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The use of good project management skills during an e-discovery process can help you navigate your way through a mass of information. Sanjay Bandhari reports

When The Ramones pleaded to be given “Shock Treatment”, I somehow doubt that they were presciently pleading for help with project management issues in e-discovery. But I sense that shock is a common ailment for which some lawyers crave treatment. That shock has common symptoms: projects delivered late; inadequate budgetary reporting; insufficient explanation of problems; and multiple reporting lines. Indeed, this seems to be a global rather than a UK problem: recent Socha-Gelbmann surveys in the US reach similar conclusions.

E-discovery is a relatively immature industry and practices are evolving. We are now seeing many more corporate clients taking direct control of e-discovery across all of their cases rather than relying on external legal advisers to act as a filter on a case-by-case basis. Such clients often have a higher expectation of compliance with generally accepted project management (PM) standards such as PRINCE 2 and PMBOK.

These approaches are not easily applied to the vast majority of e-discovery projects and tend to be anathema to most lawyers (who often regard them as over-engineering) but a demand for more formalised PM standards seems inevitable. The greater involvement of corporate clients also appears to be shifting the focus from an assessment of pure cost to an assessment of value. Moreover, for UK lawyers, there is an intense focus on proportionality. Thus it is not just cost, but cost-effectiveness that matters and that is where good PM techniques can make a difference.

The purpose of this article is to consider some practical techniques to put clients in the driver’s seat. There is no single PM approach advocated as better than others. The following are offered as thoughts based on experience, not a prescription to cure-all PM ailments. These thoughts are split into two categories: overarching PM techniques (addressing techniques and issues across all stages of a project) and process stage PM techniques (addressing techniques specific to typical e-discovery data processing stages such as the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM).

There are four principal categories of overarching PM techniques offered: stakeholder management, communications management, budgetary management and risk management.

Typically, e-discovery exercises are managed by the service provider as a production line, from data collection through to review. Often, different people have expertise in the different stages. If the client is exposed to all of those people, they can feel that reporting lines are confused. In our experience it is good stakeholder management to clearly set out some responsibilities with individuals at the service provider adopting one or more of the following roles (dependent upon the needs of the case):

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