Discovery: Hope may be the right strategy

November 12, 2012

5274This post was written by Allison Guidette, managing director of Large Law Firms

I know. The title is, at best, counter-intuitive. Not exactly the lesson learned in any management class.  But when discussing discovery it has some merit…

Having just had a baby, I recently learned how to correctly assemble an outfit with more snaps than a fight scene from West Side Story. Brand new skills, ones which have little basis in personal experience, require acceptance of change, simple solutions and a bit of hope.

Discovery presents a similar environment for change and my thesis is simple: experience alone will not solve the challenges presented by present day discovery. I’m not saying throw away the past, but doing what was successful 20 years ago, 10 years ago or even five years ago will not guarantee success.

Information grows at a rate of approximately 60 percent compounded annually – doubling every 18 months. Social media and personal cloud-based data storage, in large part, did not exist even five years ago. So how can a firm still working in paper look to experience for answers when it comes to discovery today? The keys to success are three-fold:

Cooperation and Communication

Until recently, most firms looked at cooperation during discovery in the same vein as treason. ‘How can we share our discovery methods with the enemy?’  But when both sides are faced with the same discovery challenges, effective agreements can be reached. No state or federal rule exists that discourages cooperation. When discovery is used as a tool rather than a weapon, clients and attorneys can focus on the core competencies of their businesses.

The Right Tools

A hammer is an essential tool, but the whole world is not made of nails. Selecting the right tool(s) can be daunting to a firm without experience in this area. I suggest three criteria above all others:

– Everyday Familiar – The best compliment any application can receive is: ‘I get it.’ Software designed for everyday use should be as familiar as things we use every day. This leads to less time training and more time using.

– Fit for Purpose – Ensure that the tool(s) will solve the problem at hand. Break down the problems into small tangible chunks then ensure the application practically presents a solution.

– Vision for Growth – Ensure the organization that presents its tool(s) has a clear vision and practical path for growth. You’re not just investing in a solution for today but investing in an organization that’s able to execute on a plan to keep the tool(s) relevant.

Embrace Change

To implement the above solutions takes courage. When forced to change because of the economics and technical challenges of discovery, firms can either fight the change or embrace it. Either way, change in discovery is on the doorstep. The first step forward is a big one, but I promise it leads to better client advocacy and more firm opportunity. Discovery can represent the triumph of hope over experience.