Popular Posts: Jan. 1 to June 30, 2010

July is the perfect time to reflect on the first half of the year. Things have been so busy here that we haven't had as much time to post as we'd like, but one of our second-half goals is to contribute more to Lawdable.

In the meantime, here are the five most viewed Lawdable posts to January to July 2010, in descending order:

#5: Legal Project Management: Fad or Focus? (Barry Willms, April 7)
More discussion on LPM, which points to some recent successes and the necessity for the project manager to have authority and follow several key guideline. This follows other popular posts on LPM from Richard Stout (January, see #3), Dennis McKinnie (June 2009) and Candice Reed (June 2009), among other LPM musings.

#4: E-Discovery Tools: Evaluate, Collaborate and 'Lawyer the Problem' (Barry Willms, May 21)
One of the summaries of a Discovery Symposium 2.0 panel session with Barry, co-author of Lawdable Richard Stout, and Edward Efkeman from FedEx. A synopsis of the process and decisions in-house departments factor regarding technology tools and how they fit with their respective teams and culture.

#3: The Spotlight Shines on Project Management (Richard Stout, Jan. 21)
This post was part of a multi-blog dialogue about whether PMs should be lawyers or non-lawyers as LPM truly cemented itself in the vernacular of the legal profession at the beginning of the year. Richard even suggested that LPM could provide an alternate path to partnership in law firms in the future. There were many great observations on the 3 Geeks and Hildebrandt blogs and plenty of back-and-forth on Twitter.

#2: Q&A With Attorney Chris Cotton: Haiti Update (Jan. 18)
Chris is a real leader within our E-Discovery Division and a trusted tactician and voice on our teams. He has also spent significant time in Haiti, helping build and launch an orphanage through the Hands and Feet Project before he came to Counsel On Call. He was in regular contact with several people on the ground after the earthquake, spoke to the media, coordinated with Tennessee's congressional delegation, and took a few minutes to speak with us about the situation in Jacmel.

#1: Alternative Fee Arrangements Gain Traction (Candice Reed, Feb. 3)
Talk of AFAs was deafening in the early part of the year and has only slightly quieted down in recent weeks, so it's no suprise a post on the subject drew plenty of interest. We also heard a lot about it at Discovery Symposium 2.0 and have written often about the subject on Lawdable. We're confident it will continue to be of interest for the foreseeable future.

 

 

E-Discovery Tools: Evaluate, Collaborate and 'Lawyer the Problem'

It’s hard to believe that after all the planning from Discovery Symposium 2.0 that it’s over. It was a very fast-paced, informative and fun two days. But now it’s time to recap – if it’s possible to capture in a blog post the back-and-forth dialogue from panelists to audience -- and figure out what we learned… and where better to start that the first session of the first day?

On the ‘Software Experience, Culling and Early Case Assessment’ panel, I had the pleasure of sitting on stage with Edward Efkeman from FedEx and the director of our E-Discovery Division, Richard Stout. Edward has co-chaired FedEx’s internal e-discovery initiatives for the last three years, and if you’ve been to a major e-discovery event, you’ve likely seen his name on the program. Edward and his FedEx colleagues have a great discovery model in place.

We had a lively discussion with a lot of interaction with and questions from the audience. The most important takeaway for me was a comment from Edward: “Don’t forget to lawyer the problem.” FedEx definitely walks the walk in this regard and their in-house team is incredibly hands-on and detailed-oriented. His point: it’s not enough to throw technology at a matter or process; it must make sense and it must still meet the legal standards of reasonableness, defensibility and good faith. This is wonderful advice that I believe gets lost in the noise of the thousands of technology tools, webinars, conferences and white papers that engulf us.

In the spirit of ‘lawyering’ the problem, we were also reminded that lawyers have been doing early case assessment (ECA) from the beginning of the profession… it’s just now they must use technology to help solve a technology problem, which is volume. One still must interview custodians, decide what’s in and what’s out, strategize, etc. Using technology to solve a technology problem is really the only thing that has changed, and when utilized properly certainly makes life easier. (There is also a good post on E-Discovery 2.0 surrounding the discussion of the interviewing process.)

So your software selection must be understood and used by your lawyers. It’s not good enough that IT is impressed with the technology; the lawyers are the ones who must understand how it works. And bringing the process in-house is not the only option that a corporation may consider, obviously. They can also partner with an outside vendor to help guide and staff the process, review and ultimately produce what needs to be produced.

