I am not a big sports fan, but I love sports documentaries. Recently I watched “Kobe Doin’ Work,” a 2009 film directed by the famed Spike Lee in which Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star gives his commentary as he watches a game he played against the San Antonio Spurs in 2008. While it is interesting for many reasons, I couldn’t help but think about how it relates to our practice as attorneys and discovery in particular.

What stood out for me is how Kobe talks about the difference between “running plays” and “sequences of options” and how essential players with high “Basketball IQ” are to him.

In talking about the Lakers’ offense, Bryant says that people “…think it’s some mystical, magical, extremely complex Albert Einstein offense. It’s really not. It’s just basketball.” The Lakers’ coach, Phil Jackson, Kobe explains, does not teach plays for the team to execute, rather, he creates sequences of options.

To me it is an indication that they are moving away from an enumerated process of steps or a recipe and towards a more fluid understanding of how to leverage skills, experience and the situation as it currently exists to maximize potential. If you are committed to your play to drive towards the basket, there is no opportunity for success of that play if you are stuck along the way. If instead you are not committed to any single play, you have multiple sequences of options available.

Explicit in Kobe’s support of this strategy is reliance on players with, what Kobe calls, “high basketball IQ.” For him, skills alone are not enough, you cannot be successful with a sequence of options if you don’t have the ability to see the potential in each of those options at each point in time regardless of how good of a shooter you are. It’s not just being able to shoot, it’s knowing when to and when not to shoot which shot. As Kobe says—”It’s somewhat of a chess game, you have to think things through.”

For attorneys in discovery, we are often running plays rather than looking for sequences of options. Too often we follow a recipe regardless of the potential of success and do not leverage our own “Discovery IQ.” In predictive coding for example, too many vendors are selling recipes—regardless of the feedback you get from the data, do Step A then Step B then Step C. What we need to do is look at the technical tools we have—key words, filters, concept groups, predictive coding and common sense—and put them into a tool kit in combination with our Discovery IQ. Then we will be able to leverage them together and take advantage of varying opportunities for success.

As any new matter comes in, you might not know how the tools will respond to any of the data. However if you have a high Discovery IQ you can understand the situation, understand the data, and understand the exigencies of your particular matter. You can leverage some, many, or all of the available tools for your success and achieve value-driven, high quality, legal work. If you run search terms and they are low precision and recall, change them. If you can effectively filter by senders of email, do so. If you can prioritize documents which are more likely to be responsive to review before documents that are less likely to be responsive, do so.

However, it is all dependent on your Discovery IQ; your ability to understand the tools you have and the feedback you get, how to use the tools, when to use them, and how it all can work to your advantage. Don’t bother learning plays, build your skills, enhance your IQ and bring value to your team.

berrentSteven Berrent is the managing director of WilmerHale DiscoverySolutions. His primary responsibilities include leading the firm’s efforts with respect to developing and implementing strategies and staffing models for the management of complex litigation/controversy matters with specific emphasis on e-discovery, document review and bringing added value to WilmerHale clients through WilmerHale DiscoverySolutions.

Steven can be reached at 212-230-8892 or

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