David J. Kearney

August 22, 2011

6 Project Management Practices to Apply to E-Discovery Cases

Filed under: e-Discovery,Litigation Support,Project Management,Uncategorized — davidjkearney @ 11:40 am

6 Project Management Practices to Apply to E-Discovery Cases
David Kearney
Law Technology News

Most lawyers and paralegals would agree that cases are projects that require effective planning. Cases that involve e-discovery carry inherent challenges related to technology, budgets, workflow, communication, deadlines, and the need for early collaboration with all stakeholders. Many of the informal project management steps that attorneys take during the life cycle of a case can be applied more deliberately to better plan, execute, and monitor the e-discovery process — which can result in cost savings and other benefits.

Similar to cases, projects, by definition, are temporary and have a beginning and an end. Regardless of length, projects have stakeholders who are interested in the results as well as constraints that need to be managed. More than ever, legal is being scrutinized to better manage costs and create efficiencies within discovery processes.

Regardless of whether e-discovery is handled internally or externally, there are significant costs associated with the collection, processing, reviewing, storage, and management of data, so employing project management strategies in e-discovery can have a huge impact on both the short- and long-term interests of firms and their clients. Although not every case requires the same level of adherence to all project management processes, there are a minimum of six that should be routinely implemented during the life cycle of cases that involve e-discovery. Cases must be closely managed to ensure that the scope is well defined, risk mitigation strategies are selected, a cost management plan is implemented, and all stakeholders (counsel and clients) are made aware that e-discovery can be an expensive proposition if not tightly managed. It’s in the best interest of all involved parties that the following project management concepts and practices are incorporated.

1. Identify stakeholders and manage expectations. All stakeholders should be identified at the beginning of the process. Stakeholders include counsel, clients (plaintiffs and defendants), the firms, and third parties. All stakeholders need to have expectations managed, and it’s important for those involved to understand how each stakeholder is impacted at every stage of the project. It’s also important to have a sponsor, or champion, to help manage and support the project, keeping stakeholders on the same page regarding production deadlines, timing of requests, vendors that are involved, tasks to be accomplished, and other communications.

2. Communicate and report. A communications plan for the project and reporting methods need to be determined so that all involved are consistently included in the distribution of information, including the plan, project status, potential changes, how to manage changes that might affect the project, and who needs to know things when. Many times, changes are made on-the-fly and not all personnel know the project’s status, or it’s unclear when certain events need to occur. The grapevine is not the best way to communicate.

3. Define the scope. This includes understanding and documenting the details of the project. It’s probably the most critical part of the process. The scope of a project is its foundation, referenced throughout, and it’s where all other project management practices and processes are built. If the scope is misunderstood or wrong, costs, schedules, quality, and resources can be drastically impacted. It’s not enough to know that there is 5 GB of data for review, that everything on a hard drive needs to be reviewable, or that the case is small. Full details and disclosure will help define the scope and thus help manage resources.

4. Create the plan. Define what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, how much it’s going to cost, the risks, how risks will be managed, how long project activities will take, and who will perform the work. Plan for what is known and unknown, plan for alternatives and contingencies, and know how much the pieces of the project will cost and what can impact the costs. Identify the resources needed for collection, processing, production, and storage of data.

5. Manage costs. It’s essential to manage costs, especially with e-discovery projects, because it’s easy for budgets to quickly get out of control. There are many techniques for estimating costs and controlling budgets throughout the process. The end of the project should not be the first time that issues with costs are identified. Having a project conclude on or near budget should not be a luck-based event. If costs are estimated, monitored, and controlled throughout the project, then actual costs will be much closer to budget. Costs are one of the most critical elements of e-discovery; knowing how to estimate costs at the start of the project and control them throughout the project are absolutely critical.

6. Document lessons learned. Maintaining historical data on projects, such as why certain decisions were made, the outcome, what would have provided better results, and a summary of resources involved will be extremely valuable to anyone working on the next e-discovery project. Imagine knowing the collection process and related costs of a project that included numerous mobile custodians and multiple data centers, especially if you never worked on a project that included those details. Imagine being able to more easily put together an accurate plan if you could tap your organization’s historical knowledge. We each have our own personal “lessons learned” database in our head, but it’s only as good as our memory and it’s only available as long as we’re around.

Although it may appear on the surface that project management practices only add to the overhead and costs of e-discovery projects, it has been proven that project management can actually better control costs, enhance communications, and make
projects more successful.

