How to lose friends and alienate clients in eDisclosure

Warren Buffet, the 'sage of Omaha,' and one of the most successful men in the world, points to one of the first self-help books, 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' as a major influence in his life.

First published in the 1930s, Dale Carnegie’s book lists 30 behavioural guidelines on how to be a likeable, persuasive and influential leader in business. Successful leadership comes down to practicing empathy, and the eDisclosure sector is no exception.

The high-pressure world of eDisclosure is fraught with technological hurdles, legal shifts and turns, and multiple, complex work streams, all under tight deadlines – such a rocky environment can easily give way to strained relationships.

That’s why putting clients at ease is paramount. Just as 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' lists key behaviours for how to be successful in life and business, there are a number of behaviours that will not lead to success in eDisclosure:

Failure to ask 'what are you trying to achieve?'

This question should be asked early and often. The first interaction between the eDisclosure provider and the client should be scoping out the needs and requirements of the matter, and asking the client, 'What are you trying to achieve?'

> See also: Surfing the choppy legal waves of the Internet of Things: what your business needs to know

This question should then be repeated at regular intervals as matters rapidly move and change. What may be appropriate at the beginning of the process may change as claims are struck out or as certain custodians become less or more important.

Have regular check-ins with the client to discuss achievement objectives and then adjust your approach accordingly.

Failure to discuss the production at the beginning

Far too often the ultimate goal of the exercise is lost. Is the collection, processing and review of data aimed at finding relevant documents for disclosure to opponents and the court? Or is the information to be produced to a regulator? Is the production for internal investigative purposes? What form will the production take? What time constraints are the clients working under?

The way in which documents are collected can be altered by the production specifications; the way in which documents are reviewed, including the coding decisions and the overarching workflow, can be altered according to the production requirements.

It is essential to discuss the production at the beginning of the process – and then work backwards from there.

Failure to recommend technology

Existing and new technology can save clients a lot of time and money, so it is important to recommend relevant technologies when appropriate. Near duplicate document identification and email threading are just two examples of technologies that can make a review of data more efficient, cost effective and consistent.

New tools are always being developed, and eDisclosure providers should communicate the latest technological advances to their clients and identify where they would be useful.

Using language that is too technical

Some savvy technologists may have a tendency to use an excess of technical jargon when emailing or speaking to clients. But the whole reason the client has engaged an expert partner is because they’re not experts themselves!

Too much technical verbiage will only further complicate matters. Keep the language simple and easy to understand.

Lack of responsiveness

Legal projects change constantly as new issues come to light, opponents or courts make new requests and the focus of the team may change. Clients are often working under extremely tight deadlines.

Even if the response is only, 'I have received your email/request/query and I will be able to respond within the hour,' this goes a long way in building trust with the client. Offering timeframes for when clients can expect responses is also integral to good communication.

Failure to prepare written agendas for meetings

Far too often meetings are scheduled with little thought as to the purpose of the meeting, what material will be covered and in what order topics will be discussed. Time is of the essence for most clients, and it needs to be used efficiently.

Written agendas will enable all parties to be prepared for the meeting, thus using the available time most effectively.

Failure to document phone calls

Failure to document calls can lead to confusion and mistakes during the course of the project, so it is essential that all calls with clients, no matter how brief, are logged and that instructions are noted and followed.

Similarly, any guidance given by the eDisclosure provider should also be documented. It’s imperative that all team members understand every aspect of the project – even down to verbal instruction given to one team member.

Over promising and under delivering

In order to build a successful partnership, honesty is key. eDisclosure partners should be honest about what’s feasible and work with their clients to set firm deadlines.

It is important to be truthful about how long each element may take in the process, whether that’s machine time, human quality control time or multiple demands on resources and infrastructure. In order to establish an efficient working process and build a successful partnership, completion timelines should be realistic.

> See also: How to develop powerful products in partnership with customers

Providing numbers which need further analysis

eDisclosure exercises are fast-moving and subject to sudden change. Along with using simple language, tabulating numbers for the client and explaining what they mean goes a long way in building successful communication with your clients.

The secret to success in eDisclosure

Success in eDisclosure comes down to people following good communication practices, asking the right questions and following simple rules for honesty and transparency.

By applying the lessons of 'How to Win Friends and Influence People,' it is important to put yourself in your client’s shoes and treat them the way you would like to be treated. A little empathy can go a long way in ensuring a smoother Disclosure experience.

Sourced from Saida Joseph, senior director, Document Review Services, Epiq Systems

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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