E-discovery matters are more complex than ever before. While the legal industry now has access to powerful tools that can significantly reduce the time invested in manual processes, lawyers are at the same time facing exploding data volumes and an ever-growing spread of data sources and evidence types.
In my role as a case manager at FTI Technology, I help clients navigate the e-discovery process from start to finish, for litigation, second request inquiries and other investigations. These cases often involve collection and review of data for upwards of 50 custodians - who may be spread between different locations - and dozens of different evidence types (from email, laptops, collaborative workspaces, cloud data, chat apps, text messages and other sources). In addition to dealing with complicated data landscapes, clients typically face tight turnaround times and cost concerns. My job is to serve as a trusted advisor for dealing with these challenges. This includes helping counsel assess everything a matter encompasses, prioritize the needs based on deadlines, develop timelines and a plan and allocate resources to meet the end goal and achieve the most cost savings possible in the process.
This can be a tall order. Especially when compounded by increasingly common challenges relating to data privacy and security sensitivities. But through the many cases I’ve managed over the years, I have found a number of tips, tricks and best practices that tend to make sense for streamlining time and cost across nearly ever matter.
For example, streamlining and automation. These cases have a lot of moving parts and our team is highly skilled at setting everything up to be as streamlined and automated as possible, including task tracking. There is no reason to duplicate work or spend time on manual processes if those steps can be defensibly automated. This is something we address with clients right away, from the outset. In practice, this includes an intelligent tracking system we use, which allows our forensic team, processing team and consulting team to go into the tracking system and make updates every step of the way. Those updates are refreshed in real-time and presented in a very user-friendly way, so that clients and other team members can check in and see where things are at any time.
Another best practice in keeping things on track is to develop a detailed, but flexible timeline. We create a workback calendar for counsel that accounts for every step of the matter, including data collection, processing, analytics, reviews and productions. It really helps the team visualize the timeline when we present it in a graphical way. From there, we can track how the project is keeping pace with the deadlines, and adjust things continually as the process moves forward.
Analytics tools are also critical to deal with large data volumes. Our team is platform agnostic, so we can advise clients on how to leverage various analytics tools and approaches like predictive coding. These tools can quickly (and defensibly when used the right way) narrow datasets and thus reduce review costs. Analytics are powerful in driving results in e-discovery, and we ensure counsel always has someone on the team with expertise in applying these tools, so they are used in the most effective and defensible way possible.
Not managing a case well can have huge consequences. To ensure our client cases don’t go off the rails, FTI places a case manager on every matter, with additional support from a lead consultant when the scope of the case demands additional resources. In any scenario, large or small, a case manager serves as a knowledgeable point person to help clients implement best practices, keep things running smoothly and save money.