eDiscovery Professionals: Order-taking or Consulting? – What is “Order-taking” and Why is it so Prevalent?
July 25, 2012
I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about “order-taking” in the field of electronic discovery and about why it’s so prevalent. I think understanding why it happens is the first step in turning the situation around. Before I get into that though, let me describe what I mean by “order-taking”, so we’re all on the same page and starting with a common understanding of the predicament.
Here are some common characteristics of “order-takers”:
- Order-takers respond to requests made by clients, to a “T”.
- They only ask questions aimed at gathering the information they need to respond to requests, exactly as those requests have been stated.
- They don’t ask questions aimed at understanding the big picture or aimed at understanding the needs and goals of the client.
- They believe that it’s a client’s responsibility to clearly define and articulate what they need.
- They do not suggest alternative approaches.
- When something goes wrong, their reaction is often an exasperated “But that’s what they told me to do!”
Does this sound familiar? Do you see it happening in your firm? If you can answer no to these questions, you’re in a good place. If you answered yes, unfortunately you’ve got lots of company.
Why is this happening? First off, “order-taking” is the starting point for everybody, in any profession. No one is a CEO or a senior partner on the first day of his or her first job. We all start in a position where:
a) We don’t know much, and
b) We don’t have any experience.
We all start our careers as “order-takers”. There is a natural order to, and progression in moving away from “order-taking”: people gain knowledge, they gain experience, and they get promoted, ultimately to positions where they are calling the shots. In a law firm, however, there’s an extra hurdle for electronic discovery professionals: they will never be promoted to a position where they are the ultimate decision maker on how something is handled on a case. That responsibility lies squarely in the hands of the litigators, as it should.
Electronic discovery professionals in law firms can and should however, grow into a position where litigators look to them for guidance. They should strive to function in a consultative capacity. They should strive to alleviate the litigators’ burden of keeping abreast of “all things eDiscovery”.
Stay tuned for the next posts in this series… we’ll look more at “order-taking”, both at the problems it causes, and at tips for shifting from order-taking to consulting. Please let us know your thoughts on this. Do you function as a consultant in your firm, or do you do more order-taking than you’d like? Have you successfully shifted from order-taking to consulting? If so, how did you make that happen? Do you have tips you can share? And please let us know if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.