority should be the process. As an e-discovery project manager, what are the essential skills that will empower you in 2013 to help your team stay focused on THE PROCESS?

  • Continuing Education – Look into a certificate program to formalize your project management skills and take advantage of online resources like webinars, blogs, podcasts that are specific to e-discovery.
  • Be the Change You Seek – Training is a great catalyst for change in your organization. If you want your team to focus on the e-discovery process, then develop internal training that is process oriented.  Many e-discovery project managers are also the defacto e-discovery project management “trainers” for their teams. It’s not enough to train your team to use the technology, they need to understand the process the technology supports. Training will allow you to gather input on creating “defensible processes while simultaneously increasing efficiency and reducing costs” in a tangible way that can be implemented immediately.
  • Marketing & Sales Skills – I wrote about this not too long ago. Your team will need you to be able to present, persuade, negotiate and justify proposed solutions.
  • Advisory Skills – You should be monitoring trends and emerging technologies to prepare yourself for the direction e-discovery is heading in 2013 and beyond. Review the articles, blog posts, podcasts and webinars that are plentiful right now discussing what worked and didn’t work in e-discovery in 2012 and that look toward the future in 2013. Be aware of what’s going in the industry so that you can advise your team when questions arise. You will be expected to play a role in recommending alternative solutions and strategies for both internal and external projects.
  • Technology – The beginning a any new e-discovery project is “all hands on deck” and if e-discovery technology is “new” to your firm, then some degree of experimentation with workflows may be necessary. You will need to know the ins/outs of the technology solutions available at your firm to make wise and informed choices as to how you will implement them to support the e-discovery process in your organization.

 

So as you explore your options to grow your e-discovery project management career in 2013, keep a close watch on your PROCESSES … their quality and defensibility. 

E-Discovery Project Management for Paralegals Notes

Thanks to all of you who participated in the live recording of the webinar on e-discovery project management for paralegals earlier this week! I enjoyed sharing best practices and project planning tips. After live seminars and webinars, it has become my practice to provide a few extra notes here at Learn About E-Discovery dot com based on the questions from the audience.  The 90-minute recording will be available on-demand soon so check back for the update and URL.

One of the questions that came up was regarding CHECKLISTS. When creating / drafting a standard operating procedure, you’ll want to include a checklist that isn’t too long or too short that covers the primary information you will need as a project manager to get your project started.  Here are a few sites that offer practical examples:

One     Two     Three     Four

If you or your friends are interested in additional project management training for e-discovery, please send me an e-mail … erika at learnaboutediscovery.com

Don’t Miss This LEARNING OPPORTUNITY! December 5th!

Don’t miss this learning opportunity! THIS WEDNESDAY! December 5th!

Learn About E-Discovery Project Management!

Live for 90 minutes on December 5th!

Register TODAY to join me online for a live training session

E-Discovery Project Management For Paralegals

Wednesday, December 05, 2012 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM (Eastern Time)

Save $20 using the discount code: erika20off

More Info…

Learn About E-Discovery Project Management!

Live for 90 minutes on December 5th!

Register TODAY to join me online for a live training session

E-Discovery Project Management For Paralegals

Wednesday, December 05, 2012 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM (Eastern Time)

Save $20 using the discount code: erika20off

Are you actively looking for a way to advance your e-discovery career?

Are you seeking new skills or need to polish your area of expertise?

This course is for you!

Topics covered include:

•Project Management Methodologies: Which will work for your next e-discovery project?

•Role of a Project Manager

•What does it take to transition from senior paralegal to e-discovery project manager?

•What Should Be in Your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

•Outline of Best Practices for Each Phase of Your SOP

•EDPM Responsibility Matrix, Planning Resources and Budgeting

•The 4 STAGES OF EDPM that every paralegal needs to know

•Managing virtual project teams

And I will also address the new attorney-centric EDBP in our discussion!

Don’t delay. Spaces are filling quickly! Join me live and online in an engaging environment open to asking questions and participating in the conversation. If you have a friend who is a litigation paralegal interested in making the transition to e-discovery project management, this session will provide a rare opportunity to learn e-discovery project management skills from an expert in the field of litigation support (if I may so humbly say so myself).

Marketing Litigation Support / E-Discovery In Your Organization

I used to teach a seminar on marketing litigation support within your law firm or corporate legal department. Over the past few years, this topic has come up a few times on the dynamic custom learning plans that I develop for individuals. A large part of being able to market your in-house services is to develop your sales skills. Here are 6 easy steps to follow for success:

1. Research the Customer

2. Deepen Your Understanding

3. Discover Where Your Customer Wants to Be

4. Decide Whether You Can Actually Help

5. Present Your Offering as a Solution

6. Ask for the Next Step

These steps are found in some shape or form in many sales training materials but I found them here. I highly recommend reading the article and checking out the book mentioned. Now, let’s discuss how to apply these steps to litigation support and/or e-discovery:

1. Know Your Customer. In a law firm, your customers are the attorneys and paralegals and the firm’s clients. In a corporation and government agency, your customers are the attorneys and paralegals plus any business or non-legal staff involved with the litigation project.  This could include the IT department if they are functioning separately from litigation support/ e-discovery.  Find out what their needs are and what is on their “wish list” when it comes to your services and technology options. Identify the folks who have a genuine interest in the technology and project management methodology and position them to be your advocates when you are not around. A good way to start your research is to send out a survey (no more than 7 questions) to gather information.

