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Ultra Running Takeaways For E-Discovery Success

Ultra Running Takeaways For E-Discovery Success

I Run, Therefore I E-Discover

Endurance running, specifically trail races and ultra-marathon events, is a favorite pastime activity that I have enjoyed for seven years. I have run races as short as five kilometers (3.1 miles), one longer than two hundred miles, and most at some intermediate distance. My favorite race length is one hundred miles, preferably in the mountainous terrain of the Western United States. I find long hilly races unpredictable and exciting due to the need to strictly manage the effects of changing altitude and colder weather.

I run mainly to clear my mind, get aerobic exercise and, if fortunate, entertain an offer for an unexpected spirit-lifting adult beverage at a surprising place and time. Once or twice a year, I enjoy entering challenging events in scenic locations. The mindfulness and problem-solving skills demanded to complete some of these events (for non-professionals!) translate well to the E-Discovery world.

Just The Facts Ma’am

This blog writer noted in her recent post that marathon training is an activity comparable to preparing for an E-Discovery platform certification exam. As a certified Relativity Master who has taken more than his fair share of Relativity certification exams, I wholeheartedly agree. I also agree that endurance sports of any kind can provide E-Discovery practitioners with a framework for how to approach their jobs. I can say this now that I have some endurance running experience of course. When I first started running, however, my immediate concerns were of a different nature:

  • Why are my calves cramped?
  • Why are my hamstrings cramped?
  • What is sciatica, and why do I have it?
  • What should I do if I get caught in an electrical storm?
  • What is this Achilles Tendonitis?
  • The top of this mountain is beautiful! Why can’t I breathe?

The list of issues went on for a while. In the end, I amassed an impressive collection of medical braces, ready for the next incident. Let’s explore a few parallels between the two activities.

Similar? Similar How?

Caution! Limits Ahead

Ultramarathons are unusual events as competitors of all ability levels –  professionals, weekend warriors or recreational athletes – compete in the same race. Back of the pack runners know their place of course. You do not see many of them blasting off the starting line in hot pursuit of the professionals since to do so is to guarantee a very short race. Experienced runners know their strengths and weaknesses. They leverage their strengths and seek assistance with their shortcomings.

Similarly, smart E-Discovery professionals are adept at gauging when to tackle projects independently and when to recruit specialized help. To the extent that   you have sufficient time, I advocate doing as much of the job yourself as is possible. To do is to learn. But regardless of your level of ability and motivation, unwelcome surprises do happen. Projects inevitably present those "unknown unknowns," to paraphrase former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from his famous 2002 news briefing. Unknown unknowns are the things you do not know that you do not know.

Homework Required

An ultra runner strives to manage many factors to keep a race on track. Those factors include one or more of the following:

  • Gear
  • Hydration
  • Electrolytes
  • Chafe Protection
  • Weather
  • Terrain
  • Navigation
  • Flora and fauna
  • Physiology
  • Sunrise/Sunset times
  • The distance between aid stations
  • Altitude
  • Water sources

Each runner strives to master these factors in a personal way. For example, some may prefer to wear singlet tops in hot weather; others cannot as they are very sensitive to sun exposure. The key then is to find the combination of variables that work for you. Interestingly and fortunately, this goal is a moving target (making what may seem like a mind-numbing exercise to an outsider a very exciting endeavor for me). An approach that works on one day may not work for the same person on another day. There is most definitely an element of randomness involved in the way these factors impact the outcome of one's race.

Similarly, success in the E-Discovery field calls for mastery of a multitude of skills requiring specialized knowledge. While every case is different, our team has benefited greatly from developing and implementing standardized workflows to help manage the tasks we face. For example, standard processes related to the following are helpful on a regular basis:

  • Sending legal holds notices and tracking responses
  • Document collection, media tracking and chain of custody
  • Assessing and analyzing file types to determine which are compatible with e-discovery tools
  • Document searching tools and techniques to cull out the noise
  • Analytics theory and use to streamline ECA and review
  • Assisted Review
  • Practical knowledge about the use of review platforms and how to address data that will not fit nicely into one available platform

Workflow mastery is an invaluable asset for dealing with the stream of demands from legal case teams that is sometimes a trickle, sometimes a fire hose. When I have a difficult patch in a race, I sometimes think of the time I could barely breathe on the top of Pike’s Peak and what it took to get through that experience. The answer is always the same:

Put one foot in front of the other until you get the job done.

What’s Next?

Companies in the running industry regularly introduce new products. Runners try to stay informed about these new offerings in their search for gizmos that will give them an edge. Often a vendor's claims turn out to be more hype than fact, but not always. I closely follow upgrades and new products which may be helpful in my running endeavors. Examples include improved and more effective shoe designs, hydration packs, GPS units, rain gear, nutritional supplements and running-related software utilities.

Similarly, E-Discovery professionals need to stay up to date on the latest e-discovery tools and technologies. I learn about new developments in the field from a variety of resources:

  • Blogs (my favorites are: CloudNine and Relativity)
  • Conferences (Relativity Fest )
  • Certifications (next on the horizon for me is Relativity Processing Specialist)
  • Books (for example, I am currently reading Introduction to Linear Algebra, 5 ed. By Gilbert Strang)
  • Newsletters (such as Data Science Central)
  • Social Media (I prefer LinkenIn articles)

If you have a creative streak, you can also try your hand at writing a blog article or delivering a presentation. The research effort required will force you to think about topics you might not have otherwise considered.

Failure Opportunity

Most ultra runners inevitably experience the dreaded Did Not Finish (DNF) race “honor”. Reasons vary; for me, the most frequent cause has been getting too cold to continue. Hypothermia onset can happen due to failure to carry appropriately warm layers when needed, getting caught in an expected thunderstorm, slipping during a river crossing, and so on. In my opinion, dropping out of a race due to potential or certain hypothermia is one of the best reasons to stop a run short.

Some E-Discovery matters do not unfold gracefully, for whatever reason(s). When these situations occur in the E-Discovery world, we cannot submit a DNF. Instead, step back, over-communicate, and methodically get the wayward process back on track. E-Discovery issues that temporarily derail a project are not survival problems, though they may feel quite unpleasant at the moment. Expect that not everything you try will work out immediately. Address issues head-on until you get a successful solution. AND, as always, continue putting one foot in front of the other!


We all have primal endurance skills that we can harness in the pursuit of our E-Discovery challenges. Actual running is not required unless, of course, you so wish. To recap, here are four tactics that can help you improve your E-Discovery game:

#1 Push your limits to foster growth, but know when to request assistance.
#2 Put in the work to develop your core E-Discovery skill set.
#3 Explore advancements in E-Discovery and related fields such as Privacy, Records Management, Data Science, and so forth for news likely to have an impact on your work.
#4 Turn your failures into opportunities.


DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this blog is not intended as legal advice or as an opinion on specific facts. For more information about these issues, please contact the author(s) of this blog or your existing LitSmart contact. The invitation to contact the author is not to be construed as a solicitation for legal work. Any new attorney/client relationship will be confirmed in writing.

Topics: E-Discovery E-Discovery Technology KTLitSmart Opportunity Ultra Running

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