Every month, Relativity user groups across the U.S. and UK meet to discuss e-discovery best practices and share their experiences in the field. A St. Louis user group meeting in December discussed Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f), which references the meet and confer conference, and the meeting yielded some great discussion around best practices for preserving, producing, and receiving data.
Here are the three big takeaways from the group.
1. Exploring All Possible Data Locations is Key to Preservation
Preservation is the first step in an effective e-discovery process, and to effectively preserve data, you first need to understand where the data exists. Talking to your clients to learn what they have and their accessibility to the data is a good start, but you’ll need to dig deeper than that.
For example, does your client have an archive policy in place? One attendee at the user group meeting pointed out that her firm has a 30-day archive policy. This brings up concerns about what data might be archived or stashed away; it reinforces the need for tracking litigation holds and reminds us of the importance of turning off archive solutions for custodians involved in the matter. In these situations, ensuring your client understands what data should not be archived and how long they need to keep archived information is key.
Additionally, you should consider what data may exist outside the normal stream. For instance, employees, knowing their email is only kept for 30 days, might archive a copy offline. Remember: If data exists elsewhere, it is discoverable.
The most important thing is to really understand what your client has before the meet and confer and to not promise anything you can’t deliver.
2. Leverage What You Have and Let Cooperation Help You Out
The exchange of data is a huge part of the litigation process, and cooperation is the word the courts use again and again. But what do you need to consider?
First, be aware that the more you are willing to exchange, the more power you have in sorting and searching your data. Providing date information allows you to quickly filter to a particular time frame, narrow your document set, and sort in a chronological order. However, date data is often not exchanged—though quite often, it is available if you ask for it.
Trading the full text of documents is another option that counsel often overlooks, despite the valuable time it saves in making documents searchable. Yes, this data can be generated, but imagine not having to take that time.
Email threading, which is becoming a very common tool in the review arsenal, presents yet another opportunity for cooperation. Agreeing to exchange only the inclusive items can be beneficial for both sides, as it reduces the number of items to produce and limits excess email junk to review.
3. The Devil Is in the Details
Are PDFs good enough? Do they need to be searchable? Are tiffs the better route with metadata?
Receiving or providing data that doesn’t comply with your or opposing counsel’s preferred methods isn’t always happily received. The key to avoid this is simply having an educated discussion and making decisions based on information from your team—not what the other side demands.
A common consensus in the user group was that it helps to have a standard document for exchanging data to provide attorneys at their firm. Relativity documentation outlines basic delivery specifications for a Relativity environment, but it might be beneficial to build out a more detailed document for the case team to take with to the meet and confer and provide to opposing counsel.
Or better yet, follow Judge Andrew Peck’s advice and just take your geek to court.