The 3 Key Components to Success: People. Product. Process.

On CNBCs’ hit show The Profit, entrepreneur and small business guru Marcus Lemonis examines struggling businesses using his well-known People-Product-Process principles.

I believe these same three factors can be analyzed to evaluate different models of managed review services within the e-discovery industry.  My experience with e-discovery managed review has run the full gamut of settings:   I have worked as a contract attorney (both at agency review centers and on-site at firms), as an in-house review attorney at Top10 AMLAW firms, and most recently with Tanenholz & Associates, a boutique e-discovery law firm.  Reflecting on my wide-ranging experiences, this three-part series will apply Lemonis’ People-Process-Product framework to these various managed review settings.

People. (Passion, Pride & Professionalism)

People, not the process or product itself, is the key driver in delivering high-quality e-discovery services.  In the managed review setting, the “people” are the attorney review team.

It is no secret that a happy employee is more likely to be a productive employee, but why is that?  Often overlooked, it’s the small or simple things we are in control of that directly affect an individual’s attitude and overall performance.

I have found collegial and collaborative environments wherein individuals are encouraged (and rewarded) to communicate with their teammates and provide updates to their managers, as well as suggestions on ways to modify workflow, have resulted in greater efficiency and higher quality work-product.  The first level review attorneys are the ones with the greatest working knowledge of the documents, and therefore have the most mastery of the facts of a case.   After all, they are the ones “in the weeds” all day.

Why not harness this knowledge and use it to better inform the process?  This collegial environment creates a sense accountability and pride in one’s work, as well as identifies those motivated individuals to promote to higher levels of responsibility such as quality control and privilege review.

Compare this to an environment where collaboration is expressly discouraged and restrictive measures such as prohibiting phones at the desk or restricting internet access are employed. Individuals are working in an environment where they are not only demoralized, but openly distrusted as well.  Admittedly, there are instances where such draconian measures are needed or even required by law.

However, absent these rather rare scenarios, utilizing these tactics reduces the overall morale and functionally creates an environment where the reviewer is only motivated to do the minimum. Worse, critical updates impacting case theory and direction are delayed or not universally absorbed, and therefore, additional costs are incurred to correct what could have been easily avoided due to lack of communication.  In the end, an inferior work-product is delivered, often requiring costly additional review or corrections on the back-end to fix the problems caused by demoralized or disinterested reviewers.

In my travels among the various eDiscovery settings, I have seen the People component managed all along the spectrum described above.

Currently, I am lucky to work in an environment encouraging team-wide collaboration that values the continuous self-improvement of every attorney, and that translates directly into the quality of work-product produced.  This focus on People not only rewards the people performing the review, but also the people litigating the case, and paying the bills.

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