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The E-Discovery Revolution – The Who Part 3

Created on September 30, 2015

Solutions Consultant at Exterro

The value of cross-functional e-discovery teamsIf you've been following my recent blog posts, you know I have a couple of themes going. First, we are in the middle of a revolution of sorts – an e-discovery revolution. It's fun, chaotic, exhilarating, and exhausting … but we love it! Second, I am focusing on the Who, What, Where, Why and When of the revolution. This will be my final post on the “Who" as an aspect of what we are in the midst of.

By now, you've hopefully begun the process of cultivating the cross-functional team relationships among Legal, IT e-discovery and IT Forensics as it relates to e-discovery. If you haven't, I will make a final plea to please do so. These relationships are critical to your success and will ultimately make up your Discovery Response Team. Maybe you've thought of this term in a formal sense, maybe it's entirely a new concept. Either way, it's critical that this team become part of your organizational structure, even if informally. The members of the team and their exact roles will differ for each organization, but will look something like this:

Supervising E-Discovery Attorney – This role is responsible for e-discovery business process development and improvement, resource coordination, job descriptions, metrics and oversight. They are keeping their pulse on the ebbs and flows of the cases, the relationships with outside counsel and service providers, along with a myriad of other tasks. This person trusts and empowers members of the Legal and IT teams to do their jobs effectively. They seek feedback and use that information to constantly improve e-discovery operations. They likely have many other things to do in their daily work, so they are reliant on their staff to be good at what they do.

Lead E-Discovery Paralegal – This role is the right-hand person to the Supervising E-Discovery Attorney. They live and breathe e-discovery, understanding best practices and working every day to reduce inefficiencies and create a smooth e-discovery response. They are both a “worker bee" and a strategist. They are the coordinator of the cross-functional teams both in terms of having the right people involved but also the overall e-discovery response. They likely have a deep litigation support background as well as some technical acumen. They are a trusted advisor to the Supervising E-Discovery Attorney; a strong relationship between these two roles is critical!

E-Discovery Paralegal – This role is the “worker bee" and I mean that in a very complimentary sense. Without a strong “can do!" type of person in this role, the e-discovery process is doomed. This person intimately understands the internal business process they are supporting and executes it well. For larger organizations, there are likely several individuals filling this role, perhaps divided by litigation type, supervising attorney, or possibly both. These specialists are strong in litigation support skills and their counterparts in IT are a necessary ally for the technical work. The person in this role is typically a very strong executor of tasks, leaving the vision to the Supervising E-Discovery Attorney or Lead E-Discovery Paralegal. That is not to say they don't have great ideas, so be sure to include them in the conversation!

E-Discovery Technical Lead – Similar to the Lead E-Discovery Paralegal, this role is a combo of strategist and do-er. They are highly technical, understanding the organization's data … where it resides, when it's backed-up, what the data sources contain, how the data pertains to requests for production (whether it be due to litigation, regulatory event or compliance), what systems are being sunsetted, what systems are subject to auto-deletion, where the back-ups tapes are, etc. They also understand data preservation protocols and are part of the strategic discussion of what to save and what to defensibly delete, especially related to enterprise systems. They have a good understanding of the facets of the e-Discovery process and supports legal in their obligations.

Technical E-Discovery Specialist – This role is another “roll up your sleeve and get 'er done!" type of job. This person is potentially responsible for identifying where data resides (and helping Legal in this regard!), collecting, filtering and searching the data. They are the technical counterpart to the E-Discovery Paralegal, working very closely to fulfill their requests for data in a timely manner. There may be more than person filling this role depending on the size of the organization and they also may specialize by litigation type or supervising attorney. And they should also be included in the conversation because they know exactly what is working well and what is not. It should be noted that with the advent of technology such as Exterro E-Discovery Data Management, some of the facets of this job may be able to be done by someone in Legal. But there will still be a need for someone in this role; they know systems and passwords and the other complicating factors related to the organization's data.

There is also a strong relationship with external law firms and perhaps also e-discovery service providers, all of whom have a part to play in the e-discovery Response Team. Don't forget to include them in your planning and strategy

Start mapping out a small e-discovery organizational chart and see if these roles are filled. Where are the gaps? Are these gaps acceptable based on your organizations size and set-up? Should tasks being done by outside counsel or an e-discovery service provider be brought “in house" and if so, who will do them?

Most of all, don't take any of this for granted – be thoughtful and strategic and develop the “Who" of e-discovery as the first building block for great outcomes.

To learn more tips for creating a defensible and efficient e-discovery process, download the “12 Best Practices of E-Discovery E-Book." Twelve e-discovery professionals offer a key piece of advice for effectively managing e-discovery.

Download the “12 Best Practices of E-Discovery E-Book" now.