by Sara Skeens - Altep on November 15, 2017
During discovery, a world of information is right under our fingertips. Any time we are dealing with data in investigations, litigation, or compliance matters, we are working to identify the who, what, when, where, and how of the issue at hand. In that process, we are all super sleuths searching through data to find the links and solve the case.
With the sheer volume of data that exists today, a single detective working on the case is no longer sufficient. Forward-thinking organizations will pull together people with different specializations to investigate a single source of data. Each subject matter expert carries a wealth of knowledge to help connect the dots.
When that insight is housed in different minds or documented in different places, sometimes the connections are fuzzy, or they’re impossible to identify. However, if the information can be localized, we can work together to build connections that reduce time and costs.
Step 1: Assemble Your Investigative Toolkit
One cannot become a super sleuth without cutting edge investigative and organization strategies. The sleuth cannot execute these strategies without a reliable set of tools to assist in finding and organizing facts, documenting information, and analyzing the results the investigation. For our teams at Altep and Advanced Discovery, Relativity Legal Hold and Relativity Fact Manager are those tools.
Far too often we focus on the information that we already know, which amounts to a single tree in the forest of our case. Zooming out to build and analyze the forest allows us to find paths that we may have previously missed and identify obstacles before jumping in. Getting through this forest is much easier with a map and an informed plan to bring the right gear. Running in naked with no direction and no supplies is probably going to end badly (just watch one of those naked survival shows—it’s no walk in the park). No matter what tools you choose to arm yourself with, your team will be better off with a formalized, tech-forward approach.
Get Started: Check out this white paper on available legal hold tools and how to use them on your next project.
Step 2: Inquire and Interrogate
At the outset of a case, there is always a base summary of information to start from: a complaint, a lead, triggers, or maybe a set of rules or regulations. Putting this information in Fact Manager gives us a place to start our investigation. Identifying key people, data sources, organization, events, and facts gives us the initial layout to begin branching off leads.
So, having this context, our next step is to formulate case-specific questionnaires for key custodians and technology or compliance personnel. We can craft the right questions and custodian lists based on what we already know.
We all know that many of the custodians holding precious information are busy and hard to nail down for an interview. In the face of this challenge, as well as the disorganization and information siloing that can be inevitable with manual processes, a purpose-built legal hold application frees up time from administrative tasks, allowing the sleuth to focus on the underlying investigation.
As we acquire information through Legal Hold, that information is documented in Fact Manager, which provides the framework for further investigation and later motion practice.
Get Started: Take a look at some best practices for crafting your custodian interviews.
Step 3: Employ Team-based Information Analysis
Relativity Fact Manager features the ability to filter, link, and report on information obtained by multiple super sleuths working on a case. So while one sleuth on the team may not be available to review all questionnaires or be on all phone calls, this central repository allows our team to make connections that would otherwise be lost due to inaccessible information stores. One sleuth may recognize the need for a follow-up question, or see a path that others did not. Having information in one place that can be analyzed by multiple perspectives creates new paths and ideas.
For our team, Fact Manager holds all the information collected through custodian interviews, questionnaires, and the initial facts provided by the client—all of which can be linked to documents within the workspace. This allows the data sleuth to have a high-level overview of all the information from the very beginning of the investigation so that she can start making connections and keep the big picture firmly in mind at each point along the way. Our entire team will work together to examine the data, analyze its content, and craft the right case strategy.
Get Started: Check out this article on why a centralized case summary matters, and what it might look like.
Finding a Way Out of the Woods
Having a clear picture of a case and building out a map creates a more efficient and streamlined data review process. Legal Hold and Fact Manager minimize the likelihood of surprise data sources, allow the team to define keywords and conceptual examples early, help pinpoint relevant data quickly, and reveal potential obstacles early to allow for planning. Used together, this power couple allows us to efficiently and effectively retrieve and track information from a wide array of sources—while providing a central location for that information so we can make meaningful connections to further guide our information retrieval efforts.
Whatever your software looks like, investing the right research and organization from the start will ensure your data super sleuths can quickly put the pieces together and create a map through the forest to solve the case.
Sara Skeens is a consultant for advanced review and analytics with Altep’s litigation consulting group. She is a Certified Relativity Expert (RCE) with over 10 years of experience, and has held positions in law firms, government, and service providers working in both criminal and civil litigation, as well as investigations.
Julia Byerson is a senior solutions consultant at Advanced Discovery with over eight years of experience in the field. Julia creates process flows for the enterprise e-discovery workflow, from identification of relevant data sources, to creation of legal holds, to execution of ESI collections and productions.