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Accelerating Efficient eDiscovery Through Operational Awareness – Two Key Questions

Consequences Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Storm Clouds and Sky.Having an efficient and proportional strategy has always been critical to keeping cases on track against budget and deadlines. COVID-19 has had an unprecedented disruptive impact on many cases and schedules. Better and more efficient eDiscovery management will be key to ensuring that cases can get back on a reasonable schedule, and that the costs and effort are proportionate. Knowing the cost and timing implications of every eDiscovery decision will be critical to managing through the crisis.

Operational awareness empowers great eDiscovery decision-making. Each eDiscovery decision has cost and time ramifications. As decisions are made, they have distinct downstream consequences. This is similar to constructing a house. Once the foundation is set, it is very costly and time consuming to change the footprint of the structure. EDiscovery is no different. Every decision has downstream consequences. For eDiscovery management and operations, each decision has both an immediate time and cost impact, as well as implications for the overall project cost and completion. Because this affects proportionality and the ability to execute, both must be understood and managed cohesively and strategically.

First, there is the immediate impact. How much will this task cost and how long will it take? After a task is performed, the cost impacts are felt immediately as actions are executed. These are usually easy to budget and assess.

Second, and equally important, each decision also carries larger project implications. What downstream options and costs will this impact and how will it affect my overall timeline? These implications are sometimes more difficult to quantify in the moment, and must be based on operational context, experience, project requirements, case deadlines and myriad other factors.

This is especially true as the project moves through its paces. An eDiscovery project is a series of interconnected steps. The phases are well-known: preservation, collection, processing, searching (culling), review and production. All so that the data can be used for the merits. This often happens iteratively, as the parties learn and identify additional custodians, data or issues.

To make a difference, all eDiscovery decision-making must be empowered by context. Hunter McMahon, Chief Operating Officer of iDS, and I were talking about this subject recently. Hunter’s background as a technologist and a lawyer makes him particularly sensitive to both the legal and technical aspects of eDiscovery. He remarked: “There will always be tactical decisions that need to be made (short term, immediate) but those should be framed within the bigger picture of the ultimate objective.  I learned early on that eDiscovery is just a business problem stuck in the legal world – evaluate the ROI, potential risks, downstream impact, and make a decision.”

We agree.

In the next blog, which will be published Friday, May 8, we will cover some specific examples of this interrelationship and then applying some lessons over the series.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us at csanko@bakerdonelson.com.