Thought Leadership and Industry Trends
10 questions to ask your eDiscovery provider about its project management team
By Michael Milicevic, Esq, Managing Director, CDS Chicago.
When law firms and corporations select service providers to assist with their eDiscovery needs, there is typically a comprehensive RFP process that focuses on many factors like security, technology, process and pricing. Often times, the vendor evaluation guidelines that most firms follow miss one of the most important criteria in any successful vendor relationship, the people! Below is a list of ten questions you should ask when evaluating the professional service offerings of your eDiscovery provider.
- What experience/qualifications does your Project Management (PM) team have?
It’s important to look for PM Teams with robust law firm, vendor and corporate work experience, along with strong technical skills and legal qualifications (ex. RCA, JD, CEDs, PMP etc.). In addition, you want to determine your exact litigation support needs and ask for a Project Manager with complementary experience. For example, large law firms with dedicated in house eDiscovery departments may prefer a vendor PM team with heavy technology certifications (RCA, RAS, RARS) capable of executing database commands quickly and efficiently. Alternatively, a small firm or solo practitioner unfamiliar with eDiscovery tools may prefer an attorney Project Manager to help guide and train them on eDiscovery best practices and procedures.
- How are Project Managers assigned to new clients/cases?
Some eDiscovery service providers assign cases based on work load, or whoever is next in line in the queue. You want a company who puts a lot of thought into PM case assignments and takes the time to match the skill sets and qualifications of their PMs to client needs.
- Who will be your primary point of contact?
You should work with a provider who assigns a primary and/or secondary PM to serve as your primary point of contact. Beware of companies that tout 24/7 coverage and then introduce a large distribution list of contacts without assigning any particular individual to your matter full-time.
- What is the average case load per PM?
It’s fair to assume that PMs will be working on more than one client matter at any given time, but find out how many active matters are typically assigned per PM. You don’t want someone who is burned out, or who cannot dedicate the full attention that your matter may need. Active assignments will vary widely, with some PMs managing as few as 1 or 2 very large matters and others who may have up to a dozen or more small active matters at a time. PMs by nature should be outstanding multi-taskers, but everyone has limits. Avoid service providers that appear to be heavily understaffed and under supported.
- What night and weekend coverage if any is offered?
You should ask about what provisions are made for handling off-hour requests. If a service provider says it provides 24/7 coverage, find out what that entails. Will a large distribution of people unfamiliar with your matter be relied upon to answer off hour requests? Where are support personnel staffed? When do shift transitions happen and how is information passed from the primary PM to secondary support resources?
- What is the average tenure of the PM staff?
Given the nature of consolidation in the eDiscovery industry, you can expect some PM turnover at all companies. However, look for companies with 3-5 years of average seniority among PM teams. You want to make sure that you will likely have the same project manager for the duration of your matter.
- How is general case knowledge recorded and transitioned in the event of a PM’s unavailability due to vacation, sickness or leaving the company?
EDiscovery service providers should maintain detailed notes on case history, project specifications and daily activity. You should ask to see a sample casebook or case outline to ensure there is no loss of institutional matter knowledge in the event of unexpected PM absence or case transition.
- Are there any specialized professional service offerings or team members that can be incorporated to assist with unique matters, workflows, data sets and requests?
Most PMs are great generalists. They have broad knowledge of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model and its application along with the ability to execute most standard eDiscovery requests. However, find out what other resources might also be available to consult on non-standard cases, data sets and requests. Are there experts on technology assisted review, review team management, or structured and advanced analytics that can be brought into a matter as needed?
- Does the service provider offer and mandate additional training and certification processes among its PM staff?
EDiscovery technology, techniques and workflows are constantly evolving. What provisions does the service provider make to ensure its existing staff is up to date on cutting edge developments in the industry? Just like attorneys are required to participate in continuing legal education throughout their career, ask if the company requires similar continued eDiscovery training and certification of PMs on the job.
- Does the service provider have PM-specific client references?
Most companies will readily provide general client references upon request, but typically, they are not asked to provide references for individual PMs. A great PM will have a long list of clients willing to vouch for his/her work product and responsiveness.
In addition to these questions, ask to meet your project manager early in the sales and evaluation process and try to determine whether you feel comfortable and confident working with the person. Your eDiscovery provider’s PM should function seamlessly as an extension of you and as part of your in-house litigation support team. Ask yourself whether he/she is someone you would want to hire internally and work with on a daily basis. If not, request someone new or perhaps move on to consider other service providers.
About the Author