Project management principals have been employed in the business world for quite some time. Since the advent of electronic discovery law as an industry, effective project management has been crucial to success. Clients are expecting greater predictability in results and in managing costs, while the amount of electronically stored information in business explodes and courts increasingly impose sanctions for the mishandling of e-discovery processes. Professional project management not only helps to ensure proper handling of e-discovery in litigation, it can also help to prevent missed deadlines, allow for a unified point of contact and provide proficient project handling as critical litigation events occur.
Quite often, litigators develop a “big picture” timeline that outlines the anticipated development of a case. Unfortunately, such timelines can neglect to take into consideration the time-consuming tasks that relate to e-discovery and review of electronically stored information. Using a project management approach to keep electronic discovery projects on track breaks larger deadlines relating to electronically stored information into task-based timelines. Research shows that when a large project is broken down into a series of smaller tasks, deadlines are more likely to be met (within budget).
Cooperating with Counsel
Employing an experienced project manager allows procedural and technical information to be accurately disseminated to all parties. Beyond the Rule 26(f) “meet and confer,” the courts expect cooperation between all parties as it relates to the kinds of electronic evidence being sought and the manner in which it is collected, culled and produced. A well-honed project management system makes it easier for attorneys, their clients and opposing parties (and their vendors) to identify and agree upon methodologies and timelines throughout the discovery process.
Active and successful communication is the key to proper project management, especially in the area of electronic discovery. While knowledge of the industry and the legal field are crucial to e-discovery project management, an often overlooked but equally important skill is communication. The project manager must be able to keep all parties, internal and external, focused on the tasks at hand, the deadlines and milestones involved and the budget. In addition to communication, transparency and project tracking are absolute necessities in defensible e-discovery project management.
Although applying most commonly accepted business practices to litigation may not work, project management is one practice that should definitely be applied in the legal profession. For more information on project management in electronic discovery, visit www.advanceddiscovery.com.