Go Back to Being a Lawyer

Monday, I was up in Cleveland at the state-wide ILTA Litigation Support event. There were a number of sessions throughout the day and some excellent speakers. One of the themes that came through, from the morning session on litigation holds, through the e-discovery project management sessions and on through Craig Ball’s final session on the state of search, was the fact that this process is a process. It’s not a one-stop fix for all e-discovery issues.

In the legal hold session we heard all about how technology can certainly help keep things organized, but that it’s not a set it and forget it situation. You still need to follow up with custodians, verify that things are being done, and revisit what is being held as the case develops. In other words, you have to be a lawyer and do some work. 😉

Obviously, when we started hearing about project management, these same themes stood out to me. Legal project management is all about testing, measuring the results, and reacting to those results. Again, nothing is a set it and forget it type of technology. You have to constantly assess the case, and make adjustments to your project tasks.

Craig then talked about search, and specifically he mentioned the TREC Legal track from 2008, which found that the best search results were accomplished by the teams that spent the most time talking to custodians, finding out how they would talk about the items in question, what time frames these documents or emails would have been written, etc. and also by teams that ran a search, started looking at some documents, and adjusted their searches based on what they were really seeing. Again, the teams with the best results, were the ones who spent more time being lawyers, and less looking for the perfect technology.

Given the importance of seeing these steps in the EDRM as processes, as opposed to one-time actions, I can’t help but wonder what implications that has for Early Case Assessment (ECA). Vendors seem very excited to tell us that their ECA tool will be the only thing attorneys need to do, just grab all that data, push it into our tool, and it’ll tell you what’s important. Hogwash! The technology can certainly help, but it won’t be anywhere near as successful as understanding that even ECA is a process. It still involves evaluating your case, evaluating what data the client has, who has it, and what’s relevant, and constant willingness to adjust as the case changes.

No matter what technology you have, you still have to go be a lawyer. As a litigation support professional, I’ve got a number of technology tools at my disposal, but they can’t replicate you, they can’t design strategy or try the case for you, it still takes a legal professional to do that. As I’ve mentioned previously, many times, at some point it’s not about the technology, you just have to go back to being a lawyer.

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