In a recent interview with Dave Barrett, CEO of QDiscovery, David Kinnear notes“Authentic is hard to do; it takes time. There are no shortcuts. It often starts from humble beginnings and a lot of sleepless nights and back-breaking work.”
Experts in the field of cognitive science have long considered the role of intuition in learning and decision making. Throughout our lives, each of us learns a variety of skills; sometimes we master an activity just well enough to get by, and sometimes we work at that skill for years. With enough practice, we’re eventually able to perform that task at an expert level, and in the process of performing we make millions of decisions, often without consciously understanding what’s guiding or motivating us. Cognitive scientists call that expert intuition – the mind’s ability to intuit the best decision based on experience, practice, and tacit knowledge. It’s closely tied to Kinnear’s sense of authenticity: developing expert intuition requires work, practice, and focus; when we leverage our expert intuition, our decisions seem almost effortless, and yet the dedication required to achieve that level of expertise is implicit. As a result, to others we seem authentic.
For many in the eDiscovery industry, learning to trust expert intuition is a challenge. Most of us train against objective standards and prefer black-and-white assessments to instincts. We deal in statistics, diversity sampling, structured and unstructured data types, production throughput, and billable hours. And similarly, our colleagues in the legal field spend their days on attainable, measurable, repeatable goals: minimizing costs, avoiding sanctions, winning cases. For both groups, intuition seldom has a place at the table, but when it comes to vetting service providers, it definitely should.
The first article of this series addressed the vendor questionnaire and how it can help both in-house and outside counsel identify and vet eDiscovery vendors. It’s a choice that can potentially have a lasting impact on the firm’s operations. A great provider can become the firm’s go-to partner for matters of all kinds, offering efficiencies in all phases of the EDRM. And the opposite is also true: a provider that’s technically cumbersome, disorganized, or inclined to rely solely on cookie-cutter solutions can have a negative impact on legal outcomes, often for years to come.
Clearly, it’s a decision that requires careful consideration – and more than just a vendor questionnaire…which brings us back to expert intuition. Happily enough, the one area in which attorneys do use intuition, all the time, is in assessing the people they deal with, be they clients, opponents, defendants, jurors, or judges. And yet, we so often neglect to bring that same instinct to the table when we’re evaluating our eDiscovery partners. It’s as though somehow, the technologies, capacities, security measures, and track record are all that matter – when in fact, at the end of the day, the human aspect of the relationship is at least as important – maybe even more so – than any of that.
After you’ve vetted a selection of potential eDiscovery partners via the vendor questionnaire, you should set up a meet and greet with the two or three firms you liked best – ideally in person, but for some companies, Skype or another video conferencing service can work almost as well. Ask to meet with the people you’ll actually work with day in and day out. Then take the time to get to know them, as people and as professionals. If at all possible, go out to lunch with them. Talk about hobbies and personal interests, and ask leading questions to get a good sense of the experiences, skills and passions your potential partners are bringing to the table. And then listen to your expert intuition. Remember, you’ve spent years developing your ability to read people; use that ability now, to help you choose the partner that, like your favorite slippers, just feels right. A variety of elements might contribute to your instinctive assessment: a sense of trustworthiness and integrity, an intellectual connection, a shared passion for a certain technology or data management technique, the sense of authenticity and proof of work ethic Kinnear touched on. You may not even be able to precisely identify them all, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter much. After all, you’re the expert. So trust your intuition.
Don’t have time to take a vendor out to lunch, or still haven’t found the right fit? Try our eDiscovery Wingman service. Tell us what you need, and we’ll provide an expert with the time and intuition to help you choose a vendor with whom you’ll be comfortable.
About the Author
Susan Ethridge is a writer and editor with more than fifteen years’ experience in marketing and business development for industry-leading eDiscovery service providers. She enjoys cooking, literary fiction, and cool technologies, and tends to get OCD about music and bourbon. She is a die-hard fan of the Oxford comma.