If a new document review project seems like a lot of work, you’re right - but, if you feel like you are on your own, you might be doing it wrong. At least, you’re probably not working with the right ediscovery partner. The right partner has the right tools, the right workflows, and asks the right questions in order to leverage their expertise to help you succeed. They will cultivate an active partnership with you, providing timely, consultative input to optimize the review. You get the most out of that partnership when they have the information they need as early as possible. To make that happen, you will need to give some thought to the details of the project and be prepared to share, even before the review project starts.
One of the first major events of a review project is the kickoff meeting with your ediscovery partner, where information is exchanged, roles are defined, tools are selected, and expectations are set. A good ediscovery partner’s project team will have lots of questions for you at the kickoff so they can properly leverage their resources, and provide to you their expert input. You need to be able to answer their questions and prepare questions of your own. Here are some factors to think about before the kickoff meeting:
1. Your matter’s history matters
Be able to provide a quick summary of your matter’s relevant procedural and substantive information. Is this an internal investigation? A government inquiry? Is it a suit in litigation? Where is it in the discovery phase? Ideally, you will also be able to provide key timing, such as discovery end date, deadlines and schedules for document production, and other requirements such as a privilege log or deposition prep that may require additional support from your ediscovery partner.
It is also helpful to be able to advise how much flexibility exists in the timing of key deliverables. Are any of these events court-mandated? A good partner will always strive to achieve any requested deadline, but occasionally, even great partners can experience challenges. The sooner you can advise them of any cannot-miss deadlines, the sooner they can pre-plan and align the needed resources. Importantly, as you become aware of any new requirements, deadlines, or mandates during the course of the matter, let your partner know as soon as possible so they can adjust accordingly and advise you with further thoughts and recommendations.
2. Specify the specifications
The right ediscovery partner will want to confirm the imaging, processing, and production specifications as early in the review project as possible. They will want to assess the complexity and conventionality of your specifications to identify any challenges or contradictions. From there, they will be able to establish best practices that you want to know about and they need to plan for. Unless an ESI agreement or a court-order is already in place, your partner should have their own model specifications that they can share with you. Absent the above, your partner’s specifications are usually your best choice, as these will already be aligned with their internal workflows and the industry’s best practices.
3. The details of the data
The size and composition of the data are some of the most important details that you can provide at the kickoff because they inform the kinds of technologies and methodologies your ediscovery partner can leverage to help reduce the data size and focus on the most interesting documents for your team. It is very helpful to be able to explain where you are in the custodian identification and collection phase. Has data already been collected? Is collection ongoing? Has any already been processed? How much data is there? Do you need help with the collection?
The right ediscovery partner can usually provide consultation and resources to assist with the collection, and will always be able to recommend tools and workflows that will maximize the speed, efficiency, and defensibility of your collection, processing, analysis, and review process. However, some strategies are harder to implement, and less valuable if they are not engaged at the beginning of the review. The more you can tell them about the data, and the earlier you can tell them, the better.
4. Let them know you
Practitioners in the legal industry make their livings and reputations by what they know, so it can sometimes feel uncomfortable to acknowledge that you don’t know something. Smart practitioners, however, know when to seek (and use) advice from subject matter experts, like their ediscovery partner. eDiscovery is evolving so quickly that it is difficult to stay current unless you are completely immersed in it. However, if you have selected the right partner, you already know what you do and don’t know as well as what they do and don’t know. In this case, if you have aligned yourself with a partner who truly is a subject matter expert, then let them do what they do best!
Take stock of your team’s experience, exposure, and comfort with ediscovery as a whole, as well as the tools and solutions your partner offers. If you are unfamiliar with a concept, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation. If you don’t understand the benefits or risks of a proposed solution, ask for an analysis. If you don’t know how to use a tool, ask for training. The more you share about what you need, the more effective your ediscovery partner can be in supporting you. Remember, you want to be able to focus on the big-picture substantive issues and strategy of the matter. The right ediscovery partner will work in parallel with you to minimize the impact of the document review process on your big-picture focus.
The goal of every document review project is to quickly and efficiently get your eyes on the most important documents while ensuring the highest quality, defensibility, and cost-effectiveness. By considering the above factors in advance, your success in accomplishing this can be significantly improved even before the project begins.
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