By Chuck Kellner, SVP, Advisory and Engineering Group
There are the “Seven Habits…” and “Nine Beliefs…” and “The One Minute…” and the “Five Traits…” fill-in-the-blank keys to success. These have been the how-to or self-help magazine article or Book Review adjuncts to our very hectic weekday-plus lives.
Litigation Support and eDiscovery have always considered themselves as special among industries. We hear that commercial off-the-shelf software won’t work because the needs of this industry are different. Or that the conventional principles of business planning don’t work because our industry is project-based. Yes, we are different, but not so much. Certain principles apply no matter what.
Experience: Experience counts for a lot in eDiscovery, but it doesn’t count for anything if you cannot rely on it to get the current job done. You may have done a hundred projects like this one, but if you don’t listen closely, you won’t understand that this client, this job, this situation is a little bit different. You can rely on your experience only to identify those differences. Then each time, you have to do this job as if it is brand new.
Dues: This busy industry is constantly changing. The critical technologies change year to year. Needs and demands change from case to case. Rules change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And so the job changes too. No matter what, there are no dues you can pay that get you out of any work or that entitle you not to keep learning. Expect to do your share of the heavy lifting, and expect always to learn something new.
Mentoring: Since we know how special this industry is, we know how difficult it is to find colleagues that can truly help. There is no specific background and there is no college or training class that informs the development of a litigation support professional. Success is only by the project, and projects come and go. But you create something of lasting value when you mentor someone to do what you know how to do, then turn it over to him or her while you seek the new challenge. Practice this a lot, and mentor your protégés to do the same.
Success, Failure and Teamwork: There are a million ways to say it: Share the success and own the failure. You and your team will always be stronger for it. If success is something you accomplish, so is failure. If it’s failure, it’s not your luck, the market, the competition, the timing, the software, or someone else’s fault. If you are feeling failure, own it. It will be less likely to affect your “luck” the next time.
Customers and Clients: Let’s face it: Our business is to deal with other people’s emergencies. For most of the litigation attorneys who are our clients, the same thing is true. Their jobs are to deal with their clients’ most serious and usually unplanned-for crises. Clients come to us from different backgrounds, needs, perspectives, and levels of experience with what we do. Always be prepared to teach the eDiscovery 101 class. Leave a lot of time to listen.