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How Project Management Adds Value To E-Discovery | The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel

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In a recent article for the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, Kelli Clark discusses how project management adds value to electronic discovery. The key to successfully managing your e-discovery project, she argues, is implementing and following a solid project-management process. In the article Ms Clark lists five e-discovery project phases:

  1. scoping,
  2. detailed planning,
  3. startup,
  4. execution, and
  5. closeout.
While this not too far from the PMBOK's five process groups (initiation, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing), I'm a little perplexed about her "startup" phase:

During this phase, the project manager closely monitors data collection, culling and processing output to verify that the processes used are sound and meet the client's objectives and budget. In addition, the project manager works with the IT and review teams to confirm that workstations are configured and ready for reviewers. The project manager is also tasked with making sure that the project team is trained on the review software and review manual and protocols, as well as any other tools involved in the project. A sample production is often created during the startup phase as well. This allows any issues with production format or database load files to be ironed out before the 11th hour. Many potential pitfalls can be identified at this stage in the process and remedied prior to full-scale execution. This is significant because in the execution phase, there may be greater costs to resolving an issue. For example, the cost of resolving a hardware or configuration issue is much greater once a full staff of contract reviewers is in place and downtime is being billed at an hourly rate. The project manager ensures that any changes that are required in the startup phase are made and documented in the project plan and communicated to the team.

Sounds a lot like execution of e-discovery work to me. The execution phase is described as:

The penultimate phase, the execution phase, is when the discovery plans come to fruition. In this phase, the project manager monitors timelines. Working backward from the production deadline, he or she makes sure that review is completed and production sets are finalized in time for deliverables to be created. A good project manager can provide best practice advice to assist with production and privilege log creation as well as quality control. Additionally, the project manager observes and counters any obstacles that arise during this phase. Experienced project managers bring resolutions that were successful on other projects as well as creative problem solving to the table, and they can sometimes be the heroes who save the project from failure in the 11th hour.

She's not talking about process groups here, she is breaking a typical e-discovery project into two halves each consisting of two to four EDRM stages. The "startup phase" comprises the "collection," "processing" and, I assume, the "identification" and "preservation"stages, though these last two are not specifically mentioned. The "execution" phase comprises the "analysis" and "production" stages. 

I find the grouping of activities in this way, and the naming of the phases, a bit confusing, but I can see how it makes sense from a supervising attorney's point of view. For the supervising attorney, the real action takes place during the review. Everything before analysis can begin is just setting the stage. 

The second half of the article discusses the following benefits that project management brings to e-discovery projects:

  • optimization of resources;
  • schedule control;
  • quality control;
  • defensibility;
  • improved communications;
  • risk management, and 
  • comprehensiveness and timeliness.
Defensibility is an important benefit not often highlighted. Ms Clark points out that "project management gives clients a repeatable and reliable process. It also allows clients to gather data and develop best practices for future matters. And, because project managers bring a proven process to a project, they can help clients predict the cost and schedule of discovery, avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel in subsequent litigation." 

Lawyers are great at generating a lot of documentation, but not always very good about creating, documenting, following, measuring, and continually improving upon a standard, repeatable processes. A ability of project management to help ensure that e-discovery teams sufficiently  document their work to increase the defensibility of the process is a benefit highlighted by the Sedona Conference almost exactly three years ago in its Commentary on Achieving Quality in the E-Discovery Process

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This page contains a single entry by Paul C. Easton published on June 12, 2012 3:37 AM.

ABA Presents "Mastering the Move to Legal Project Management" was the previous entry in this blog.

PMI Adds a Category for "Legal" on its Knowledge Shelf is the next entry in this blog.

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