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Not All Heroes Wear Capes: A Tip of the Hat to e-Discovery Project Managers

Alex Myres - Inventus

This post was originally published by Inventus, an Orange-level Relativity Best in Service Partner. We thought it provided some good insight into how the role of e-discovery project manager is evolving.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an e-discovery project manager!

e-Discovery project managers are heroes in today’s complex discovery world, swooping in to save attorneys from sanctions, corporations from cost burden, and everyday litigants from arduous IT discussions. While the skill set of the e-discovery project manager has evolved to meet increasingly complex technical discovery requirements, their purpose has remained the same: consult counsel on the most efficient and effective means to locate, secure, search, and produce documents as they relate to discovery.

The Value of Today's e-Discovery Project Manager

Today’s e-discovery project managers are true e-discovery experts, well versed in both the legal and technical aspects of discovery. This allows them to guide counsel through each phase of the EDRM, educate on best practices, and offer solutions to complex discovery issues. They provide value not only in the traditional sense of scope, plan, control, and close each case, but also ensure attorney’s ethical duty of competence is met. In July, the California State Bar published a formal opinion pertaining to an attorney’s ethical duties in the handling of electronically stored information. The opinion states that “Attorneys handling e-discovery should be able to perform (either by themselves or in association with competent co-counsel or expert consultants) the following:

  • Initially assess e-discovery needs and issues, if any
  • Implement/cause to implement appropriate ESI preservation procedures
  • Analyze and understand a client’s ESI systems and storage
  • Advise the client on available options for collection and preservation of ESI
  • Identify custodians of potentially relevant ESI
  • Engage in competent and meaningful meet and confer with opposing counsel concerning an e-discovery plan
  • Perform data searches
  • Collect ESI in a manner that preserves the integrity of that ESI
  • Produce responsive and non-privileged ESI in a recognized and appropriate manner."
A qualified e-discovery project manager will ensure that you can put a check next to each of the above boxes by crafting a plan with the attorney and directing traffic with individual specialists (collections, hosting, analytics, etc.). Project managers help to mitigate the risk of human and technical errors and provide corrections when issues do arise. The most talented PMs not only respond to questions posed by counsel, but they think ahead, analyze the issues at hand, and present alternative solutions. 

What Makes an Excellent Project Manager?

Here is a short list of characteristics/qualifications to look for in your e-discovery project manager.

  • Experience - Nothing compares to time spent on the job. Ask your service provider if their PM’s have experience with cases similar to yours (IP, second request, class action, etc.).
  • References - Good PMs will have plenty of references and won’t be shy about sharing them.
  • Education - More and more PMs these days have a JD. It is important to have a great education, but e-discovery is a very specialized field; go for experience over someone who’s passed that Bar. Or better yet, find someone who has both. Also look for educational backgrounds in paralegal studies, computer science, and IT.
  • Certifications - Make sure they know the technology they’re utilizing. If you’re hosting in Relativity, look for Relativity Certified Administrator, Certified User, Analytics Specialist, and Master.
  • Availability - 24/7 because when it’s crunch time, you need to know that you will be supported.