Finding Your Discovery and Document Management Soul Mate
If breaking up is hard to do, perhaps it is even more difficult finding “the one.” Whether you are in-house or outside counsel, finding a discovery and document management . You are placing deeply important matters into outside hands. As in any human relationship, trust is a key component of the lawyer/vendor relationship. Also, just as in our other relationships, trust grows from honest and open communication, solidified by acting on what we communicate. Therefore, in order to create and maintain a productive partnership, communication is vital.
You’ve been burned before; we all have. I have worked with many lawyers who have expressed extreme frustration over their vendor’s lack of communication, and I have been a lawyer frustrated by my vendor’s lack of communication! One conversation in particular stands out in my mind. I asked the young associate who was the main contact with the vendor for a managed review how things were going. Her first response was automatic:
“That’s good,” I reply.
“Well, actually,” she says, as she shifts uncomfortably, “everything is great, but we have to wait hours for answers to emails. Like the senior attorney needed an answer like four hours ago, and we still haven’t heard anything.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “That’s unacceptable.”
“I know, right,” the emboldened associate responds. “Why would a senior attorney get involved and ask something if she didn’t need an answer right away?”
Why indeed? Law firms and in-house counsel hire third-party vendors to do work more efficiently than they could or because the work requires expertise that they do not have. Modern litigation has gotten technologically complex, and in many cases, it makes more sense to let the “experts” handle the e-discovery side of things. Of course, this is only true if the vendor understands what you want and can produce those results.
So, you need to be picky. You are making a pretty big commitment here, placing your client or your company in someone else’s hands. Here are a few major items you should consider when looking for the ideal partner:
1) Reputation. Go ahead, Google them! A professional website is a great starting place to begin your vendor research. See how the vendor presents itself, and look for client testimonials. What a former or current client says about a vendor can be quite helpful to you. Better yet, have a conversation with someone who has previously worked with the vendor. Find out what that person liked and didn’t like about the experience.
2) Love at first sight. Up until now, we have discussed the vendor as a business entity. Of course, just like any business, the vendor is actually made up of people, the people who will be working with you and your litigation. Don’t dismiss your gut reaction to the impressions created by these people. Above all, you want to work with people who listen to you; if you notice the sales rep is the one doing all the talking (and none of the listening), there’s a good chance the whole thing is doomed from the beginning.
3) “Must love dogs.” Don’t settle! It’s okay to have a checklist of qualities you want in a vendor. In fact, you should make sure you find the vendor that can handle all your document management and discovery needs. You don’t want to waste time and resources searching for a new vendor every time you have a new project.
Now you know what you want, but remember, relationships are a two-way street. Your choice can be the best the industry has to offer but can still fall short of your expectations if you don’t meet the vendor halfway. To get the most out of the relationship, here are a few things that you should be able and willing to do for your vendor:
1) Be prepared. A good vendor wants to and will respond to your needs, not try to sell you a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all solution. In order to communicate what those needs are, however, you have to be prepared. For initial consultations, don’t plan to just sit and listen. You should be ready to share your goals for how you foresee the discovery and document management process working. If you have an information governance plan – and it is a very good idea to have one – discuss it with the vendor. If you’re ready to go with a project, you should come prepared with the two most basic and important pieces for project planning: the amount of data involved and the deadline for project completion. It’s also nice if you are aware of any budgetary constraints or special conditions for the project. Going in ready will give the vendor the means to act as quickly and efficiently as possible in meeting your needs.
2) Be honest. Don’t be afraid to have a candid conversation. Let the vendor know what issues you have had in the past. Be frank about what you expect from your vendor and what the vendor can expect from you. Again, you are looking for a good fit, not a one-size-fits-all package.
3) Be reasonable. As much as your perfect vendor will want to make everything happen the way you want it to happen, the fact of the matter is, it may be simply impossible to do that 100 percent of the time. A good vendor will work diligently with you to meet tight deadlines, but data can only be processed or reviewed so quickly. Please be understanding and remember the laws of physics still apply!
So now you’re ready to go out and make your happily-ever-after happen! Remember that a business relationship is still a relationship and at the heart of every successful relationship is open and honest communication. When you work with a vendor with whom you can openly and effectively communicate, you will achieve great results and deliver exceptional service to your client or company.