Each legal case has its own natural course of action, following time-tested steps that lead to its successful conclusion. EDiscovery is a part of the preparation phase that happens prior to trial, with parties from both sides asking for information that can be used to determine the facts of the case. If a business fails to comply with the laws pertaining to discovery, there are serious ramifications, including stiff fines that could bankrupt a business.
To better organize processes, businesses subject to legal action often put an eDiscovery workflow in place. No two discovery workflows are alike, varying based on an individual business’s industry and resources. For that reason, many businesses choose to use eDiscovery workflow software to include reporting and auditing of each activity. This helps business put timelines and procedures in place to make sure the process runs smoothly.
A workflow is not only unique to the business or industry, but also to the group within a business. For instance, information technology teams might follow a separate workflow from administrative staff, since their responsibility is to extrapolate and provide this data to legal counsel.
I.T.’s responsibility often begins long before an eDiscovery request has been presented. Daily backup procedures and e-mail retention policies should be in place from the first day of operations. Those procedures should be demonstrable in court, with personnel able to prove that every effort is made to preserve data that could be requested as part of a legal case.
A business owner, on the other hand, will be tasked with oversight of various areas of discovery preparedness and response. An owner has to ensure data is being properly preserved while also making sure personnel understand the importance of both taking discovery requests seriously and responding as promptly as possible.
For legal counsel, an eDiscovery workflow can help them manage data collection during discovery. It can streamline processes in order to manage multiple cases at once. Additionally, multiple team members can work on discovery, keeping each other up-to-date on the progress of each case.
While each workflow will vary, below are some of the basic stages for all parties involved.
Before creating a workflow, a business should carefully plan how electronic discovery will be handled. Who are the key players? How will the business monitor that the business is prepared for litigation at all times?
During the planning phase, the business may even choose to map out how the workflow will be created, along with how many workflows will be developed. The business should also have a distribution plan to ensure all relevant employees will remain aware of eDiscovery response processes.
For legal teams, the planning phase involves an in-depth look at the steps it will take to have the information necessary to present each case. This includes determining which team member will take care of each part of the process. At this point, a firm may be able to determine the amount of resources that must be dedicated to collecting data for each case.
Each business should not only have a foolproof plan for regular data backups, but also a disaster preparedness plan that will keep data safe in the event of an emergency. If a business’s data is trusted to a Cloud service provider, the business should take the initiative to ensure its provider’s backups are reliable.
This phase should also address how data will be set aside in the event of a “litigation hold request.” Can server space be dedicated to storing this data for years? How will litigation hold data be treated during the backup process? It’s imperative that data that is part of a legal hold be safe from harm during the specified period of time, even if that period of time stretches out to eight years or longer.
For legal personnel, this phase involves ensuring information is properly communicated regarding which data must be preserved as part of the legal hold. This part of the workflow should cover enforcement of any legal holds.
The collection phase of your workflow should include the gathering of data from electronic sources, as well as any necessary discussions with involved parties. For an executive, this may mean having meetings with employees who were involved in creating the data being requested as part of the discovery process.
During this phase, businesses will likely participate in analyzing and preparing the data for submission to the requesting parties. The workflow should reflect these duties, as well as any approval process staff should go through before making a final submission to outside parties.
For legal counsel, the collection phase can present challenges. Counsel must not only obtain data in a format that is compatible with their own software, but they must produce that data in a format that can be displayed in a conference or in court.
Benefits of Automation
Creating an eDiscovery workflow can be time-consuming and complex, as parties attempt to cover every aspect of fulfilling data requests. Using automation, parties can shave time off of the process, along with allowing multiple parties to participate in the process.
Another benefit to workflow automation is the ability to link to separate worksheets directly from the workflow. Specific teams can be assigned to tasks, for instance, with details of those assignments in a separate area. Dashboards can provide an overview of cases, as well as allowing multiple team members to access workflows for updating. This collaboration can help processes flow more smoothly.
The eDiscovery process can feel overwhelming at times. By using workflow processes, you can help make the work less daunting, taking the process one step at a time. The right automation software can take workflow a step further, allowing for collaboration while providing businesses and legal teams the ability to create multi-faceted workflows that include information on personnel assignments and timelines.
LexisNexis® offers comprehensive solutions that work together—and with other industry-leading tools—helping you control the volume of data, reduce litigation costs and maintain a seamless chain of custody throughout discovery.
Each of these solutions can be offered in a hosted environment, with flexible options and access to fully customizable support resources dedicated to your success.