In a complicated litigation landscape, it’s a relief that ediscovery project management (EDPM) and the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) fit together. An effective project manager will consider each stage of the EDRM, from identification to production, when creating the perfect ediscovery game plan for the given set of circumstances. Let’s take a look at the most important stages of the EDRM from a project management standpoint.
Project managers are key players in coordinating the effort to identify all data that may be potentially relevant to a specific matter. Ask specific questions of document custodians and walk through a comprehensive list of business and personal data sources – if a device has memory, keep it in your purview. In Coleman (Parent) Holdings v. Morgan Stanley, a 2005 Florida case, Morgan Stanley was unaware of where it stored its electronic data, and was thus sanctioned for discovery abuses. Morgan Stanley faced compensatory and punitive damages to the tune of $1.4 billion. It’s an extreme example, but nonetheless a pertinent one that shows what effective ediscovery project management should avoid.
This stage of the EDRM is the origin of many “gotchas” in the ediscovery process. It is certainly where most judicial sanctions stem from in the ediscovery realm. Project managers can help guide their organization and document custodians to a successful avoidance of preservation sanctions by ensuring that they know and comply with their obligations pertaining to a litigation hold. They may also play a key role in implementing and managing the organization’s overall retention plan before and during litigation.
By this point in the ediscovery process, the body of knowledge that project managers have gained in coordinating the matter may qualify them as a subject matter expert and an invaluable resource to the legal analysis team. During the EDA process, ED project managers wear many hats and perform many functions. They often work with attorneys, other litigation support professionals and third party providers to separate data between critical and non-critical data groups, narrow the number of key players/custodians, test key search terms, and identify critical case arguments.
Technology-assisted Review (TAR) is one of the most cost-effective, consistent and accurate methods by which to distill the mountains of data inevitably unearthed during major litigation or investigations. To connect back to the EDPM framework discussed in Part I of this post, project managers serve well to promote TAR when discussing process, budget and cost.
So, you’ve finally reached the glorious end of your ediscovery project – production! Project managers (depending on where they sit) function as a useful link between the organization, counsel and the third party ediscovery provider. Many ED project managers are responsible for actually creating and validating productions. They may also ensure that the finished product gets delivered promptly and in its entirety to the appropriate party(ies).