While emerging technologies can empower eDiscovery teams to make their resources work smarter and go further, they can also hinder productivity and information sharing if not adopted with the right principles in mind.
While it’s news to none that efficient and effective communication is critical to risk-averse eDiscovery, as with any process, the advent of “disruptive” tools, technologies and solutions can create just as many problems as it solves.
Strong communication is vital to avoiding those costly legal and regulatory pitfalls, achieving optimal operational efficiency, and ensuring that best practices remain embedded within your organisational culture for the long run.
Here are a few of our top tips for keeping team communication strong throughout any given eDiscovery procedure.
Tip 1: Unify tech and legal
As the nefarious ‘odd couple’ of the eDiscovery world, it is essential that steps are taken to keep all members of tech and legal on the same page.
The need to keep communication open and avoid the feelings of isolation caused by silos is even more pressing when it comes to this age-old eDiscovery challenge.
Ensure that communication is proactive, consistent, and that it works both ways. Both teams should also be encouraged to avoid speaking in legalise or IT jargon – in an operational sense, these are nothing but barriers to communication and productivity.
A perceived lack of effort or investment from either side can lead to damaging oversights, so team leaders and project managers must be proactive from the start. Begin by rewarding frequent and proactive communication from both camps, and aim to unify them in aid of a mutual goal.
Top-down senior support is invaluable when establishing a harmonious relationship here.
Tip 2: Don’t neglect verbal communication
While technology can streamline communication in the sense of making it faster and simpler, if these benefits come at the expense of poorer communication and knowledge gaps, you can quickly find yourself battling a false economy of efficiency gains.
Emails and instant messaging apps can be great for resolving small problems quickly, but these should never completely replace verbal communication.
The combination of reduced detail and responsiveness can mean that many problems can actually take longer to solve if written communication is favoured over verbal.
Written communication might help for those less urgent and simpler issues, but for any challenges with real depth and nuance, it pales in comparison to face-to-face conversation (or a Skype call for anyone working remotely).
Tip 3: Embed openness into your organisational culture
As the previous two points imply, not only does communication need to be widespread, frequent and non-siloed, but it also needs to be honest.
In high-pressure working environments like those found within an eDiscovery team, it’s common for team members, particularly those that are new or less experienced, to feel as if they can’t be completely honest with their colleagues, particularly those in a senior position.
Team leaders need to be able to bring employees together. Remember, you are all working towards the same goal of keeping processes as efficient and watertight as possible. Centre difficult conversations around issues rather than individuals – the latter will likely just create the conditions for internal blame culture.
Tip 4: Have regular impromptu check-ins
Once you’ve established healthy communication dynamics across your eDiscovery team, regular check-ins without a predetermined discussion topic can be helpful, and in many cases are what help to uncover unforeseen problems or aspects of project delivery falling behind expectation.
Plus, asking about things that being worked on in the moment is often the best way to reveal problems before they grow more severe and evolve into something worse.
This is especially important for anyone who works with their peers remotely. Regular face time will help prevent them feeling isolated or forgotten about, and if you are honest, casual and proactive in your own communications, they are more than likely to return the favour.
Tip 5: Improve your hiring processes
High employee churn and quickly hashed handovers are some of the most common (but less obvious) causes of lagging communication within eDiscovery teams.
Communication issues that occur after the resignation of an individual team member are often symptomatic of gaps that should have been plugged while that member of staff was still on the payroll.
As well as looking to improve team-wide communication all year round (as opposed to after someone hands in their notice), take a good hard look at your hiring processes.
Could certain alterations to your contract and company culture improve retention? Are there incentives for employees that aspire to a long-term tenure? Could you be more frank with interview candidates, and screen those who are unable to commit to a more long-term development plan?
Ask yourself these questions, and be honest and proactive in how you respond to them.
Now you’ve learned how to optimise your team communication from within, maximise its output with the best eDiscovery solution. Read more in Digital Justice: How the right eDiscovery solution can prepare litigation teams for digital transformation.