OK, maybe not, but it has been getting more action than usual. I've been following a running conversation recently on the use of project management (PM) software in the practice of law. The larger discussion on PM in the law is fascinating, and I highly recommend reading the whole conversation, but I only mention it here because the conversation touches on PM in eDiscovery at several points and provides some keen observations on that intersection. I've tried to extract and present those nuggets below.
Rees Morrison, author of the Law Department Management blog, got things going with his post "Project management software doesn’t necessarily mean the discipline of project management." The title says it all, and prompted a further exploration of the subject by Paul Easton at the Legal Project Management blog. Paul offered us his "Buying a Lathe Does Not Make You a Carpenter: Setting Realistic Expectations for Legal Project Management Software," in which he argues that using PM software doesn't mean you're doing true, standards-based project management.
The point that I would like to make in this post, however, is that implementing project management software does not equal implementing project management. Project management is not a tool. It is a culture built around a set of standards. It requires buy-in from an organization's shareholders and involves a lot of measurement, monitoring, training, and communication. Buying a lathe doesn't make you a master carpenter. Buying a case management application will not miraculously turn you into an effective lawyer. Similarly, buying a project management application does not make you a project manager.
That post was responded to at Lexician in "Rethinking Legal Project Management Tools." Author Steven Levy warns of the difficulty in applying PM to the practice of law generally but notes "Possible exception: project management/workflow tools to manage electronic discovery. If you do a lot of ediscovery work+management, you’re already using project management principles. Either that, or you’re not surviving." Let's say that again: If you're not applying PM principles to the management of eDiscovery, you're not surviving.
'OK, you've gotten my attention Steven. So how do I apply PM principles to my eDiscovery projects?' you ask. We're not quite there yet, but Steven explains the three levels of PM and why using tools alone won't help you get where you need to be.
Levels of project management:
Scheduling, resource allocation, costs, dependencies, deadlines (not the same as scheduling), risks, and, to be honest, a certain amount of CYA.
Managing the people and resources to control and achieve the stuff in Level 1.
Understanding and influencing the overall system so that you can be effective at Level 2.
I’m warning you off the tools. The tools are designed for managing Level 1 issues, but they will fail absent a rich understanding of Levels 2 and 3... If you get caught up in the tools, I believe you’ll go down a path that leads to failure, departmental self-destruction, and the CYA that lurks at Level 1... Rather, begin at Level 3. Strive to understand the system in place. Only then can you realistically map project management techniques against the ground of the law practice. Only then can you figure out what pieces of project management you can mesh with the practice’s culture, its people, its operations and practices.
Sage advice for us PM grasshoppers. 'OK, makes sense. Now can you tell me how to get there?' you ask again. Steven offers us some simple starting points in "Low-Tech 'Tools' for Legal Project Management."
Paul Easton responded with "Project Management Tools in the Legal Environment: Can Old Dogs be Taught New Tricks?" Inside the larger discussion about the feasibility of implementing PM in law firms, Paul asserts that litigation support, and eDiscovery projects and processes especially, are the areas most amenable to PM implementations. He reasons:
Those working in litigation support, especially electronic discovery, already use a lot of software to manage their work. Also, they are used to having to measure and report on a number of metrics and making cost and schedule estimates--even if they are only using MS Excel. Most would find that specifically tailored project management applications would make their lives easier and would welcome improved and better documented procedures. That is, so long as the budget and resources necessary to properly implement the new procedures and applications are made available.
Steven Levy caps the discussion in "Professional Project Management in a Legal Environment," in which he observes that legal project management is already invading the eDiscovery space.
As I said, these are just the eDiscovery hooks in the larger topic of legal project management (LPM). I encourage you to read the whole conversation and to subscribe to these three highly informative blogs.
UPDATE: Thanks to LexBlog CEO Kevin O'Keefe's Real Lawyers Have Blogs blog for recognizing this as a Best in Law Blogs post.
*Flowchart image copyright held by Alphamu57 and provided under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.