Around Litigation Support in 80 Days

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading some of the classics. The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Time Machine…yes, there is an H. G. Wells theme. But, the latest of these classics was Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.  As I got to the end of this novel, I started thinking about just how many parallels can be made between it and the world of Litigation Support.

If you’ve not read the story, the basic concept is that the main character, Phinneous Fogg, makes a bet with his wealthy friends that he can make a trip around the world in 80 days.  The story is based in the 1800s, so there is no airplane travel. Just trains, steamers, walking, etc. Fogg is an extremely even-tempered man, who claims to have planned for anything that will get in his way.  He shows no emotion to anyone around him; no matter what happens.  His newly hired servant, Passepartout, travels with him on this journey, there’s a rescued girl, and a police officer after Mr. Fogg for supposedly robbing a bank. Overall, the story is entertaining and action packed.

So, where am I possibly making the correlation between this book and Litigation Support?

Fogg represents the litigation support department, service provider, or individual trying to meet a nearly impossible deadline.  If the deadline is reached, victory and riches!  If not, ridicule and ruin!

Of course, bets have been wagered.  The wealthy friends are those around the main character, some of which think (hope) the deadline will be reached.  Others are betting against Fogg’s success and hoping they’ll be proven right in their prediction of failure.

The police officer, Fix, originally after Fogg to arrest him, places obstacles in his way to keep him from reaching his goals.  The officer could be seen as just about anything:  Lack of confidence, naysayers, poorly developed software, or an unexpectedly large and horrific set of data.  All of which can either hide in the background until the least opportune moment or present themselves from the onset of a project.  Later in the story, Fix flips the switch–still for his own reasons–and begins helping Fogg in his quest.  This flip, I relate to those moments when things seem to be going right and back on track, but all the while there is still that possibility of impending doom waiting just at the edge of the deadline (a server crash, a disgruntled employee).

Fogg’s trusty servant, Passepartout, is constantly trying to help with the successful completion of the quest.  This character represents a loyal, trustworthy person or team of people.  These are the ones who will do anything to ensure that the deadline/goal is reached, no matter what the price.  Passepartout makes mistakes along the way–some that almost cost Fogg his entire journey.  Passepartout does not blame others for the various issues that come his way, even though in many instances, he could have.  Instead, he owns his actions and pushes on to do what he deems necessary to get things back on track and to help his employer meet the deadline.

The rescued girl, Princess Aouda, who is thankful for the rescue, but who also believes that Fogg wants to be rid of her as soon as he can be, sees herself as a hindrance to Fogg’s travels.  She soon finds out that her beliefs are unfounded.  Aouda stands out to me as the significant others or close friends of those of us who work in the Litigation Support industry.  Those that we love unconditionally, that love us unconditionally, and that we never want to be without.  They are the patient ones, the ones that do not want us to endure the stress that we do, but understand that it’s what we have to do to reach our goals.  They wait for us to come home, get some rest, finally take a shower after two or more days (you know it’s true), and spend time with them.  They celebrate our victories with us and hold us when we fail.

Even the finale of Around the World in 80 Days reflects the world of Litigation Support, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Are there any classic novels that you relate to your world of work?  I would love to hear about them!


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The Wow! Signal

Have you heard of the “Wow! Signal?”  Before today, I had not.  Take a look at a couple of these articles about it and let me know what you think…extraterrestrial or something odd in the machine?

Big Ear Radio Observatory

Jerry Ehman’s Explanation of the Code

National Geographic

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Preserving Gmail for Dummies

Great news!

Ball in your Court

gmail_GoogleI posted here a year ago laying out a detailed methodology for collection and preservation of the contents of a Gmail account in the static form of a standard Outlook PST.  Try as I might to make it foolproof, downloading Gmail using IMAP and Outlook is tricky.  Happily since my post, the geniuses at Google introduced a truly simple, no-cost way to collect Gmail and other Google content for preservation and portability.  It sets a top flight example for online service providers, and presages how we may use the speed, power and flexibility of Google search as a culling mechanism before exporting for e-discovery.

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Data Brokers

This story is definitely worth checking out.  

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Why true talent leaves e-discovery companies and what you can do to stop it

Great points!

Corporate E-Discovery

Capitoline Museums / Rome, Italy The e-discovery industry is notorious for rapid turnover of staff, it is the same in any early to mid development sector with volatility and consolidation. But if you are an owner your talent is your business, not your technology.

There is no point having a rocket if no one knows how to service it, fuel it and pilot it. People, their skills, people savvy and service delivery is your business, not algorithms.

