Seriously, Productions Need Not Be Rushed

Productions Need Not Be Rushed

I have been doing litigation support for a long time. I have worked with many attorneys on many cases. I have worked with many service providers.

I know the various processes the attorneys will use to decide which document sets need to be included in the next production set.

I have observed the attorneys making promises to the government or to opposing counsel regarding the timeline for producing documents.

I understand the steps necessary for the service provider to prepare a final production set that meets the requested specifications.

One of the key roles of a litigation support professional is “managing expectations”. It is absolutely possible to negotiate a production timeline that will not cause a ridiculous amount of stress and anxiety for the attorneys, for litigation support, and especially for the service provider. I believe in setting up the entire team for success.

I do not understand why service providers are receiving an email from their client, at the last minute, with no prior heads-up, that contains a request for a final production set (thousands of documents).

The client's expectation is that the service provider will “push that non-existent easy button” and perform all of the many steps it takes to prepare a final production set, that will be error free, that will match the specifications requested, and that will be turned around within 24 hours or worse yet, the same day!

If this is happening in your work environment, then one or more people in the workflow are not practicing good “legal project management” skills. It is that simple.

Seriously, production preparation need not be rushed. There is better way.

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    • Sheneika Hurley

      Amy, Wonderful article! It’s as if you are inside of my head, capturing all of my thoughts 🙂 Well done.

    • Chassidy King

      What?! You mean there’s a way, other than last minute, to do legal business?! Amazing! 😉

      • I hope you’ve been able to see what it looks like, Ms. Chassidy.

        • Chassidy King

          A non-last-minute production? Nope. But I hope to someday! 😀

    • mgolab

      We do about 98% of our work fully in-house and so its been interesting since about November last year watching a series of ‘apparently’ super-duper urgent matter deadlines come at us like sets of waves at the beach.

      [commence sarcastic remark] Maybe you could write the next article about how good lawyers are at project management.

    • Da Rules

      Once the new rules come into play after December, I hope things will change. I have found that most of the “rush jobs” are actually fixes due to communication issues between the parties. They are in a rush to prevent a missed deadline and the fear of the other side going to the Judge. When I was on the Law Firm side I also found that with the billable hour famine, a lot of productions were done by Associates with no idea about load files or the ability to track back to original docs.
      After December when the Judges are very much involved in production specs from the start, some of this may change. Judges are getting fed up with the requests for extensions and complaints about production format. I may be walking on the sunny side of the street but I think after a few conversations in chambers and maybe some sanctions, this problem may not be as bad. We will always have poor attorney project managers but they will quickly learn to lean on the resources available to them.

    • lol@u

      I think part of the issue is service provider’s sales teams over-promising on the ability to meet deadlines. I’ve seen countless times when service providers promised to meet a deadline that there was certainly no realistic way to meet effectively(and they didn’t). I think the thought process is that once they have the case or business, then there’s always a chance to push back deadlines, or charge ‘rush’ fees. One of the questions I always ask prior to engagement is “if we call on Monday and need a million pages tiffed, branded, qc’d and produced, how long would that take you without incurring any ‘rush charges’?” Providers need to be very up front about timing, and charges related to rushing projects. Has anyone ever gotten an e-discovery bill and been surprised at how much lower it was than the projected amount? I also think that production format has a lot to do with timing. We can turn around a native production about ten times faster than a tiff or PDF production. Once we see clients insist that attorneys find a better way to think about documents than “how many pages is that?” and realize that native productions save thousands even on small document sets, then maybe the industry will get away from TIFF and PDF conversions which is where we spend a lot of our production time (conversion, error-checking, writing a new process to handle some Adobe issue no one has ever seen before, checking for TIFF artifact lines in OCR’d PDFs….etc.) I can have those 10,000 native files produced in a couple of hours – mistake free…make me convert them to another format and it’s going to take days, and there are going to be issues.

    • Michael Hastings

      This is interesting, as it is just a slice of my daily routine. I do find that when working directly with corporate clients (specifically, the law firm hired by the corporation) to handle their productions there is usually less kaos, than if we are working with consulting companies or partners who are in between us and the firm. Makes me wonder if these “deadlines” are not fabricated, or, if like most things in this industry, people are just waiting to the last minute to prepare these “urgent” productions.