I’m embarrassed to admit this, but, years ago, in an early project that I managed, I screwed up. Screwed up royally. How would you handle that situation? Here’s how I handled it.
I was responsible for project management, including communication with the end client, and Quality Control (QC) review of all productions that went out the door. Oh, and I was managing three other clients at the time. So, I was very busy.
We had a production going out late on a Friday (do they go out any other time?) and it had been a long week. All I had to do was to get the production QC’d and out the door and I was done for the week.
I went through the steps that the production team performed, spot checked documents that were being produced to ensure that they belonged in the production set, that the images were properly Bates labeled, that redactions were properly applied to documents needing redactions (and that those redactions were extended to the text files being produced). Everything seemed in order, so I signed off on the production and it went out. Because we were up against a deadline, the client chose not to review the production before it went out.
Unfortunately, what I failed to confirm was that the production didn’t include any privileged documents. Somehow, in selecting the final production set, the production team failed to exclude documents that were tagged as attorney work product (they remembered to exclude documents tagged as attorney-client privileged, but failed to also exclude the work product documents). I failed to confirm the proper count of documents, so I didn’t catch the mistake and some work product documents were inadvertently produced.
My boss found out from our client, who, in turn, was notified by opposing counsel. Needless to say, neither of them was happy about the situation. My boss was particularly upset and wanted to know what happened and I was fairly quickly able to determine where the mistake happened. However, since QC was my responsibility, instead of blaming my production team, I acknowledged that I skipped a step and failed to realize that the production set included the incorrect count of documents to be produced.
While my boss was still upset, he stated that he appreciated that I took responsibility for the mistake. We worked with our client to identify and “clawback” the inadvertently produced documents, I made sure in the future to check the count of documents before productions and we agreed that all productions needed to be reviewed by our client before they were produced to opposing counsel, regardless of deadlines. Lessons learned all around. And, I kept my job – actually, that boss even gave me a great reference later in my career!
Regardless how diligent you are in your eDiscovery process, mistakes will happen, at least occasionally. This was not my first mistake, nor would it be my last. But, taking responsibility for my honest mistakes has always served me well. Not only that, seeing others do the same has engendered in me a level of trust in them, because (frankly) not everybody takes responsibility for mistakes when things go wrong. I’ve worked with my share of people who are quick to shift the blame elsewhere if they can.
So, what do you think? Have you “royally screwed up” on an eDiscovery project? If so, how did you handle it? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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