EDPMs (e-discovery project managers) have to be creative thinkers but we also have to find ways to stick to a defensible routine. Templates and forms help us to mitigate the risks of project management in the often unpredictable world of litigation. Check out this podcast from a respected project management trainer as he recommends some of his favorite template collections… be creative as you think of ways to apply and modify some of these templates to your work as an EDPM.
Leave a comment and let us know which ones you liked best and why!
I recently read the article, “Don’t be the victim in your career” on TechRepublic’s site. It was interesting how the author could have been writing about an e-discovery project manager instead of an IT professional in general. There are so many parallels to be drawn here. I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. The author’s ideas about leadership, management and career planning struck me as hugely beneficial.
Plan your career as if you’re planning a business, detailing your profit requirements, skills you want to acquire, and geographies and industries you want to experience. If a leadership role is what you’re after, determine how you’ll learn basic management and advanced leadership and approach people around you whose skills you admire. Rather than waiting for HR to approve training budgets or launch a formal mentor program, seek the best and most talented and establish a rapport. At the very least, you’ll feel far more empowered by taking control of your development, and you’ll likely mystify those around you as you advance while they’re waiting on HR or some contrived “training fairy” to build their skills.
Evaluate your performance against this personal “business plan” each year and change the plan or correct your course as necessary, but never let circumstances batter you through life like a piece of driftwood on a stormy sea.
In the law firm or corporate legal environment, there is not a lot of room for upward mobility within the organization. You are hired as a paralegal. You can become a “senior” paralegal or the paralegal “manager” in most firms. Larger organizations may have more structure levels. Lately, many career bloggers have suggested that litigation paralegals can find great opportunities as e-discovery specialists or e-discovery project managers. (In fact, I will discuss this in more detail at my upcoming webinar, April 24th on e-discovery project management. (Click here to register and send me an email for the discount code, firstname.lastname@example.org) ) What does it take to become an e-discovery project manager? The author of the article suggests that if you are going to proactively execute a personal business plan for your career, then you must take ownership and initiative to seek the training you need to achieve your goals. My upcoming webinar is one way you can learn more about e-discovery project management. Another is to work with me directly to develop a custom learning plan that meets your skill building goals. Finding a mentor within your company or the industry is another highly recommended way to advance your skill set. There are also several training companies and organizations that offer certification programs if that is part of your career business plan.
Leadership is learned. It’s not magic either. The article ends with an illustration of manager disasters. Do you wish to become the next paralegal manager or director of project management for your firm? Start learning all you can about leadership and management best practices NOW. Often, people with leadership skills who demonstrate them in non-leadership roles are promoted. Disasters in management occur (according to the article, and I tend to agree) when someone with exceptional skills at a task are promoted with no leadership or management skills and the organization has no learning path planned for them to attain the necessary “soft” skills to be successful in their new position.
Commit to yourself TODAY that you are going to take a proactive approach to managing your career like a business. Draft a business plan. Review it with a mentor. Take a class. Watch some leadership videos. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Subscribe to my blog. *smile*
Have you ever wanted to scream like Chris Tucker’s character in “Rush Hour?” Are you assuming your audience doesn’t know what you’re saying? Are you assuming they do understand what you are saying? Are you sure that you are communicating clearly?
We all THINK we are communicating clearly. However, I have observed lately on a project that I am working on that I was not communicating as clearly as I thought I was. I frustrated one of my team members because I asked open-ended questions when he needed me to be more specific. Fortunately, we realized what the stumbling block was and corrected it before it became a real problem. This led me to think about e-discovery project managers who communicate so frequently that we may lose sight of the mechanics of communication.
Communicating effectively is about starting the conversation with the other person outside of your head. As the “sender” you are responsible for presenting information to the “receiver” that is clear, unambiguous and specific. It is the “receiver’s” responsibility to ask questions for clarification if the sender is not clear, specific or vague. We are all either the sender or the receiver of information so we all carry the responsibility towards the success of our communication with one another. This is especially important when you are working as an e-discovery project manager because you will (not might, not maybe) have people on your team who are unfamiliar with the terminology, technology, and/or process you are using for the project. As the project manager, you will want to make certain that you provide opportunities for everyone to learn and understand and truly “receive” the project plan.
Ask yourself before you click send on the next e-mail:
- Are any of my statements or questions open-ended? Vague? If so, can I restate to be more clear and specific?
- Have I used any terminology that my recipient(s) is unfamiliar with? If so, can I take a few minutes to hyperlink to a definition on dictionary.com or Wikipedia? Or perhaps define the word parenthetically?
- If I’m responding to someone else’s e-mail, have I asked any follow up questions for clarity?
- If I’m describing a process or workflow, would a picture or flowchart be better?
- Is the time and date due clearly stated? Or agreed upon?
What else would you recommend that e-discovery project managers do to improve communication with their teams and stakeholders?
In a few weeks, I will be delivering a webinar training on e-discovery project management for paralegals (and anyone else who’s interested). Send me an email for a discount code (email@example.com). Click here to register. I will cover additional best practices for communication, documentation and project success.