Why Paralegals are the Key to E-Discovery Success or Disaster

by Exterro, Inc.
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Attorneys think they are the project managers, but in all reality 99.9% aren’t. Don’t just take my word for it, in the 2017 In-House Benchmarking Report, 42% of in-house legal survey participants said that attorneys were the primary project when it comes to managing legal projects (this was the number one response given ahead of “dedicated project manager”, paralegal, other).

They spearhead the case strategy, but the last thing attorneys really want to or should want to do is to manage all the nuances of the case (i.e. scheduling meetings, drafting memos, interviewing custodians, managing e-discovery activities, etc.).  One respondent summed up this mismanagement practice perfectly stating, “Generally, our attorneys don’t have great project management skills and this is not their only job responsibility.”

That’s where the important role of the paralegal comes into play. A good paralegal can cover all the holes, all the overlooked e-discovery things that most attorneys take for granted, including:

  • Identifying key dates for discovery activities and deadlines (i.e. legal hold issue date, collection deadlines, budget discussions, production requirements)
  • Ensuring all stakeholders internally and externally are on the same page (i.e. IT, HR, business units, law firm, service providers)
  • Drafting, approving and issuing the legal hold notice and track legal hold compliance
  • Determining whether custodian interviews need to be conducted and how to conduct them efficiently
  • Coordinating the document review process (i.e. 1st pass, 2nd pass, privilege, redaction)
  • Confirming the correct production form and producing the right metadata fields

The Rise of the Paralegal

The role of paralegals is rapidly evolving, with traditional responsibilities being augmented or even replaced by new focus areas and opportunities for advancement, thanks in large part to the rise of e-discovery.

More and more, in-house e-discovery teams require a dedicated project manager to coordinate operations between the team members with more specialized roles, namely attorneys and IT experts. Often this role is filled by paralegals, many of whom bring the best of both worlds to the table: a background in law and legal procedure along with tech savvy, making them perfect for the job.

With 51% of in-house legal departments with more than half their legal activities are now conducted internally, the importance of having a good or even great paralegal is heightened. Without a good paralegal managing the e-discovery process, mistakes can easily be made, leading to re-work, leading to cost overruns.

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