A Glossary of eDiscovery Terms

We lawyers have a tendency to confuse our terminology when discussing technology.  This is especially true when discussing the technical aspects of eDiscovery. 

I was inspired by the excellent Grossman-Cormack Glossary of Technology-Assisted Review which attempted to define the terminology surrounding TAR.  I prepared the following short glossary of commonly used eDiscovery terms to assist our group in understanding some of jargon used by eDiscovery professionals.  The terms can be found after the break.

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Disaggregation, Unbundling, and Document Review

I believe I found this video by way of Ryley Carlock's Litigation Unbundling Ramp in Legal OnRamp.  In it, Paul Ward briefly discusses the merits of "smart review"...

Legal Project Management Goes Viral!

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 Lathe"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:

  1. Scheduling, resource allocation, costs, dependencies, deadlines (not the same as scheduling), risks, and, to be honest, a certain amount of CYA.

  2. Managing the people and resources to control and achieve the stuff in Level 1.

  3. 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.

Legal Project Management: Law Firm PM Watch

As I've noted previously, project management is rapidly gaining importance in the world of eDiscovery.  Some argue (and I agree) that project management has many applications in the practice of law.  Chief among the proponents of that prescient view is Paul Easton, author of the Legal Project Management blog.  As you can imagine, I am a regular reader of LPM and was doubly excited to see Paul's recent 3-part series on Six Sigma in law firms.  After commenting on Part 1 of the series, Paul emailed to followup on my comment about the use of PM and Six Sigma at Morris James, and he's been kind enough to post my reply as a standalone article.  I'm honored.  Thanks Paul, and keep up the great work!

On Project Management and Redskins Fans

I wanted to finish the "The State of eDiscovery in Delaware series before moving on to other subjects, but I've found it difficult (there's so many meaty issues to discuss) and finally cracked.  Please indulge this short diversion.

First, a warm and fuzzy congratulations to Gabe Acevedo, author of Gabe's Guide to the e-Discovery Universe, for being invited to regularly contribute to the excellent EDD Update blog.  Do yourself a favor and take a look at Gabe's first contribution.  He'll be a great addition to EDD Update.  I love reading Gabe's posts for his creativity and humor.  (Want proof?  Take a look at the title of his post announcing the launch of this blog.)  Congrats Gabe!  [UPDATE: I forgot to mention, I first found Gabe on Twitter (@GabeAcevedo) where you can follow him too.  Also look for me on Twitter (@cspizzirri).]

Second reason for breaking the series: project management.  "Of course," you say, "what lawyer wouldn't be excited about project management?"  Well, only a few of us geeky types who like workflows and metric and statistics and whatnot, but that will change.  There's a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating project management and other related techniques into the eDiscovery process to help control costs and reduce risks.  (See The Sedona Conference® Commentary on Achieving Quality in the E-Discovery Process [related blog posts here and here] or EDRM's Evergreen/Project Management project.)

I began applying these techniques to our internal eDiscovery processes at Morris James several months ago and took up Six Sigma—with the guidance of a master black belt, mind you—more recently.  You can expect to read about this topic here often and in more depth, but, in the meantime, take a look at Paul Easton's Six Sigma as a Legal Project Management Tool, Part 1.  Project management, quality control, sampling, etc. have been percolating to the top of the eDiscovery discussions, but when I saw a post about EDD and Six Sigma, well, I just couldn't contain myself anymore.  Remember:

What you do not measure, you cannot control. -Tom Peters

We'll resume the regularly scheduled programming shortly.