It Depends

An attorney approaches a litigation support professional and poses a question. The litigation support professional will frequently respond with “it depends“.

Why is that?  There are so many variables in litigation support.  Typically when we are posed a question, we then proceed to gather more information before we can answer definitively.

The trick in our industry is to learn what the follow-up questions should be, when each follow-up question applies and why we need to know the information before we can answer.

Having so many variables is one of the reasons this career is so dynamic.  There are so many different combinations and almost every matter is different from the one right before and the one right after.  However, so many variables and combinations make it a somewhat difficult career to learn, at least in the beginning.

I'll give you an example.  An attorney arrives in your office with a disk in hand and asks you “when can I review what's on this disk”?   After your initial response of “it depends“, you take the disk out of its container and flip it over to see the back side.   There is a distinct color difference between a CD and a DVD.  Why does this matter?  A CD can contain up to approximately 650 megabytes, but a DVD can contain up to approximately 4.7 gigabytes and if the DVD is a dual-layer disk, it can contain up to approximately 8.5 gigabytes.

What does this tell us?  In terms of data size only, the contents of a CD are considered by litigation support professionals to be a small amount of data and the turnaround times for every task related to that CD are much faster.  As for a DVD, depending on how full the DVD is (less than a 1 gigabyte, 1-2 gigabytes, 4 gigabytes or a dual-layer DVD), every task related to that DVD will take considerably longer.  Make sense?

Another variable in this scenario is the format of the data on the disk.  Is it in a format that can be reviewed outside of a database such as PDF or MS Office file types like PPT, DOC and XLS?  Or is the data already in a format destined for a litigation support database such as Concordance or Summation?  Does the data need to be processed by a vendor before the attorney can review it?

Another variable might be, what does the attorney want to do with it after they review it?  Do they want to produce it?  If the answer is yes, do they want to produce it in the same format it is currently or do they need to produce it in a different format already agreed upon between the parties?

Yet another variable might be, does the attorney have a good idea of what the data represents or contains and therefore will look at it briefly and then move on to the next step?  Or is the attorney in the dark as to what the data contains and will need to have a way to review the documents and categorize them, such as tagging documents in a litigation support database?

After some of the initial questions are asked and answered, I tend to ask the attorney if I can take a look at the data before I promise a turnaround time.

There are many other avenues or threads of conversation that this scenario could entail and I have certainly not accounted for all of them here.  The point is, I hope you can start to get an idea why litigation support professionals commonly answer a generic question with “it depends” and also why we immediately start asking follow-up questions.  We are not trying to be difficult — we are simply gathering information in order to make the best possible decision or to give the best possible answer.  Attorneys do the same thing in the practice of law, right?

If you have any questions regarding the scenario above or the follow-up questions you would need to learn, please leave a comment below and I will reply accordingly.


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    • Philiphallquist

      Good article. Attorneys say “It depends” all the time.

    • IT Paralegal

      Amy- this is so true!  I like how simply you explain that it’s not possible to give a reasonable answer without having the information necessary to answer the question.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the comment. It takes time to learn all of the questions to ask and when to ask them, but once you know them I think it is rewarding to provide that kind of consulting to the attorneys.

    • Colette Perkins

      Attorney:  I need to review this today.  Reality, two weeks.  LOL.

      • Anonymous

        Good one, Colette! Very true.