I attended this conference with two colleagues. One an IT professional like myself, and the other a “super” paralegal. I had high hopes for good ideas on how to better manage Litigation Support projects, as they tend to be a beast of their own.
We learned ideas for tracking our sub projects within projects from initiation of a case through closure and data destruction. One thing I got excited about was the idea of a technical specification model. At the onset of a project, write up the scope of work being done. As the project goes on, version the scope with each change that comes along and have this as an audit trail for everything that is done to discovery and requested by the case team throughout the case.
One thing also discussed is the constant battle between deadlines and the time it takes to do what we, in Litigation Support, do. What will always be the case? Court deadlines, changing time lines and the fact that as hard as we try to work with our case teams (attorneys, paralegals, clients, client IT, co-counsel, experts, in-house IT,etc) the name of the game is time and money. The most common strategy that I’ve seen attorneys take is wait as long as possible before cracking into the e-discovery side of the case and try to work toward settlement. Why? This is an expensive part of the case. We all know that. Sometimes a cost higher than the worth of the case itself. The challenge on the Litigation Support side is that it takes the time to preserve, collect, inventory, process, QC, cull, QC, review, QC, produce, QC any discovery. (did I mention QC?)
So that is the question I felt I left the conference unanswered. How do we work with attorneys and case teams to educate them on the timelines for e-discovery so that they can better weigh the putting off of dealing with discovery issues for the sake of case strategy?
My one disappointment of the conference was that, while I love a good crack at attorneys, there was more than just a subtle rhetoric pointing to attorneys being our big challenge. More than once paralegals were pointed out as paranoid and in the way. Being as I work in a law firm it would not be healthy for me to view the attorneys or paralegals as part of the problem, however tempting that may be. I don’t think that was the goal of any discussion at this well put together conference. It was however constantly discussed and I feel that we have a responsibility to turn this conversation around.
First, paralegals are my best friends my com padres and my allies. When an attorney contacts me on a case, if they do not already have a paralegal involved I encourage them get one involved. 1/2 the time this prevents me from doing the work of a paralegal. The other 1/2 I can work with the paralegal with time lines, case setup, and me doing my work, the paralegal doing what they do best and presenting the attorney with what they need.
Second, attorneys pay my paycheck, so while I do prefer to be treated as an equal, respect must be paid. I believe that the attorney / not an attorney line can change, and the burst of a need for IT Litigation Support to be involved in attorneys lives is an opportunity to do just that. Litigation Support is a skilled industry involving a good deal of IT knowledge and PM ability. Requiring this type of aptitude in individuals hired to these positions will slowly get to the attorneys in the form of a recognition that we are a valuable member of the team. One such discussion during the conference pointed ou that we as an industry will be better served if we present our services as consulting/expert(ise) rather that just support/data processing/etc. Yes, sometimes we burn cd’s but what we did to get that cd together involved a lot of knowledge and awareness of issues like spoliation and privilege.
From the Lit Support side it is important to recognize that attorneys do know what they are doing, and that they are intelligent. Rather than an obstacle, it is an opportunity we must take to constantly educate attorneys about what we do, why we do it and how. This is not the kind of overnight shift in paradigms that we would all like. This is more one attorney or a couple of attorneys at a time. Working with a partner is always a good idea because they will help with buy-in. Going after new associates in groups is also necessary as getting them on the bandwagon early can encourage going in the right path from the beginning.
All-in-All it was a wonderful conference. I got to see a lot of familiar faces, talk with vendors about new and exciting technology (what can I say, I am IT and that is what excites me) and there were a lot of good discussions about what we do on a day to day basis. It is a long time coming that there is a conference for IT Litigation Support Professionals. Well done Litigation Support Today for getting this together for us!