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ALSP Webinar (kinda) Discusses Corporate Litigation Project Management & EDD

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Earlier today I attended a webcast hosted by the Association of Litigation Support Professionals (ALSP) titled Corporate Litigation Project Management & EDD. It was presented by John F. Mancini, president of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM). Mancini discussed why corporations are taking control of the e-discovery process away from law firms and how litigation support professionals can better communicate with corporate stakeholders by understanding how they see e-discovery. 

As good as the presentation was, however, it was poorly titled. Mancini did not discuss project management. That said, he made a number of points that I feel are valuable for e-discovery project managers to understand. 

Great project managers have excellent communication skills. Communication is a magical substance: an adhesive that holds the project together and the lubricant that keeps everything moving. A critical attribute of good communication is knowing your stakeholders; understanding their needs, biases, and quirks; and adapting your communication to more effectively manage the relationships. Proper project management will ensure sufficient supplies of this magic-like adhesive/lubricant, helping even lawyers and IT professionals work well together.

Mancini's presentation starts by providing a background of the e-discovery challenges that corporations face. He points out that Moore's law applies not only to computing power, but also bandwidth and storage, which has created a "tidal wave" of information--and this wave keeps rising. According to Mancini, by 2011 the digital universe will be ten times as big as it was in 2006 and 30% of this is business content.

Much of his presentation involved explaining and differentiating the concepts of enterprise concept management and electronic discovery. If you are interested in these topics, you'll find that this presentation does a good job introducing them.

From the perspective of a legal project manager in charge of an e-discovery project for a corporate client, I found Mancini's descriptions of various corporate stakeholders' views on e-discovery both interesting and informative. 

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY STAFF

IT staff have a storage bias when it comes to questions related to e-discovery. Mancini gives the example of a corporate IT department sending out a notice that the storage capacity on the e-mail server is being reached and instructing people to delete messages older than X date. The problem with this storage-capacity driven perspective is that IT staff often don't have a frame of reference to understand the context of the information. 

Marcini makes a humourous analogy by applying this mindset to file cabinets. Imagine a company memo stating that the file cabinets were getting full and that the documents in all the green file cabinets should be thrown out so that new files can be put in. This shows how ridiculous it is to take a storage-driven approach where context is important.

It is also important for the e-discovery project manager to realize that IT staff hate responding to e-discovery. Mancini cites a survey (from June 2007, by Osterman Research, Inc.) where 50% of IT managers said that they would rather have a cavity filled than respond to an e-discovery request.  This should be concerning, because the same survey found that 63% of IT managers have been requested to produce an e-mail as part of a legal action.

RECORDS MANAGEMENT STAFF

RM staff see IT professionals as "alien visitors" and are uncomfortable with what they see as IT's haphazard approach to information integrity. I assume that if this claim is correct, that RM staff are more likely to be supportive of e-discovery initiatives in a corporation. Mancini notes that in the current recession, many ECM and RM professionals are turning to e-discovery as the "killer app" to push ECM and RM initiatives.

THE CFO 

CFO is looking to control e-discovery costs. E-discovery is expensive and only getting more so. The cost of e-discovery for Microsoft is between 10 and 20 million U.S. dollars for each and every law suit (Mancini cites Ralph Losey's FloridaLawFirm.com site, although I couldn't find this statistic on Losey's site--not that I looked that long and hard).  

65% of the cost of e-discovery is in the review and analysis phase, so corporations want to do as much as they can to reduce the amount of data that has to be reviewed.  In the question and answer session, when asked who was pushing e-discovery initiatives in corporations, Mancini stated that it was the CFO.

Because of this, both service and software providers are increasingly selling directly to corporations, breaking the old model of hiring outside counsel, who retains a vendor, which has purchased the software.  Also, increasingly, corporations are trying to bring litigation support in-house and put into place an infrastructure to reduce their overall e-discovery risk.

LEGAL STAFF

Legal staff, not surprising, focus on the risks posed by e-discovery. AIIM conducted a survey where 28% or the organizations say that they would take more than a month to produce documents for a legal discovery processes. Courts are also increasingly sanctioning litigants for spoliation of electronic data. Because of the costs and risks of e-discovery, Mancini claims that one large IT corporation moves any suit for under 600,000 USD to settlement.

Understanding how corporate stakeholders in an e-discovery project view e-discovery is important for the project manager. That makes viewing this webcast worthwhile for the legal project manager, even if, despite its title, it doesn't discuss project management.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Paul C. Easton published on October 1, 2009 4:05 AM.

Software Reviews of Concordance, EL Native Review, and earlyCASE was the previous entry in this blog.

Thoughts About Applied Discovery's 2009 Survey on E-Discovery Project Management is the next entry in this blog.

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