Are you underestimating your eDiscovery Project Manager value?
The eDiscovery Project Manager value gets overlooked and understated for a couple of common reasons. The first is a good reason: smooth sailing. When a competent PM has things running smoothly with no issues, it becomes increasingly easy to lose sight of that PM’s true value. (PMs are like a car’s catalytic converter in this way—most people don’t know or care what it does, until one day when it doesn’t work and suddenly everyone cares.)
The second reason is a general lack of understanding about what a Project Manager does – or more accurately, what a truly great PM should do. From the client’s perspective, PMs are the switchboard—they send the client’s requests on to the pertinent people who do the rest of the work. However, the PM role is much more multi-faceted. A typical eDiscovery project is complex, fast-paced, technical, and often involves significant costs. PMs can wear many hats; great PMs master being a jack-of-all-trades.
Roses are red, violets are blue, what does my eDiscovery Project Manager actually do?
Here are some general traits that you might expect to find in a successful eDiscovery Project Manager:
- Highly organized
- Careful attention to detail
- Honesty & trustworthiness
- Excellent communication skills
- A deep understanding of eDiscovery
- Consultative nature
- Technical aptitude
Here are some less obvious, specific roles that successful eDiscovery Project Managers take on to heighten their eDiscovery Project Manager value:
Your eDiscovery Project Manager often serves as a conduit. It is their job to identify when it is appropriate to connect the client to expert resources while maintaining a focus on protecting the best interests of the client. Often the client has no voice inside the organization to whom they’ve outsourced their eDiscovery project, so the eDiscovery Project Manager must serve as that bridge. The eDiscovery Project Manager is the first, last, and sometimes only stop for client questions, requests, and concerns. The eDiscovery Project Manager is a Client’s best friend!
Once the client makes the initial request, it is the eDiscovery Project Manager’s job to digest and analyze that request, confirm that it is in fact the best approach, and ensure that the client understands all implications of fulfilling the request. Once this analysis is complete, the eDiscovery Project Manager will translate the client’s request to internal staff to help satisfy the client’s request. A good eDiscovery Project Manager not only knows the answer but knows where else to get answers when a situation calls for further clarification or deeper, more specialized insight.
Your eDiscovery Project Manager serves as a bit of a clairvoyant. Their job is to anticipate needs and potential issues before they arise. A good eDiscovery Project Manager is a defensive driver, constantly asking: What will my client need next, and what could possibly go wrong for my client at XYZ stage of this project? When unexpected issues do arise (despite their best soothsaying efforts), eDiscovery Project Managers are responsible for sniffing out those issues, escalating them appropriately, and resolving them quickly and competently.
Your eDiscovery Project Manager is a safari guide, too. A good eDiscovery Project Manager, with years of knowledge and experience under their belt, knows where the “landmines” are and how to sidestep them. They guide you through the entire EDRM —from legal holds, data identification and collection, right through to processing, review, and productions, then culminating in a comprehensive project closeout. From the beginning to the end of a client’s trip through the eDiscovery jungle, the eDiscovery Project Manager’s value lies in their ability to guide the client (and their outside counsel and other team players and resources); secure and protect the client’s best interests throughout the journey; set clear and reasonable expectations, metrics and deliverable targets along the way; and define for all exactly what efforts it will take to achieve each step successfully.
Your eDiscovery Project Manager has the added job of interpreter. For many, eDiscovery is a foreign language. Not to fear, though—with the right eDiscovery Project Manager, there is no need to feel intimidated by that language barrier (technical, legal, or otherwise). Just like a skilled interpreter, your PM should convey not just the words and concepts from one language to another, but also the overall meaning and intent of the message being conveyed. Our BIA eDiscovery Project Managers serve as the voice of the client, the outside counsel, and BIA—all at once.
Your eDiscovery Project Manager also is a psychologist. A good eDiscovery Project Manager understands that clients operate under a considerable amount of stress and pressure. An eDiscovery Project Manager who can navigate with finesse the different personalities in a corporate client’s internal legal team, outside counsel’s case team, and internal resources within the Project Manager’s organization increases the eDiscovery Project Manager’s value substantially. A good eDiscovery Project Manager will always be the calm in the storm, constantly diffusing situations and ensuring that all stakeholders stay focused on the project’s goals.