David Kearney is director of technology services at Cohen & Grigsby, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. E-mail: DKearney@cohenlaw.com

Copyright 2011. ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission from Law Technology News. Further Duplication prohibited.

July 26, 2011

E-Discovery Certification Holds Promise for Legal Professionals

Filed under: e-Discovery,Litigation Support,Uncategorized — davidjkearney @ 5:05 pm

E-Discovery Certification Holds Promise for Legal Professionals

David Kearney

Law Technology News


Electronic data discovery is a mainstream business process that is still in its infancy, so it only makes sense that organizations are attempting to build a standardized body of knowledge that will require consistent standards, processes, best practices, tools, and techniques. Many EDD professionals entered the field from various directions, including technologists, paralegals, and lawyers. Currently, individuals entering the field have little knowledge of the litigation life cycle, technology processes, or the practical experience needed to navigate the budgetary, technological, and legal requirements for a case.

In general, an education credential or program establishes a base-level of knowledge that must be learned and retained for some sort of exam — with the additional hope that the knowledge gained will be applied to better accomplish individual and/or company goals. A formal EDD education program with a certification would distinguish those that know buzzwords from those who have a solid foundation. As with any kind of degree, course curriculum, or certification process, these do not make an expert, but do indicate that an individual is well-rounded, committed, disciplined, has a solid baseline — and has made an investment to improve their abilities. Those with a testing component either during or at the end of the process indicates that a student did more than just sit through a class or casually read a book.

There is no substitute for real-world experience, nor is there a substitute for formally learning a process from beginning to end. There also is no one way to learn about the Electronic Discovery Reference Model, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, local rules, production requirements, litigation holds, etc. But the two components are necessary. (It should also be mentioned that work demands, schedules, or individuals unwilling to share information can be barriers to gaining the full spectrum of knowledge.)

At least anecdotally, there is much demand for formal training. There are a good handful of educational opportunities, such as the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists, Organization of Legal Professionals, and Association of Litigation Support Professionals. The overall certification value is what students and organizations make of it. Potential costs can range from hundreds — to thousands — of dollars to earn a certification.

Among the considerations:

• Are course materials are designed for self-study?

• Is travel is required to attend a class?

• Can classes can be attended via a virtual classroom?

• What are testing procedures and costs?

Typically, the cost associated with EDD certification is much less than a college degree and in line with any prominent technical certification and related coursework, such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and Project Management Institute certifications.

As the EDD education industry continues to evolve, expect that the required prerequisites, classes, course work, testing, and mandatory continuing educational requirements will become much more rigorous, consistent, and respected throughout the industry. An EDD certification — or levels of certification — is probably the greatest steps forward in the EDD industry.

As college provides an overall well-rounded knowledge experience, technical certifications provide targeted baseline software/hardware knowledge. Project management certification provides a standard process to manage projects regardless of discipline, likewise as EDD certification develops, it can examine the stages of litigation — from anticipated litigation through the presentation of evidence providing common terms, processes, technologies, best practices, and lessons learned within the industry. EDD certification may also reduce the amount of imposed sanctions, by helping involved parties adhere to legal requirements. Should a successfully-passed certification exam, attended course certificate, or degree be the sole determining factor of one’s aptitude or success? No. But, such earned accomplishments are two-fold; they should be used to help evaluate if an individual has sufficient general knowledge to meet needed requirements. It also shows that an organization has a high level of standards with regards to educational requirements and baseline knowledge requirements.

EDD certification can help build a stronger industry, with stronger organizations where standards are developed, taught, practiced, and modified as e-discovery changes. All things being equal, perhaps organizations will hire the individual who presents an extra credential — because it demonstrates an effort to fill knowledge gaps, a commitment to the industry, and the discipline to achieve rigid certification requirements.

David Kearney is director of technology services at Cohen & Grigsby, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. E-mail: DKearney@cohenlaw.com

Copyright 2011. ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission from Law Technology News. Further Duplication prohibited.

