David J. Kearney

April 16, 2014

Law Firm Outsourcing of eDiscovery

Listen to Karl Schieneman, Founder and President of Review Less, a predictive coding consultancy and document review company talk with Dave Kearney from Cohen and Grigsby and Nick Reizen from Xact Data Discovery about how law firms view outsourcing eDiscovery tasks like collection, processing, hosting and reviewing data to technology oriented vendors. It is definitely a growth trend and there are lots of views on this topic depending on which lawyer you talk to. Some firms want to own the EDRM model. Others want to outsource. And others consider eDiscovery a distraction to the practice of law so they ignore it.

Recorded 04/16/2014

This podcast was first published at ESIBytes and is available here with permission.  For more information about ESIBytes, visit their website at http://www.esibytes.com and visit ESIBytes’ Podcasts  at http://esibytes.com/category/blog/category-4/

Podcast Audio:  https://app.box.com/s/wo1rmrheo4065vnsv53u

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March 4, 2014

Effective Service Delivery, Providing Client Value, and Applying Sound Decision Making to Matter Management

Today’s Legal Market Landscape

As lawyers and law firms continue to recognize the need to more effectively engage, manage, and retain clients, it is becoming obvious that the adoption of tools and models to gain new work and keep existing clients is a necessity.   Models that address the overall flat growth for legal services, the “new normal” economy since The Great Recession, the growing sophistication of clients, and new and non-traditional legal service providers in the legal market must be utilized to justify the traditional billable hour and also to be able to offer various alternative fee and service arrangements.

Regardless of the terms or concepts used, whether it is called legal project management or variants of client value initiatives, practice innovation, etc., it is becoming essential that when responding to an RFP or bidding for new work, lawyers must have at least a small arsenal of tools at their disposal to effectively price a matter, efficiently manage a matter to completion, while also producing value to the client.  Part of the arsenal of tools must include training in the new economies of legal services; the ability to track billable time at the task and activity level; providing, communicating, and analyzing metrics of the business and engagement; the ability to budget a matter based on a combination of internal metrics, the value of the service being provided, historical data, and intuition; and being able to provide alternative fee arrangements not based solely on hourly rates.

A lawyer or firm may not know what exact steps to take and each step may vary across firms, practice groups, or individual attorneys, but the following are some essentials to have an understanding of to remain competitive to upstream and downstream providers, and utilize resources that can provide guidance in helping to move your practice towards meeting client expectations in today’s legal services environment.

Training

An acknowledgement of how the terrain has changed over the past few years needs to be addressed at the organizational level, regardless of the size or client-base.  The elephant-in-the-room should not go unacknowledged.  An overall discussion of how the business of law has changed and how this may impact a practice group or firm is the first step in ensuring that there is at least anrecognition that change is on the horizon.  Looking a year or two down the road to peering five-to-10 years out and how the trends of today will impact the ability to gain new clients and retain them may make things clear that a strategic plan should be designed now; One that takes into account what is here & now and what other changes may be looming.  Examine project management practices, innovations in the delivery of legal services, and what clients expect beyond the initial services they need and how best to service these needs is a good place to begin.  Educate clients and practice groups and let them educate you in return.

Standardized Time and Activities

Consider keeping time utilizing the standardized categorization of legal work and expenses.  The Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS) was developed by the American Bar Association, the Association of Corporate Counsel, along with corporations and law firms.  This standard will assists with electronic billing; the process of better understanding where time is spent on a matter, across matters, and within a practice; can be used to better prepare RFP responses; and enhance communications within your team and with your client…not to mention you will be prepared when a client requests that that these standards be instituted in their billings.  Implementing a standard time-keeping and task structure will certainly require change to how entries are logged and billed, but will enhance the data captured that wouldn’t be able to be accurately measured otherwise.  Some clients are already expecting this from their outside counsel and it is only a matter of time before other clients begin to expect this standard way of time and task accounting.

Workflow Improvement

Identifying workflows, identifying inefficient workflows, and automating efficient workflows where possible are ways of streamlining the work involved on a matter.  By analyzing what works and what doesn’t will help remove inefficient practices that can then be made more efficient to help drive down costs and meet client expectations.  Before any automation can be put into place, it is probably a good idea to make sure that workflows are efficient; otherwise an inefficient workflow will be automated.  Study workflows of matters and find efficiencies and implement practices that can take advantage of similar processes across matters to manage them more effectively, perhaps even as a portfolio.

Metrics

Examining the all-around costs of people, places, and things and how those costs impact the degree of flexibility that can be applied to pricing work is essential to knowing if a certain piece of work will be done at a profit or loss and by how much.  How much of a billing rate covers overhead, such as office space, benefits, staff, technology, supplies, etc.?  These costs have to be covered and accounted for.  When a matter is closed is an analysis done to compare the budgeted costs versus the actual costs?  Is there a communication model around a matter and/or client?  How is the status of matters communication to  the internal legal team and to the client?  Metrics analysis is vital to budgeting, managing, and improving the delivery of services…within scope and on-budget.

The Outcome

Once the systems are in place that keep the lawyers and legal team up-to-speed of legal market changes and client expectations, that standardize billing entries, that define efficient workflows, that account for costs and expenses related to a matter, the ability to utilize internal information, take advantage of the knowledge that is now available, the analysis of industry benchmarks against your practice, the examination of alternative service delivery mechanisms, and the application of project management tools and practices to the management of matters will allow for hourly rates to be based on the work needing accomplished and alternative fees arrangements that fit to the tasks required for the matter.

Hourly fee and alternative fee arrangements can be proposed more effectively when designed based on the analytics of an efficient process, based on historical data in-line with new work requirements, is consistent within a practice group and matter type, and in a way that is in-line with the goals of the organization or individual seeking a solution to their matter.

Change is never easy and the changes required to work in an environment that has changed significantly over a short period of time will require a long-term commitment, strategy, and team to ensure that client requirements are met head-on with transparent and predictable results.

David J. Kearney
www.linkedin.com/in/davidjkearney/

August 22, 2011

6 Project Management Practices to Apply to E-Discovery Cases

Filed under: e-Discovery,Litigation Support,Project Management,Uncategorized — David J. Kearney @ 11:40 am
Tags:

6 Project Management Practices to Apply to E-Discovery Cases
David Kearney
Law Technology News
08-18-2011

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.

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