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3 Ways to Close e-Discovery Communication Gaps with Your Clients

Sam Bock

Communication gaps can be comical enough to inspire sitcoms—think every “two dates to the prom” episode you’ve ever seen. But at work, they’re not so funny. 

In an industry where the gap of understanding between technologists and clients can be intimidating—not to mention dangerous—spot-on communication is key.

Here are three tips from two members of the Relativity community to help ensure your e-discovery communications with clients are as effective as possible, whether they have their hands on e-discovery processes or not.

1. Be visual and provide proof.

“Our client-interfacing teams provide examples in the form of case studies and reduction metrics we track on all of our matters” when speaking with clients about e-discovery workflows, says Yvette Bula, senior director of technical services at Commonwealth Legal. 

“We use this information to demonstrate the value of leveraging leading-edge technology solutions such as analytics. In some circumstances, we provide a visual comparison of results against a more traditional approach so that they can see the value and potentially learn something applicable for future cases.”

Physically pointing to evidence of greater efficiencies can help open the door for productive conversations about what will work best for each case, and can lay a foundation of mutual understanding for future collaboration.

Technology Tricks to Try: Performing cluster visualization or categorization on test data with which your audience is familiar—be it completed projects or classic literature—can be an incredibly impactful way to paint a picture of your recommended workflow’s benefits.    

2. Default to transparency.

“We see ourselves as an extension of our client’s team and operate with their goals in mind. To this end, we prefer to operate with transparency so that all parties are clear on how we are working with their databases and how it aligns to their overarching goals,” Yvette adds.

When in doubt, in other words, more insight is better.

This is also true for Michael Quartararo, director of litigation support services at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP: “The goal of any litigation support professional should be complete transparency and a measured approach to e-discovery processes. And by measured, I mean proportional to the needs of the case.

“If one were applying analytics, for instance, I would demonstrate the cost savings simply by comparing the process without analytics to the process using analytics,” Michael continues. “For me, using basic principles of project management—like initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling—are of paramount importance when discussing the scope, timing, and cost of an e-discovery project.”

Technology Tricks to Try: You can take advantage of your e-discovery platform’s reporting features to make touchpoints with your client and the rest of the case team feel more routine. For example, regular reports from a technology-assisted review project can help you track progress iteratively—and spot coding inconsistencies from your expert reviewers before they have a snowball effect on your results.

3. Encourage active involvement.

Exposure to the details of a specific technology, such as text analytics, “builds further confidence and enables teams to master the subtleties of analytics workflows over time,” says Yvette. Whenever appropriate, “we empower the client to apply our recommended approach. We always try to engage them to the extent they have an appetite.”

Successful case teams are tightly integrated—and that includes ties between IT and outside counsel, service providers and in-house legal teams, and litigation support and case attorneys. Simply getting an okay from the client and proceeding behind the scenes doesn’t make sense—strategizing is a group effort.

Adds Michael: “To me, it’s not a question of buy-in, but instead is a question of controlling cost, minimizing risk, and positioning the client to get the best possible result, whether that’s a settlement negotiation or an outcome after trial.”

Technology Tricks to Try: Empowering attorneys with on-the-go access to case documents is an important way to keep them plugged into e-discovery projects. By examining relevant documents in real time as review progresses, they can quickly pivot on case strategy and request a shift in focus from the review team.

e-Discovery experts with technical prowess are assets to their teams, internal and external—but it’s difficult to have an impact in isolation. That’s why open, clear communication between groups is a critical component of a well-rounded e-discovery strategy.

What are your tips for communicating across divides in expertise? Let us know in the comments or @RelativityHQ on Twitter.

Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.

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