Effective Project Management Mitigates eDiscovery Errors
The eDiscovery process is complicated, with ample opportunity for errors. Mistakes can be caused by poor identification, preservation, and collection processes; inadequate review; or incomplete production. Even in the best situations, mistakes will happen.
Legal and data governance professionals strive to minimize errors and consequences that can range from cost increases to court sanctions. Electronic discovery project management, which balances the scope, cost, and timing of a project with quality output, can help minimize mistakes.
Effective project management requires formulation of a sound plan, proper implementation of the plan, and reviews of the process and progress to ensure stated objectives are being met. The process also should include adhering to project schedules and budgets and making adjustments when necessary.
Project management can substantially improve control, oversight, repeatability, and predictability of the eDiscovery process. When done well, it is scalable over a wide variety of matters. Electronic discovery project management best practices, as listed below, detail expectations and responsibilities of staff, define the workflow, and use technology to enhance the review process.
Best Practice 1: Define Roles
Decide the roles of various individuals on the team, including internal staff, outside counsel, and any external vendor team members. Select a project manager who understands and can contribute to the substantive legal issues in play, as well as any strategic litigation goals, while possessing the expertise to guide the identification, preservation, collection, and review of production. The project manager must regularly and clearly communicate with other team members regarding tasks and project status, as well as understand budgetary constraints.
Best Practice 2: Standardize Processes
Create an eDiscovery process with standardized protocols and workflows that address each phase, including procedures for handling specific data types and exceptions. Start by assessing existing aspects of eDiscovery and identifying areas for standardization and improvement. Identify each specific step to be taken, formalize the process, and create strict documentation requirements, utilizing experts in eDiscovery, such as vendors, when needed.
Best Practice 3: Automate with Technology
After defining roles and standardizing processes, use technology to automate workflows. Consider software offering dashboards that let project managers juggle multiple matters and enable regular and timely reporting on project progress. Technology should be able to track steps in the discovery process and provide information on multiple activities.
Technology benefits can include automated notifications, checklists, and tracking mechanisms that save time when compared to manual methods. Automation also enables templates and workflows created for one matter to be used in another, providing efficiency, consistency, and defensibility. Lastly, automated reporting capabilities, such as audit logs regarding metrics, aid in defensibility and allow completed projects to be analyzed for business intelligence purposes.
Project management principles can be applied to eDiscovery in the same way they are applied other business processes. Using project management principles to assign staff to well-defined roles, implementing comprehensive, effective processes, and leveraging technology will help minimize eDiscovery errors, lead to greater efficiencies, and give the end product more business intelligence value.