Posted by Charles A. Volkert on Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 00:00 | Follow me
I’m often asked for advice on how legal managers help their project teams better interact and share information. If you manage litigation support, for example, communication problems can cause missed deadlines and other hiccups in the e-discovery and document review process.
To stay organized and meet the critical deadlines that come with the document review portion of the process, litigation paralegals and other team members have to work well together. Here are four ways a project manager can improve communication and reduce frustration:
1. Identify the source of the problem. If the litigation paralegal team worked well together in the past but is now running into issues, take a hard look at what’s happened since. Maybe your staff is tired from the hectic pace, or perhaps communication has broken down. To identify and resolve the problem, call a timeout from document review production and hold a group meeting, making sure to include both full-time staff and any temporary legal professionals working on the team. Sometimes the problem can resolve itself when members express their concerns and reconnect on a group level. But if you think people can speak more candidly outside a team setting, set up one-on-one meetings.
2. Set the example for good communication. A team follows the lead of its project manager, so make sure you are doing a good job of communicating. Avoid future misunderstandings and frustration by setting clear expectations and getting group buy-in. Clearly define workflows and deadlines, and have regular team check-ins. Encourage team members to speak to you or to each other with questions and concerns. When people are sure of their individual responsibilities and know exactly which pieces they’ll be held accountable for, they have a greater sense of ownership of their work.
3. Make sure you are fully engaged. As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to head off conflicts. Don’t wait to address problems, and certainly don’t ignore them. Foster an environment of honesty, transparency, diplomacy and open-mindedness. To boost buy-in and reduce finger-pointing when things go awry, include the litigation paralegal team in planning and decision-making. This will help them feel they’re part of a cohesive group instead of individuals working away in their silos.
4. Build up your team. To foster positive group dynamics, host a fun gathering away from work when legal project deadlines permit. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Go out for lunch at a nearby pizza joint or organize a potluck. If the weather is nice, order sandwiches and head to the park. When employees have a chance to relax and interact with each other outside of the office, they’re more likely to communicate better while on the job. And don’t forget to hand out praise when it’s due. Acknowledging people for their hard work is a great way to build up morale.
Every work team experiences communication problems every once in a while. While normal, the project manager for document reviews needs to take quick action to make sure the hiccups don’t turn into something more serious. Renew your litigation support and paralegal team by following the above steps; consider it a tune-up for your well-oiled machine. With your guidance as project manager, your group will likely be back to producing high-quality results again in no time.