June 21, 2011

Project Management: A Story of Education, General Practice, and the Future

Filed under: e-Discovery,Litigation Support,Uncategorized — davidjkearney @ 6:02 pm

Even if you are not focused on becoming a project manager, a Certified Associate in Project Management, a Project Management Professional in your industry, or obtain a degree in project management, I have found that reading project management books, such as A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge; PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam; and CAPM In Depth: Certified Associate in Project Management Study Guide for the CAPM Exam: Project Management Professional Study Guide for the CAPM Exam to be extremely valuable, if for nothing else, for the overall knowledge of project management.  Project Management is a very well organized process of both science and art that helps guide an individual through project management best practices.  I had an initial intention of just reading the PMBOK (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) for just the general overall knowledge, but once I began reading it I became more impressed and excited about the implications of using proper project management techniques.  At risk of sounding evangelical, I am kind of puzzled that more organizations do not see the value of following generally accepted project management practices.   I always thought I “managed projects” on the initiatives that I worked on, but the practices I followed were surely not to the caliber of the generally accepted project management principles found in the PMBOK.  Although the books that I have read are focused exclusively on the PMBOK and the Project Management Institute’s standards and processes, I find the discipline to be very insightful.

It did take me a couple of passes through the PMBOK to grasp all of the concepts, but I found once I understood the general concepts I conducted my own lessons learned and realized what I could have done if I knew then what I know now.  Project management not only focuses on Gantt charts and schedule & resource management, but in-depth planning, procurement, risk management, cost management, human resource management, research, communication, contract management, negotiating, and the use of tools and formulas to monitor and help guide a project.  Putting these concepts into practice can only enhance the management of a project, regardless of a planned “successful” outcome.  Putting these concepts into practice doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful project, but may rather indicate if a project is worth continuing or is in need of a reinitialization/re-design.

Perhaps I am late-to-the-party or never fully appreciated project management in my past studies and roles, but the principles outlined in the PMBOK  are applicable to any industry or market.  Having read through multiple resources I am now preparing for the “entry-level” project management certification, the CAPM.  I have also joined the Project Management Institute organization (www.pmi.org) to gain even further insight into project management.  I am planning at this point to continue in the pursuit of the PMP certification.  Regardless of where my career takes me, the info I have gained will be extremely valuable.

Pick up a project management book today and help enhance your initiatives in the future.

April 12, 2011

e-Discovery/Litigation Support: In-house, Outsourced, or Both for Small to Mid-Size Law Firms?

Filed under: e-Discovery,Litigation Support,Uncategorized — davidjkearney @ 1:14 pm

Cloud services.  Do more with less.  Scalability.  Run lean.  Cut costs.

e-Discovery/Litigation Support: In-house, Outsourced, or Both for Small to Mid-Size Law Firms?

April 12, 2011

Cloud services.  Do more with less.  Scalability.  Run lean.  Cut costs.

From solo practitioners to firms with up to a couple hundred attorneys that regularly try litigation matters, not all of those in practice have the resources of BigLaw.  To support even the “small” cases with minimal electronic discovery in-house requires access to resources that include personnel, technical, management, and understanding the processes and protocols required when dealing with the requirements of the FRCP.

Having on premise personnel, servers, storage, processing software, review software, backups, to prepare & import discovery on-site can range from thousands to tens-of-thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Depending upon the expectations of in-house personnel to manage the systems, processing, loading, exporting, producing, vendor management, etc. may require a single full-time individual or many.  The skill set of these individuals requires sound technology skills and, at least, a minimal understanding of the litigation life-cycle, and a great appreciation for the urgency of the litigation process.  The salary range for these individuals can range from $60,000 – $100,000+.

The technical infrastructure to house the electronic discovery may require a server environment, storage capacity to house the electronic data, processing software (if any electronic data will be processed in-house), review software to view, tag, mark-up, and produce discovery, a backup mechanism to restore the data and related coding in the event of a disaster, and any wide area network capacity to host/access the data remotely can easily add up to a couple hundred thousand dollars.

With the growth, reliability, and functionality of cloud-based services and as the number of service providers that are experts in e-Discovery and related technology increase, an alternative to having dedicated e-Discovery Specialists/Litigation Support Analysts and technical resources available may be to utilize a service provider to handle the collection, processing, hosting, support, training, producing, and archiving of electronic discovery databases.   Just think…no dedicated support personnel needed, no expensive technology to purchase and manage, easier cost recovery, and volume pricing.  As lawyers and paralegals become more technology proficient, the case support could be managed primarily between the legal team and the technology provider.

I am wondering if utilizing a full-service provider or a service bureau with partners that can work together to create a seemless process with a full featured application stack with a predictable cost structure is a better alternative to trying to build it, just for no one to show up?

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