What’s the difference between a good eDiscovery Project Manager and a great eDiscovery Project Manager?
At BIA we are very proud of our eDiscovery Project Managers and the steady stream of accolades they receive from clients year after year. Here are some ways that excellent eDiscovery Project Managers stand out in our industry:
Bedside manner. For any Project Manager, a good bedside manner is key, and should be constantly developed, nurtured, and repeated. At BIA, our eDiscovery Project Managers think carefully about how to communicate information to our clients and choose their words based on their audience. Our eDiscovery Project Managers are nimble enough to communicate technical information in layman’s terms and experienced enough to dialogue with technical experts. Our eDiscovery Project Managers also understand the usefulness and importance of the various communication forms at their disposal, e.g., email, reports, and yes, actual phone calls too. They constantly hone soft skills such as phone call rapport and how to send constructive follow-up or reminder emails to all members of the often-diverse teams that work on eDiscovery projects.
Trust. Hard to gain and easy to lose, trust is an invisible but essential tool that every eDiscovery Project Manager needs if they are truly interested in making an eDiscovery project go smoothly and maintaining a healthy relationship with that client going forward. Trust in eDiscovery is earned. An eDiscovery Project Manager earns trust by protecting the client’s best interests, identifying landmines, ensuring the client’s deadlines are met, and developing a strong work relationship with clients through phone calls and even in-person visits (something we all hope to get back to someday soon).
Workflows. At BIA, our eDiscovery Project Managers have guidelines and protocols that are tried-and-true, repeatable, and frequently analyzed to ensure they are constantly updated in this rapidly changing industry. Using standardized tracking logs and delivery notices, they monitor and report on everything meticulously—from project communications to supporting project documents, production specifications and timelines, data locations, and much more. Our eDiscovery Project Managers have a wealth of knowledge on all their projects and are typically a “one stop shop” for all project-related items.
Teamwork. Our eDiscovery Project Managers work in a “pod” system. The pod consists of multiple eDiscovery Project Managers who are copied on all project related email communications within their pod. This pod system ensures that every eDiscovery Project Manager leading a project has a strong support system—a team that can quickly jump in to assist the lead eDiscovery Project Manager should a project spike in activity or an eDiscovery Project Manager need a PTO day. The pod system also helps the client who then benefits from the knowledge and expertise of multiple eDiscovery Project Managers, while maintaining their one primary point of contact throughout.
Certifications. BIA’s entire Project Management team are Certified eDiscovery Specialists (CEDS). Many also hold certifications in review platforms, data processing systems and more. Collectively they have devoted thousands of hours to individual and team training to extend their knowledge of the EDRM and better equip themselves to teach, guide, and serve our clients. The constant evolution of the eDiscovery world demands ongoing education to gain and maintain expertise in all the moving parts.
Customer Service. An eDiscovery Project Manager’s value is highest when the Project Manager takes on the role of servicer and customer. A good eDiscovery Project Manager meets the client’s base needs, but a great eDiscovery Project Manager goes beyond those base needs and provides help that the client didn’t even know they needed. For example, if you ask a Project Manager how to cook a steak, a good PM will tell you how many minutes to sear and flip the steak, but a great Project Manager (like ours at BIA!) will give you all that plus the marinade recipe and the address of a butcher with the best cuts in town.
All of the above are not just ideals we dream up at BIA; rather, they make up BIA’s Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles that guide everything we do and every service we provide – it’s all in our DNA.
Are you settling for less than great?
Maybe you adore your current Project Manager and wouldn’t change a thing; if so – that’s wonderful! If not, we hope that this will help guide you in your search for a truly great eDiscovery Project Manager. A little knowledge of their daily roles and responsibilities can go a long way toward helping you evaluate, appreciate, and take full advantage of your Project Manager’s expertise and experience. Don’t underestimate the value of a truly great eDiscovery Project Manager – and if you’re not getting the experience, expertise and professionalism discussed above, reach out today to put our BIA eDiscovery Project Managers to the test at your organization.
Contributors: Richard Laguerre | Maureen Murchie