2. & 3. Be the Consultant. Review and draw conclusions from your survey results. Talk to your boss about the future of your department and the long range budget plans to give you an idea of what’s to come. You’ll need a little bit of HOPE to carry with you as you meet with your advocates to listen to their “wish list” and ideas. Ask open ended questions and share a little of the hope of what’s coming later.

4. Do NOT Over Promise! And risk under-delivering later… One of the challenges you may run into with your organization is that you don’t have a long range plan. And there is nothing to really look forward to because the overall strategy is to REACT then take action. If your firm buys software or technology based on client suggestions, then I suggest asking if you can talk to a few of your counter-parts at some of the firm’s key clients to gain a sense of where they are heading.  Then try to map out a plan for how you can support them long range. If you do have a long range outlook and plan for technology and service improvements, then fantastic!

5. Present Your Team As the Solution. Remember, you’re on THEIR team, too. You and your litigation support team are PARTNERING with the customer to support their litigation strategy. Draft a simple and short PowerPoint presentation that outlines your services, technology available, team members and function as a department within your organization. If you have enough people on your team, throw in a simple organizational chart. Add lots of pictures so that your customers will recognize you in the elevator. Include a simplified typical project intake and workflow model in your presentation. Save your presentation as a PDF and e-mail it to your advocates. Ask for their feedback. Make revisions if necessary. Request 15 minutes at the next litigation department meeting (to present in front of the attorneys and paralegals). Do this every 6 months or so.

6. Close the Deal. Here’s where marketing your litigation support team differs from simply selling a solution. You are a part of the organization. Sales gurus call this “inside sales.” You are marketing to “warm leads.” Part of the challenge over the years in marketing litigation support has been to make sure that your attorneys and paralegals not only know that you EXIST but what you exist FOR and HOW you can HELP them. When I was in the firm, I called it “hall surfing” … I would literally surf the halls on the litigation floors at least once per week. It looked more like I was taking my coffee break on another floor but there was a method to my madness. I would carve out 20 minutes of my day to sit with a notepad and pen in the break room and speak to whoever walked in for coffee. Mid to late afternoon was a great time because most folks needed their jolt to make it to the end of the day. Sometimes, “hello” / “how are you?” would work and other days, it was more specific about how’s their case going? May I offer some assistance?  These “breaks” might lead to impromptu meetings or conversations that would lead to influence, more technology advocates or basic trust necessary to successfully project manage their next big matter.

I hope these 6 steps help you to market your litigation technology solutions more effectively at your organization. Please let me know if you have questions. I am only an e-mail away 🙂

erika at learnaboutediscovery.com

Becoming an E-Discovery Project Manager

Earlier this afternoon I was honored to be the guest speaker at the Atlanta Chapter of Women in E-Discovery monthly meeting.  In an effort to save a tree or two, I thought it would be a good idea to share our meeting notes via this blog instead of printing a traditional handout.  I would like to thank my hosts, the meeting sponsor and the chapter members for their attention and interest in learning more about e-discovery project management. I enjoyed our time together and hope the resources listed below will help as we move forward on our learning journey together.

“New Job Title, Same Job? Becoming an E-Discovery Project Manager”

  1. Defining the Role of an E-Discovery Project Manager
  2. Developing Standards Your Team Will Follow
  3. Identifying Opportunities to Save Time & Money
    • Why metrics matter
    • Managing your project with metrics
    • Change management – you must be intentional about following through with your change management process & plan.  Make sure the right people are authorizing project changes and that those changes are well documented.  To successfully manage change, you’ll need to confirm that the requestor understands how the project scope, schedule and resources will be impacted by the requested change prior to moving forward.
    • Use technology to manage technology

This is just a brief outline of what we covered in a 45-minute presentation this afternoon. Please let me know if you have questions. erika at learnaboutediscovery dot com  

 

The 7th Circuit E-Discovery Pilot Program

Learning about e-discovery requires both a practical and theoretical approach. We need the practical knowledge to complete our everyday tasks. We need someone to think through the theoretical knowledge in order to improve our everyday practices. There are a few electronic discovery “think tanks” around the country the most notable is The Sedona Conference.  Recently, the principles, updates, theories, and ideas coming from the 7th Circuit E-Discovery Pilot Program have taken center stage in leading the charge on a number of e-discovery project management issues of greatest concern.  Topics e-discovery project managers should pay specific attention to include:

  • discovery conference (meet n confer/ FRCP Rule 26f) best practices
  • solidifying the role of the e-discovery or ESI liason (litigation support professionals)
  • the work of the technology sub-committee

To learn more about this program visit their website and check out this podcast which provides an excellent overview.

PRM – The Paralegal Journal

Did you see my article in the latest issue of The Paralegal Journal?

The Paralegal Journal provides readers with insightful, pertinent and thought-provoking information to inspire career growth and advance the paralegal profession. Sometimes in order to truly excel, we have to push the envelope a little. THIS MAGAZINE WILL DO THAT! Don’t miss a single issue! Subscribe now!

 

 

How to Improve Your Choices

When I teach e-discovery project managers, we discuss the value of the “follow up question” and helping the case teams make choices about how to move their project forward. Most students like to offer lots and lots of choices with lots and lots of variables … this will freak out your attorneys and no choice or a bad choice will be made. As a best practice, I recommend offering only the top 2 choices.  Check out this video from Ted and you’ll understand why. How can you improve the choosing experience?