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STEPS™, STEPS™ framework, STEPS, STEPS framework, process, framework

Back in 1997, I was a young graduate taking some time off before embarking on what would be the first step into a long legal career. I knew law school would be a game-changer. Time would be limited, and my devotion to the profession would be all-consuming, particularly through the early stages of my career. With this in mind, I decided to pack up my bags, hop a plane to Australia with a couple of friends, and just see what would happen next.

We had a ticket there, a ticket back, and six months to fill. We also had almost no money, because that would be too easy. Yep, young and stoopid! We started bartending in Sydney, which didn’t really work out as it only paid for room and board. Besides, I wanted to see the country, not spend six months in a bar. That’s when I saw the post for farm work. This was it. I thought. – This was the solution. I was going to farm, and if you know the Rupprecht family history, I come from a very long line of German farmers (a story for another time and definitely not my own personal experience). I could do this, though. It’s in my blood!

So, off we went to become farmhands, ready to put in a hard day’s work and make enough money to see the beautiful country that awaited us. Day 1 on the kiwi farm, we were asked to prune a tree. There were acres upon acres to the farm with thousands of trees to scale back. We were going to crush this! We proceeded to take over an hour to prune a single tree at a rate of two Aussie dollars per tree. We quickly realised we were faced with an impossible task: there was no way we were going to get off this farm with any kind of savings.

Every day, we honed our skills. Getting in early, staying there late, and trying everything we could to cut down on time. We worked the trees together, and we worked the trees alone. One would clip and clear, and the other would branch-pull and tie down to a wire. We tried every combination and explored every shortcut. We slowly formulated a process. Clip, clip, pull, pull, tie, move to the next. Clip, clip, pull, pull, tie, move to the next. We became a machine, and when hiccups occurred  – rain, snow, cold, sun in the eyes, illness, you name it – we knew what needed to be handled and worked around that to an end. We were surgical, methodical, and ultimately very, very fast.

The pruning season on a kiwi farm lasts about three months and takes place during the Aussie winter. On Day 1, we each made about 8 Aussie dollars. By the end, we were raking in hundreds. Other farm hands would watch what we were doing to learn the tricks we were employing. It was like “A Beautiful Mind” for tree pruning. When we tied down the last tree, the farmer informed us it was the quickest project he had ever seen, finishing six weeks ahead of schedule. It was nice to hear, but sadly, we worked ourselves out of a job – or so we thought. Before long, other farmers in the area were asking for our help and paying a premium to get them back on track before spring hit. We remained busy, and we were earning big.

Almost three months in, and we went from an impossible position to owning a beat-up 1968 Holden with a pocket full of cash that would take us through the rest of the adventure. We saw everything from the surf swells of the southern coast up through the Red Centre to Ayers Rock, better referred to as Uluru. We swam with crocodiles (not on purpose), and sailed out to the Great Barrier Reef for a dip in the crystal-clear waters.

We did and saw everything! Most of all, I learned a lot about myself. It instilled within me the belief that nothing is impossible and if you work hard, have a set goal in mind with a plan/process in place to achieve it, all will work out.

It’s no surprise that I now find myself in an industry where these traits come in very handy. Regularly, I am met with seemingly impossible challenges. Investigations requiring the interrogation of large volumes of data to be collected, processed, searched, analysed, reviewed and organised for disclosure in a very short period of time. There are clients with data problems so vast that even getting to grips with starting points seem to be unattainable. It’s like having an industrial-sized farm of trees to get through and no time to prune.

In my experience, all matters have similar aspects you can control. In fact, if repeatable processes are put into place, upwards of 80% of an investigation and/or discovery request or obligation can be managed and controlled with predictability, recognising efficiencies in both time and cost. With 80% largely handled, the remaining attributes you can’t control become the centre of focus, allowing the true strategic application of our tools the opportunity to create advantages. It is in this 20% that we really learn what we can do and how far we can go in finding those avenues of success to the seemingly impossible.

Thankfully, I am not alone in this view. I have found myself surrounded by likeminded experts in the field, also pushing the boundaries of what can be done. It is also no surprise that the same views around “controlling what you can to focus on what you can’t” are cornerstones of iDiscovery Solutions (iDS) philosophy. iDS even have a name for it: STEPS™ (Structured Team Management Performance System).

The iDS STEPS™ framework was developed to maximize efficiency, minimize disruption, and drive success on every engagement – with timely and consistent execution. STEPS™ is integrated into the fabric of our systems, processes, and training, covering conflicts, privacy, security, budget, and execution.

At iDS, STEPS™ is not just a clever marketing tool to imply we have a process, it is our process. It consists of 6 elements and begins with Listen & Learn. From there, we’re onto Define & Plan, Intake & Strategize, Execute & Deliver, Manage & Document, then, finally, Close & Debrief – ensuring nothing is missed on the road to eventual resolution. (Having 1968 Holden to help get you there is completely optional.)


iDS provides consultative data solutions to corporations and law firms around the world, giving them a decisive advantage  – both in and out of the courtroom. Our subject matter experts and data  strategists specialize in finding solutions to complex data problems – ensuring data can be leveraged as an asset and not a liability.

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