The legal services industry has witnessed astonishing growth and development in the past decade. At its heart, technology has reinvented discovery and driven an ever-evolving market for products serving eDiscovery, information governance and big data. However, technology in a vacuum without complementary organizational eDiscovery architecture is like a locked door without a key. For corporations, legal services providers and law firms, the power of technology is harnessed only by eDiscovery professionals who can exploit its possibilities and bring it to life through well-designed workflows.
Is Your Organization as Advanced as Your Technology?
Because technology has become intertwined with legal practice, building an effective eDiscovery framework within a legal practice is essential to support data management solutions and to manage risk. To fulfill professional responsibility obligations and to advance client interests, I recommend that law firms and companies establish a flexible, centralized approach that:
• incorporates evolving substantive policy/best practices,
• constantly evaluates emerging technology and
• adheres to an organized structure that meets the needs of clients, lawyers and staff
In a World Full of Chiefs, Where does the Buck Stop?
To achieve a consistent, institutional perspective for eDiscovery, it is critical to house policy and process-making in an eDiscovery “chief of staff.” This function is intended to serve the best interests of the organization and may be a General Counsel, executive committee, practice group, partner in charge, administrative director, or consulting group. Without some form of centralized decision-making, individual players will make decisions without consideration for firm risk management, industry standards or appropriate technology solutions. It is important to understand that this internal resource (even if only one or two professionals) is necessary because professional responsibility does not transfer to vendors. High quality consultants/vendors may carry out day-to-day discovery tasks and recommend strategies, the supervising attorney is still ultimately responsible for decisions and results.
If You Build It, They Will Come: Concepts for a Competitive Organization
Creating a productive eDiscovery framework requires combining traditional practice hierarchy with business principles that focus on efficiency, process and collaboration. A standardized eDiscovery framework should embrace technology, while encouraging team dynamics, open communication, defined responsibilities, continuing education, benchmarking and vendor vetting and management. With an ultimate goal of effectively managing data, the following concepts may assist in applying structure to practice:
• Project Management – Although project management exists in many forms, as a term of art and discipline, it establishes controls around five steps of an individual project. Those include; initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing. Project management is a high-level, flexible approach that collects/organizes project competence and knowledge according to a broader organizational roadmap. For more information on project management certification please find additional resources at the Project Management Institute at www.pmi.org.
• Lean Six Sigma – Lean Six Sigma combines strategic business practices regarding reducing waste through a process improvement methodology paired with a quality improvement process; together, it seeks to invigorate your process and organization. Seyfarth & Shaw developed SeyfarthLean a few years ago with the goal of maximizing the Lean Six Sigma principles to improve their practice’s delivery of legal services. Please find more information regarding Seyfarth’s program at www.seyfarth.com/seyfarthlean.
• Information Governance – IG, an important tool in dealing with big data, is typically seen as a strategy for businesses to harness the power of data through advanced analytics. However, the organizational, holistic tenets of IG may be adapted to law firms to inform how they build a structure for technology and best practices to deal with big data. Please find more information about Information Governance at The Information Governance Initiative at www.iginitiative.com.
Technology is critical to the success of individual projects and organizations that serve the legal industry. However, long-term competitive success will derive from the integration of technology and an organizational structure in an environment where technical data solutions are balanced and supported by market-leading professionals and consulting services.