Managed Document Review: Use the Best; Leave the Rest

Every successful document review project has one key element. Vendors and law firms that sell managed review services to their clients will tell you that the key elements to defensible and repeatable document review projects are people, process, and technology. However, with slight variation, most managed reviews use the same or similar processes and technologies. It is common to use data analytics and key searching tools to prioritize review using Relativity, the most popular review platform on the market. The human element is the biggest variable that determines whether the project comes in on time and within budget. For these reasons, we recommend to our clients to use the best and leave the rest. Below are the top FIVE staffing decisions for a successful document review project and why you should only staff an experienced and proven team.
  1. A key determination when STAFFING a document review project is the question — what is the ultimate goal of the project? Many people are baffled by this question because they believe every project should find the key documents important to litigating the matter and produce all relevant, non-privileged documents on time and on budget all at the same time. These are really two separate goals that can be accomplished simultaneously. It is our experience that separate staffing considerations should be used to meet these goals because document review attorneys often have different skill sets related to issue spotting and review speed. This will make sure document production deadlines do not interfere with finding important documents and the analysis needed to identify important documents does not impede meeting the document review deadlines.
  2. Experienced REVIEW MANAGERS able to navigate the responsibilities of responding to the substantive needs of the key stakeholders and able to communicate and effectively manage the litigation support team and document reviewers. Managing a document review is both a science and art form. The science of staffing a document review is accomplished through understanding the data set and performing the steps necessary to reduce it to a review-able set of documents. Then analytics, prioritization, and review rates determine project staffing needs. What is more of an art form is the right touch in supervising eDiscovery vendors, document reviewers, and the litigation support team. Staff attorneys and vendor review managers must be able to create and work within a budget, communicate with the litigation team and the client, manage litigation support (internal and external) and properly supervise the document review team. This requires a deft ability to be responsive to the needs of the litigation team while simultaneously using a carrot/stick approach with the document review team to meet project deadlines.
  3. Experienced litigation support PROJECT MANAGERS that can handle all aspects of the data from ingestion to production. Project managers are critically important to the efficient running of any document review. They must be able to manipulate the document database to meet the needs of the litigation team, staff attorneys/review managers, and document reviewers. The project manager should be carefully vetted for this experience and, if possible, dedicated to the project. Many poorly run projects are the result of the failure to allocate experienced project managers to the task. Be wary of a vendor that allocates a single project manager to the job without the necessary resources familiar with the case history to serve as able back up. Many project managers are stretched thin with multiple cases and clients so it is important to have confidence the assigned resources will meet your needs.
  4. The document review team must be dedicated, experienced CONTRACT ATTORNEYS that feel a sense of investment in the project. Staff attorneys and recruiters that approve resumes provided by staffing agencies for projects often make the mistake of accepting document review attorneys that have the correct buzzwords on their resume but lack dedication or have character flaws. It is more important to find trustworthy people that have a stake in the success of the project. It is our recommendation for law firms and clients develop and cultivate a stable of contract attorneys they can turn to for projects time and time again. To do this, law firms and staffing agencies need to provide the assurances and benefits to these experienced attorneys and in return receive iron clad commitments from the attorneys for the project. If the contract attorney cannot commit to the length and needs of the project they should not be hired or dismissed when it is apparent they cannot meet the requirements of the project.
  5. To accomplish all of the above the final factor in STAFFING is to make sure that the experienced team you have assembled are all rowing in the same direction with a shared need for the success of the project. How can this be done? Make sure at every level of the staffing the team is appreciated and invested in the services they are providing. Too many projects are fraught with acrimony and hostility — hindering the ability to meet deadlines in an efficient and accurate manner. Understanding the budget still has to be met, there are many ways to accomplish this necessary requirement. First, set appropriate and realistic minimum expectations for the review so the attorneys know what they need to achieve. Second, provide incentives for the team to meet those minimum requirements. Finally, provide a review environment that encourages and enhances the chances for success.
There are no silver bullets for the administration of any document review project. However, if you want the team and the client to walk away feeling the project was a success the most important decision you can make is staffing the best, most experienced people that have been in the trenches.
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