ACEDS Returns With A Splash

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Well, the ACEDS 2012 (Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists®) conference is over: another practical e-discovery conference at a great location (the Westin in Hollywood, Fla.) is in the books.  It seemed to be much larger than its inaugural year and a good mixture of lawyers and other e-discovery practitioners.

It was especially good to return this year having passed the CEDS examination last fall, which tested many areas of the e-discovery process, from technology to project management to budgeting, etc.

Topics at this year’s conference included dealing with social media, best practices in project management, succeeding in catastrophic cases, e-discovery malpractice, and numerous others. The format was again fairly tightly controlled, with each speaker giving eight to nine minutes on a topic followed by questions and answers, with the moderators trying to keep everyone on task.

The speakers were knowledgeable and usually quite practical in their application of points, although too much time was spent on bios and introductory remarks, which took away precious minutes from the speakers (some of whom were slighted on time). This is always the most difficult component of a conference and for the most part it was pulled off successfully, however. I liked that so many different speakers were used, and while several spoke on more than one panel there were no domineering performances that left you wondering why they were on a panel.

One main takeaway on the programming is that I’m still struck (and somewhat amazed) that the industry has been slow to embrace that e-discovery projects require project management. While this is generally an accepted notion on the technology side of the process, it seems not everyone has accepted (or is just slowly adopting) that everything from budget forecasting to people management to documented repeatable processes also needs project management. Speaking from personal experience and watching it happen on dozens of projects the last few years here at Counsel On Call, that’s where you get your efficiencies, your productivity and in the end your success.

It is no longer acceptable, in my opinion, to take a project, throw people at it, and invoice the client when you’re done. Instead, you need to be able to know where you are at every step along the way and diligently benchmark, track and report it – and your client needs access to that same information as well. Budget awareness, project progression awareness, complications that might impact the budget or timeline, collaboration with inside/outside counsel and technology partners, etc., are each integral factors in a successful e-discovery project and for future matters.

In the end, clients hate the ‘gotcha’ moment. Project management and transparency of process are meant to reduce and hopefully eliminate those moments. At the very least, the steps along the way will identify those events that could quickly spiral out of control if not picked up on as early as possible.

One other note: This year there seemed to be more technology vendors than before. While it is important to have great sponsors for such events, I’m sure hoping it doesn’t become overwhelming with booths like so many other conferences. These vendors were each given a time to briefly speak and provide several tips but were not supposed to make it an infomercial. Many succeeded while others failed. Perhaps the ACEDS committee should have this segment pre-planned much like they do each of the other panels. The concept is good but the execution left something to be desired.

Overall it was another solid event for ACEDS, and I’m looking forward to more in the future. They are worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with the organization.

And then of course there were the fabulous accommodations. The beach is always a great place to learn about e-discovery. Just saying.

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