By Tim Rollins
One major trend in both the legal industry as a whole and in e-discovery in particular has been the increasing embrace of project management principles. Defining roles and responsibilities, setting and managing budgets and schedules, and following standard procedures help in-house, law firm, and service provider e-discovery teams perform operations more efficiently—and one e-discovery professional who has witnessed (and driven) this trend is Gary Suffir, Vice President of Client Services for Epiq.
On December 4th at 4:15 pm EDT/1:15 pm PDT, Gary will be speaking on an “Ask the Experts” webinar on the topic of Managing E-Discovery Tasks Smarter, an area in which he has a wealth of experience. He will be joined by two additional experts on the topic: Michael Quartararo, Managing Director of eDPM Advisory Services, and Thomas Mullane, E-Discovery Process Manager at United Technologies. If you’re interested in increasing the efficiency of your e-discovery operations, you should definitely check this webinar out!
I had the chance to speak with Gary earlier this week about his background in the e-discovery industry, how project management principles have gained traction, and e-discovery Day itself. Below you can find some lightly edited highlights from our conversation.
Q. How did you get started in e-discovery?
Like most people, it was a circuitous sort of route. I went to law school, and landed a law firm job here in New York. I practiced very briefly, and knew quickly that the practice of law was not for me. I spent a couple years with increasing levels of responsibility in the document review space. Around 2005-2006, I started looking at jobs for litigation support analysts, coordinators, directors—and they all looked a lot like what I was doing.
I connected with a recruiter who helped me get a position as a project manager at Integreon. I remember my first day getting a production request from a WilmerHale litigation support coordinator, and it wasn’t English to me—and I’m technical. I could navigate most platforms and thought I was efficient.
Q. And what is your role now at Epiq?
I work on Epiq global accounts, with about 70 project managers, and we work with big corporate clients, not necessarily international. We handle big projects—if it’s got 20 terabytes and nuanced, we’re probably going to do that too.
Q. What would you say the difference between a global project and a standard e-discovery project or are they fundamentally similar?
In both cases, you should have a playbook. You should have a meeting cadence. You should have a structure around the relationship, and reporting, and deliver a service in a world class way. And so in that respect, no real difference. There's nothing substantive that we could or should be doing differently.
For the global projects, we focus on program management more than project management. We are building e-discovery programs. And that really means, a structured set of guidelines, playbooks, and relationships that are for the long haul.
Q. Has project management in e-discovery matured substantially over the course of your career?
I think we’ve matured. I don’t want to say stabilized, because we’re always in a constant state of change. Project management pays dividends throughout the EDRM, and you’ve got to have organization from start to finish. But throughout the process, I think the principles and the value add from solid project management are the same: solid communication, organization, and adherence to timelines. Where we encounter clients that are green is more around technology and e-discovery specifics, not necessarily project management principles.
I’d like to close out this interview by thanking Gary for both taking the time to have our conversation and especially for participating in e-discovery Day 2018! If you want to hear more about Gary’s experience in managing truly massive e-discovery projects, as well as tips for how to improve your e-discovery project management, sign up for his “Ask the Experts” webinar, Managing E-Discovery Tasks Smarter, on December 4th at 4:15 pm EDT/1:15 pm PDT today!