Along with risk tolerance, these decisions also come down to cost and results. Cost savings are found in reducing the amount of data and then reviewing the remaining data faster. Content analytic tools, clustering, and improved search functionality have aided review teams to speed the process and thus save money. Good tools and consistent protocols also provide more reliable cost predictability, which has generally been lacking in the discovery world in most cases. Using experienced attorneys who understand how to use the full capabilities of a review tool helps with speed, accuracy and overall project cost.

Relationships – internally and with outside counsel, IT vendors and other service providers – are also keys to success in the discovery arena. Everyone must understand roles, collaborate and communicate, and problem-solve. These were consistent themes throughout DS2.0, actually, and success with the above factors leads to results that are difficult to top, the panel agreed.

We also discussed several specific tools and platforms. ECA platforms such as Clearwell, Lateral Data and Equivio, among others, were detailed; the number of companies that have started to use one ECA platform or another has risen dramatically in the past year; reducing up to 90% of the data to review will clearly open some eyes. Some have even tried various purported “all in one” tools, though the general consensus was that no one tool excelled in all areas of the EDRM. The majority of companies that have the resources to pull chunks of the EDRM in-house don’t seem overly concerned with the “all in one” solution – they want the right tool for the specific case or matter, or have identified particular tools that fit the majority of their work (or at least ECA and the review). Others find the idea of off-site hosting/processing very appealing, and along these lines the panel and audience discussed platforms and services that offer “seamless” use of multiple tools, but with no real consensus. Regardless of the path, it's always wise to "test drive" a tool or platform before making any decisions.

Another takeaway worth noting: since it’s the lawyers who must be able to use the tool, a vendor may have already lost the sale if its software requires a full day (or even a multi-day) training session to fully utilize and comprehend it. That time commitment just isn’t realistic in today’s environment, and it certainly doesn’t affirm the “ease of use” mentality that so many in-house counsel seek. Understandable, practical and cost-effective are what matter. Without those, the in-house lawyer will not even give a tool or platform a second look.

We’ll have more on our other sessions in the coming days.
 

Is 'Project Manager' The Next Big Legal Job Title?

Once upon a time, there were really only a handful of titles in the legal profession: Associate, Partner, Paralegal; General Counsel, Associate General Counsel; or simply Attorney. Sure, there were mini-steps between these positions and other classifications, but for the most part these titles offered a good snapshot of the profession – especially the way business was done. Everything that couldn’t be handled in-house was sent to the law firm. There were no Account Executives, no Client Liaisons, no Information Systems Administrators ... no other business partners to lean on.

The rise of e-discovery ended that several years ago. With the entrance of the IT and consultancy worlds, and the development of in-house IT departments, titles like Data Analyst and Systems Manager became commonplace. But the title that has seemingly had the biggest impact – at least from outside the walls of an in-house department – could very well be Project Manager, especially from the collection through production phases of the EDRM.

Practically every vendor touching the world of e-discovery has this position. If you don’t have it, or refer to it another way, you might get funny looks (We once did. “So is a Team Leader really a Project Manager? Or does someone oversee the Team Leader? Who is the PM?” Good point. Why make it more confusing than it has to be?). In our line of work, the PM can consult on the technology tools to use, develop the budget of an entire discovery matter, and handle the assembly and work of the review team, among dozens of other issues. These vital roles raise the question: Does this position merit a place, or a more prominent place, within the legal education system? Or will that just mess it up?

Like most things in our profession, top-notch e-discovery project management typically only comes with experience. A good PM has battled through the tough assignments, been able to troubleshoot while under intense deadlines or emergencies, managed matters large and small and understands the different approach each requires, and has the innate ability to become Zen master amidst the myriad roles and personalities at work on a typical discovery matter (between the technology vendors, law firm associates and partners, in-house team and it’s IT department, and the review team), among a million other issues. So it’s difficult to imagine this being taught well in academia. I won’t go into the teaching of practical applications in law school, which is another reason this will never happen.

Additionally, it’s not entirely clear how good lawyers are, as a profession, at project management. I feel like I can make this statement as a lawyer myself. The budget is often front and center of a project, whether it requires staying within it or forecasting. This has never been a strong suit within our profession. Project management also requires the ability to manage teams, work directly with vendors and other partners, and have an understanding of the substance of the case; that’s several jobs rolled into one. By nature lawyers can be good at each of these functions, but collectively it becomes more problematic.