So here are some tips to keep talent, that probably apply to most businesses:

  • Listen: So obvious but so rare; the realm of lip service. Your front line people know what is right and wrong with your business model. Don’t play guru and impose your solutions from the top as if you know the “answer”. Create a forum, a safe place, where they can share and you can learn from the people on the front lines.
  • Put them…

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E-Discovery and the Zamundan Royal Backside Wipers

Funny, but very true!

Ball in your Court

toilet paper moneyI’m on a crusade to underscore the need for lawyer competence in that crucial “e” that precedes “e-discovery.”  It’s no longer enough to understand the law in isolation; today’s lawyer must understand some fundamentals of information technology and electronic evidence.  My efforts often prove quixotic, as everywhere I’m met with the attitude that electronic discovery isn’t a lawyer’s concern:  “It’s something you hire people to do,” they say.

Certainly, we must hire people to do things we cannot possibly do.  But I contend that we hire people to do many things we could learn to do ourselves, and do economically.  Remember Eddie Murphy’s royal backside wipers in Coming to America? All it takes is money to burn; and if it’s someone else’s money, who really cares?

But at what point do lawyers outsource themselves into superfluity?  Clients can hire vendors.  Bigger clients can and should bring much of…

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“Everyone Knows That Clients Don’t Know What They Want!”

At least that’s what I overheard an e-discovery service provider say at a software conference.  Being a client of litigation support service providers, the comment certainly didn’t drive me to want to use that particular vendor.  The funny part is that I actually understand why they would say that.  From my years working as a vendor, it was common for a client to need guidance, but that did not mean that they didn’t know what they wanted.  They always knew what they wanted and would let you know if they weren’t getting it!

So, now you know what not to say to clients or, at the very least, to check around for a client in close proximity before saying something about them.

What about ways to actually get a client and keep them?  Much of what is below could really come from a “Sales 101” course, but worth repeating for sales folks and really anyone who deals directly with clients.

Tips for Litigation Support Vendors to Win and Maintain Clients:

  • Build confidence and trust with your clients by listening to their needs and providing the best approach your company can offer.  If your company doesn’t offer the requested solution, help your client find a company that will (if you’ve ever seen Miracle on 34th Street, you know what I mean).
  • If you’re the front-line sales person, know your product!!  Nothing makes me want to go elsewhere more than a salesperson talking to me about their amazing technology, but not being able to answer one of my questions.  I don’t expect the sales team know everything down to the byte about the technology, but I do want them to know how their solution can help my clients, what a database is, and the difference between concept clustering and a dashboard that tells you how many documents are left to review (yep, that actually happened).
  • When a client needs a very technical answer, know your resources (please don’t just make things up)!  There are clients out there that are very technical and absolutely do understand what an application should and should not do.  So, if you’re in sales or project management and don’t have the answer immediately, it’s OK to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll check with my team and get back to you” or “Let me get you in touch with our expert on <whatever it is you want to know>.”  Your clients understand that you cannot know everything, nor should you.
  • Don’t be pushy.  The old saying, “the customer is always right,” still has a place.  If you give your best guidance and the client doesn’t want to follow it, do what they ask you to do.  I know, you’re probably saying, “But, I know what they’re doing is wrong and will cause them problems down the road.”  Great!  Let them know, in an informative, non-condescending way, and then move on.  If you continue to push, they may decide to use someone else the next time.  
  • When you finally get that meeting set up and you’re ready to demonstrate your software, ask the client a couple of questions:  What’s your company’s current work flow?  What software does your company use to do <insert whatever it is that you’re trying to sell here>?  Of course, listen to the answers.  But, avoid going on with your demo as usual–it’s obvious that’s what you’re doing.  Your demonstration should speak directly to how your solution will help with the current work flow or replace the software that’s already being used.  I know that there is at least one major document review tool that insists on demonstration certification for anyone that will be demonstrating it.  Just because you have that certification does not mean that you should follow the script every time.  This leads back to knowing your product.  If you don’t understand what your products can do to help your clients, you may want to reconsider being the one that demonstrates that product.
  • Be flexible.  So, your company has the best approach to culling, filtering, keyword searching, reviewing, and producing documents.  That’s fantastic!  You should get in touch with me!  Wait…the client doesn’t want to follow your approach and has actually developed what they think is the best approach?  Listen to what they have to say.  It’s just possible that they could add to your current line up of greatness.

Overall, be a partner…an extension of your client’s team.  If you say that you’re there to make your client’s life easier, prove it.  Prove it by being honest about processes, problems, prices, and time frames.  Own up to any issues that were created by your company.  Honesty and actually caring about the quality of your services can go a long way toward building a relationship with your clients!


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