In e-discovery, counsel and review teams are juggling a lot of moving parts. Between collecting data across numerous locations and data types, assessing key facts, establishing workflows and determining which analytics to apply, e-discovery teams have little time to worry about the logistics of project management. At FTI, Emily Seabury and Elizabeth Noble are among the team of case managers behind the scenes, making sure everything runs smoothly from start to finish. They and FTI’s broader client teams aspire to always be anticipating the next steps to reach a client’s goal, so that the client need never to ask for an update or flag something that needs to be done. We sat down with Emily and Elizabeth to discuss our case management system, and why it is so crucial to ensuring successful outcomes for client matters.
Case management isn’t an offering that gets much attention or visibility. Why is it so important?
Elizabeth: There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in an e-discovery matter. Case management is central to keeping track of all the internal things that need to happen: client requests, deadlines, the status of collections and productions and dozens of other tasks.
Emily: A robust case management system like ours also helps each team leverage the broader expertise of consultants across the firm. For typical matters, tasks are loaded into a task pool where anyone within the firm who has the required skill set can pick up certain work. This gives our clients access to a wider range of experts that can drive value for their matter.
What’s unique about FTI’s approach to case management?
Emily: We purchased a case management system and then designed it from the ground up with the features we knew would be necessary for optimal efficiency. Our team is continually enhancing it to ensure it meets our needs and helps our teams provide the best service possible to clients.
More broadly speaking, our technique is to focus on proactive planning instead of working in reactive mode. We do this by setting regular touch point calls with the team, and creating a detailed project timeline with built-in back-up plans in case of delays or unforeseen challenges. We work with teams to set roles and responsibilities at the outset, and manage those on an ongoing basis. Everything is very intentional and proactive.
Elizabeth: Before we implemented our case management system, a lot of the project tracking was done over email and in Excel. This is how many teams manage projects, but it isn’t nearly as efficient as the system we now use. With everything tracked and planned out in a single place, everyone, including counsel, can stay on the same page about the status of a matter and various tasks.
What are some of the features your team has added to the case management system?
Elizabeth: Tracking is a big one. Our system is a one-stop shop that tracks everything taking place on a matter. It also tracks milestones throughout a case, a feature that ties back to our approach of proactive planning. We had to customize the system to allow for the level of detail we wanted on that front. Another area we’ve put a lot of work into is in how the system is set up to create tasks that can leverage the various skills of experts across the firm.
We’ve also built in custom workflows and repeatable tasks—like search term creation, decryption requests, productions, permissions—that are automatically put into play as soon as a project kicks off. This adds a lot of efficiency. We aren’t forced to reinvent the wheel every time, and our case teams have an easy way to tap into best practices that have been established during previous matters.
Emily: Our team has also added some AI features into the case management system, which ensures that workflows and tasks are ported over to lay a foundation at the start of a project. Also, every time a new project is added to the system, it is loaded into a central database of all active matters for each client.
Can you share an example of why these features are important?
Elizabeth: One example is if we need to decrypt data for review. This may require the involvement of multiple teams, working on the data in several stages. With our system, the built in decryption workflow will send the request from team to team automatically as the task progresses. All the while, the system tracks its status. Once the task is completed, the case manager is notified, so next steps can move forward smoothly.
FTI uses the case management system on every matter, but are there circumstances where it becomes especially beneficial?
Emily: Some cases span multiple time zones and countries, so smooth coordination among disparate teams is critical. With a central command center for the project, teams in any region can log-in and view the status of tasks or resolve issues in real time.
This whole process provides consistency for our clients. It ensures that people are doing the right tasks, following consistent workflows and can look up important case information on the fly. It enables case managers to maintain QA and keep clients up to date at every stage of a project.