That being said, the project manager is undoubtedly a role that is here to stay and it merits an established, accredited training ground within the profession – something beyond being certified as an e-discovery professional. Many of these training programs happen internally and organically (we do this). But outside of that, a publicly available service might need to be taught by IT professionals or consultants – someone not a lawyer by trade. E-discovery service providers might be able to step in as educators. Or maybe there is a different tract that needs creation: equal parts legal education and on-site, real-world apprenticeship. (Since summer programs are falling by the wayside, maybe this is a real alternative for law schools? Doubtful.) Or maybe there are enough lawyers already searching for new roles in the profession who could fill the need for great e-discovery project managers. Surely it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a more prominent and respected position at law firms.

One thing we hear loud and clear from potential in-house clients is that they understand the essential role a project manager plays in helping to achieve their cost savings and coordination goals. A good project manager is like gold, and I’d like to recognize Richard Stout and his team of PMs at Counsel On Call for consistently being recognized by clients for their outstanding work (Richard truly is the gold standard in the discovery/review world).

But when there’s a rush for gold, the legal profession typically is already waiting to be able to sell its supply … in this case, it doesn’t seem to match the demand – yet. I would love to get some thoughts on the subject.
 

Recap: Software Decisions Good and Bad

It was clear from the onset that attendees were eagerly awaiting this panel, and that Mr. Efkeman, Mr. Lisi and Mr. Stout were the right attorneys to answer the questions before them.

There was great dialogue between the panelists and the audience, as many attendees were either currently in the software platform analysis process or considering purchases for their in-house dpartments.

Session II: De-dupe, Near Dupe and Being Duped: Software Decisions Good and Bad

Panelists: Senior attorneys from FedEx Express, Fidelity Investments
Richard Stout, Director, Litigation Support Division, Counsel On Call

Moderator: Dennis McKinnie, Executive Director, Atlanta, Counsel On Call

Summary of Dialogue
Themes: Review less data, and do it faster; Establish a good relationship between your legal and IT departments and ensure both are speaking the same language; Purchasing software is costly, and those decisions should be carefully considered, especially in an environment in which there is much consolidation currently -- but a purchase can save time and money in the long run; “Try before you buy.”

The panelists agreed that limiting the amount of data to review was paramount to containing costs. They spoke about the importance of Early Case Assessment (ECA) tools, specifically mentioning Clearwell and Trident (by Wave, a de-dupe/culling tool).

As ways to reduce discovery time and costs, Richard Stout (Counsel On Call) echoed the dialogue about reducing the volume of data to review and discussed how to review the data faster. Implementing the right technology and correctly managing the process are central; the volume of data to be reviewed can be reduced by implementing a Comprehensive Records Management Program (including an effective document retention policy), targeting the collection (searching key custodians, date ranges, specific terms), culling and de-duping data, and using ECA tools. Mr. Stout also mentioned companies with project managers available 24/7 as an important factor in selecting software.
 


The question of whether to purchase software was also discussed. While it was clear that every department’s needs and restrictions are different, the general consensus was there are some purchasing decisions that make sense. Clearwell was a very popular option among attendees. Mr. Stout stated that there is a lot of consolidation in the software business at this point in time – it is the fastest growing segment of the legal industry – so some might opt for a “wait and see” approach with many of these decisions. The technology is improving on almost a weekly basis, it seems, and new tools enter the market every month. The key, the panel and audience agreed, is having people who know how to use the software to its fullest capabilities; Mr. Stout stated that attorneys who know all the “bells and whistles” of a particular platform can ultimately save a client hundreds of thousands of dollars in efficiencies during a review (they review more documents per hour).

Some of the biggest mistakes cited by the group included not testing enough software and committing too early and not investigating (and therefore not implementing) the entire software structure selected.

One panelist mentioned that most, if not all, of the software companies will allow you to test their products for 30-90 days so you can see how it will work with your data. He said this ultimately became a big part of his “success” in software selection, or at least in purchasing a tool that is working well for his company.

The group also asked if anyone knew of a “good, end-to-end solution” currently on the market. While there are multiple tools that handle specific parts of the EDRM Model, there seems to be a need for a comprehensive tool. There was some discussion about particular platforms that are rumored to be coming out with more robust tools, but no one would site a particular tool they felt comfortable saying was good for all stages.

Live from DS1.0 ...

Greetings from the packed Discovery Symposium!

