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5 Ways Runners and Production Managers Just Get Each Other

Carlo Ramos

There are a lot of similarities between physical fitness and e-discovery expertise that can help you embrace the love of running as well as excel at your job. We’ve covered the subject of athletics and e-discovery before—including analogies on running a marathon, tackling an obstacle course, and partaking in the great American pastime—so let’s touch on another example: the production that feels like a couch-to-5K adventure. With unseasonably warm weather in Chicago earlier this week and new year’s resolutions on our minds, we’re in the mood for some exercise.

Most of us can agree that succeeding in e-discovery is a feat of athleticism all its own. Today we present a few specific examples, but it all comes down to this: if you don't feel like throwing up after completing a 5K or production, you didn't try hard enough.

#1: Casually interrogating your peers.

Casual runners may run simply to stay active, while others train for a specific event or sport. Upon meeting a fellow runner, he or she might ask questions to see where their interests align (e.g., “How many miles are you running today?”). They may end up discussing accomplishments, pace per minute, and so on. Eventually, they learn from each other—nutrition tips, or water bottle recommendations—and leave one another closer to the proverbial (or literal) finish line.

Similarly, in e-discovery, the production admin’s arsenal of questions leads to fruitful conversations with the case manager who sends a project their way, such as:

  • How much data are we dealing with?
  • What file types are involved?

Both of these professionals are after the same goal: a timely and flawless production. A good production manager asks a lot of questions up front to prevent problems before they start.

Pro Tip for Production Admins: Ask your questions as early in the project as possible, and check in with the review manager frequently. Keeping abreast of changes can ensure a smoother conclusion.

#2: Obsessing over the right gear.

With running, a number of brands of clothing, shoes, and accessories help maximize performance. You could spend weeks mulling over a new brand of shoes, browsing reviews, and asking fellow enthusiasts for their input.

In e-discovery, there are a number of workflows and production protocols to explore. These help determine how you prepare for, run, and hand over a production, so research and hands-on training are critical for ensuring success. Just as you might contact the owner of a local running shop for tips, you should know it’s important to establish relationships with the knowledgeable people who will influence these decisions: review admins, litigation support managers, and even case attorneys.

Pro Tip for Production Admins: Make yourself indispensable to your team by mastering the software you use every day. Training—and even certification—will not only help you work smarter, they can also make you a resource for upstream team members.

#3: Setting goals with a hard deadline.

You may have the luxury of choosing a 5K, but you don’t get to change race day. You get a very specific window of time to prepare for and accomplish your goals. Maybe you’ve set the deadline yourself, if it’s a weight loss target or a goal to shave 1-2 minutes off of your personal record. Whatever the case, you’re locked in—and any failures to meet your goals will fall largely on you.

With productions, your timeline is just as stiff. But you can accomplish a lot in the time allowed. There’s the ultimate goal of a successful production with everything in its proper place, but what else? Whether it’s establishing a better working relationship with a particular attorney, learning how to handle new file types, or educating clients on the best protocols, you can make this project count in more ways than one.

Of course, the only way to reach your goals is consistent training. You must make a plan and stick to it—no excuses.

Pro Tip for Production Admins: Stay organized by learning some project management tactics. Professionals in all industries use these techniques to keep track of their many responsibilities without drowning in them.

#4: Unleashing the power of #beastmode.

Trudging toward those goals will inevitably leave you tempted to quit, cancel running the race, or call in sick at work. When you hit a wall, fall back on your support system.

When prepping for a race, seek out your family or running buddies. They know what you're capable of; they've seen you training. “You're a machine,” they’ll tell you. Their confidence is the final push you need to run that extra block without stopping.

For your production project, this is a great time to bounce some ideas off of your litigation support team, your case team, or an experienced project manager at one of your favorite vendors.

Take the opportunity to vent, then take a few steps backward: it's time to renew your confidence, get going on the appropriate course of action, and execute on your plans. You've tapped on #beastmode before.

Pro Tip for Production Admins: Regularly meeting with like-minded peers can help you stay inspired and prevent burnout. Attend local e-discovery software user group meetings, and budget for industry conferences like Legaltech or Relativity Fest. When you do, #beastmode will be easier to unlock than ever.

#5: The rush of race day.

By race day, most of the hard work and heavy lifting is complete. It’s a matter of putting forth your best effort to ensure all the work you put in is not wasted. Most things that can go wrong now—a twisted ankle or missing redaction—are well outside your control.

But soon, it’s over. You’ve finished. At a race, you may receive a medal, an adult beverage, or a goody bag of nutritional treats. You’ll run past the finish line where people cheer.

With a completed production, you may receive a reply confirming that it "looks good," or "please post today's production to opposing counsel's FTP site." You might hear a "thank you so much," or simply "talk to you next week to discuss the next production."

In both cases, the satisfaction of a job well done can carry you through the stress and effort of the next race or production in no time.

Pro Tip for Production Admins: If things do go wrong, the effort you’ve put in is still worthwhile—so take problems as they appear and resolve to overcome them. What did you learn? What can you do better next time? Both successes and failures offer learning opportunities. Don’t let them pass you by.