No Better Place Than Florida For A Little E-Discovery

Well, the ACEDS 2011 (Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists®) inaugural annual conference is over. Beyond our own Discovery Symposium (I’m admittedly biased), for my money it was one of the best, most practical e-discovery conferences I have ever attended. And the venue: wow! Hollywood, Fl., in March sure beats New York or Washington in winter (no offense. I’m just saying….)We love talking e-discovery, especially here.

The schedule included a wide range of topics: social media and cloud computing, the inner workings of how a computer saves information, data mapping, and ethical considerations in e-discovery. Unlike other conferences I’ve attended, this one kept me awake for the most part with a fast-paced program and diverse speaker list.

Sessions were tightly controlled and methodical. The panels were three or four individuals with slightly different topics or emphases and each speaker was given eight or nine minutes to talk. This was followed by both orchestrated (pre-planned) questions in addition to audience participation.

The speakers themselves were a good mix of attorneys, litigation support and IT professionals each coming from and speaking to their unique perspective. The speakers acted like they wanted to be there (which you cannot always take for granted.) They were not solely focused on case law or an academic approach to e-discovery but each session was very practical, current and relevant. It’s also worth mentioning that the moderators did an excellent job of not allowing any one speaker or audience member to dominate the time.

One area for improvement for next year is to spend less time in the introductions of each of the speakers. Some sessions took 20 minutes or more to get going. We have the bios in the materials; no need for reading me their résumé. I also would have liked to have had a better sense of who was in the audience (attorneys, litigation support and IT professionals.)

While I certainly learned many things, my biggest takeaway from the event was confirmation that our team here at Counsel On Call is doing the right things, looking at the right issues and is, in fact, ahead of the curve on many of these topics. The world of e-discovery changes daily, it seems, and we are constantly making efforts to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture while stuck in the weeds. Going to events such as ACEDS is very helpful to gain that perspective and hear from people working on many of the same issues as we are.

I hope to be at the Second Annual ACEDS conference in March 2012. Check out ACEDS on-line and on Twitter or at the conference hastag. I also hope to continue the dialogue with some of my new Twitter friends now that we’re each back at our desks (follow me here).

Speaking of being back at home, leaving the conference was difficult. Ft. Lauderdale was 78 degrees compared to Nashville’s brisk 40 degrees. Welcome back to reality.

E-Discovery Review Platforms: Choices Abound

Choosing a technology vendor is a critical piece in making a review project successful. There are literally hundreds to choose from as was recently seen again at Legal Tech 2011. Even with lots of consolidation in the industry there are still many national and regional players to consider.

While there are many factors that go into choosing a review platform, do not forget the impact of having the basics covered. Every review software platform should be able to do the following:

  • Host in a stable environment that doesn’t go down very often
  • Ease of ‘look and feel’ to allow for quick coding
  • Organized folder structure
  • Searchability among folders, documents and attachments
  • Reporting on progress by reviewer, custodian, overall and every relevant field of coded information
  • Handling of the volume of reviewers logged on
  • Having sufficient server capacity to process the data at the pace needed

Also don’t overlook the basic package that is needed to make an efficient review for the type of document that you will be collecting. Scanned paper might not work in every platform, for example. Likewise, certain color files do not work on some platforms. And just the basic set-up can directly impact speed.

It’s always a wonder to me how many developers don’t seem to try their platform on actual end users of the product. I know of numerous platforms that could be improved simply by changing the placement of certain buttons, modifying the layout of the foldering structure, or if they would just consolidate and ease the number of clicks to finish coding a record. These steps would most certainly make the review faster and more efficient.

But assuming that you have the basics covered, it comes down to three additional areas: cost, relationship and service.

The cost is an obvious go or no go component of the decision-making process. Most vendors are flexible and will give you options based upon volume of project, volume of overall client, or certain discounts that come with a first-time use.

You have to work with someone, so you might as well like them as you’ll be relying on them for the success of the project. This goes beyond seeing a good demo or having lunch. Can you rely on their responsiveness after the sale? Are they trustworthy in what they say? Sometimes a good old gut check is helpful in discerning whom to put your faith in.

It doesn’t do any good to have a great relationship and low cost if the end service is horrible. You shouldn’t rely on a vendor demonstration for making your final decision; most vendors have very good presenters and trainers (although I’ve seen some really bad demos, too). In the end though, the software must actually be able to do what is promised. It must deliver and the people who answer the phone – even when trouble arises – must deliver as well.

The advice is this: get the review team’s leadership involved at some level in the selection of the review platform. Our project managers are familiar with dozens of vendors and their service capabilities and can provide the type of insight that can make the review maximize quality control, troubleshooting, efficiency and ultimately save you significant dollars.