If you're not follwoing Dennis McKinnie on Twitter, you can do so here: www.twitter.com/dmac1957. Dennis will tweet periodically from our meeting site and is leading a panel shortly.

I will continue to update this post today and tomorrow as interesting tidbits arise, so please check back and refresh your screen.

1:15pm CST
Our keynote speaker at lunch was Cheryl Mason, VP of litigation at HCA, who is incredibly knowledgeable about the litigation process and its role at HCA. She detailed how HCA's approach -- when they started to really create solutions regarding e-discovery several years ago -- was to create a defensible process, not necessarily a perfect process. And even if HCA's process isn't perfect, it is kept in the perspective of what is best for the company -- and where e-discovery fits into its priorities. Her level of knowledge and her calm deameanor are 'points of light,' as COC President Jane Allen says.

We're getting into the Retention/Holds & Preservation/Collection panel now with attorneys from FedEx, Equifax and Hilton Hotels. More updates soon.

4:15pm CST
We just finished the 'Software Decisions' panel, which I was very pleased to be a part of. Leading/directing the dialogue were Edward Efkeman (FedEx Express) and Mike Lisi (Fidelity), who have both been tasked with handling vendor relationships with all types of software companies. What was most striking -- and probably most encouraging for our guests, many of whom are at different stages of their software selection processes -- was that both FedEx and Fidelity were able to demonstrate a high level of value to their companies in going thru the processes. They clearly knew a lot about dozens of vendors, their capabilities, and how they could help their respective companies. They each spoke about the value of the IT department and good project managers -- and not letting information beyond their firewall. 

There were probably 25 questions from the audience, so this is obviously a hot topic. We'll have to post a more thorough recap next week.

The 'Working With My Law Firms' panel is off and running, then it's off to the Country Music Hall of Fame for what promises to be a great songwriter's night. More to come. 

Discovery Symposium 1.0 Promises To Share Best Practices

Next week, we will have the pleasure of welcoming 35 senior in-house litigation managers, representing 25 companies, to our home base in Nashville for the inaugural Counsel On Call Discovery Symposium 1.0. It’s very exciting for us, as it provides the opportunity to get several of our clients in a room together and talk about best practices in discovery and litigation support.

We tried to limit the event to about 30 attorneys to foster a healthy environment for exchanging experiences, and we’re pleased that the demand has been so high. It's a great program – discussing all areas of discovery – that is completely led by the attorneys who are in the trenches and dealing with these challenges on a daily (hourly) basis. We’re proud to be by their side, but in this instance we’re merely facilitators and believe that’s going to help generate the best possible dialogue among some of the brightest minds in the in-house profession.

Here are a few of the session titles:

  • “Good Policies for Retention and Holds; Standards of Care in Preservation and Collection”
  • “De-dupe, Near Dupe and Being Duped: Software Decisions Good and Bad”
  • “Working With My Law Firm: The New Dynamics”
  • “Creating Your Own Discovery Team”
  • “Budgeting for E-discovery: Not a Pipe Dream”

We will likely produce a recap that shares some of the best practices discussed during the event, and if you’re an in-house attorney interested in reading it, please send us an e-mail and we will add you to the distribution list. Also, based on the response this year, we are considering opening up the event to non-clients in 2010 (event will be in Atlanta or Boston), so please indicate if you would like to receive information when it becomes available.

And if you like Twitter, we’d recommend following Dennis McKinnie, formerly a general counsel of two publicly traded companies, formerly with PoGo’s IP litigation group, and a past Staff Counsel to the Supreme Court of the United States … he’s been the Executive Director of our Atlanta office the last four years, and he just got his Twitter account up and running and will tweet during the program. Dennis is well-known for his txt/Blackberry skills, so we’re going to put him to the test.

Richard Stout will also post on this blog from the event, so don’t forget to check back May 13-14. Subscribing to the blog (on the right side of this page) is the easiest way to make sure you don’t miss an expanded update.


 

Podcast: What Works In E-Discovery, Cost Savings

The second podcast with LegalTalk Network's In-House Legal show is now up.

Richard Stout, director of our Litigation Support Division, and Dennis McKinnie, executive director of our Atlanta office, discuss all things e-discovery: Why the review rate is important, early case assessment tools, what e-discovery savings should really look like, the importance of outside counsel, and why every in-house department should have a discovery process it controls, among other things.

The 13-minute interview begins around the 13:45 mark. The podcast is also available on iTunes for free download.

We hope you'll check it out and let us know what you think.