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8 e-Discovery Tips for In-house Counsel: How Tighter Processes Can Lead to Cheaper Review

Stan Pierson

We’ve all heard it before. The stages of e-discovery become more and more expensive as you move across the EDRM, maxing out when you hit that dreaded money- and time-sucking step: review. And though the entire case team aims to keep costs down, in-house legal tends to feel the most pressure from internal stakeholders.

But where do you start? What’s the magical cure for cutting costs?

Unfortunately, there’s no single answer. But, by combining process and technology, there are steps you can take to chip away at data volumes, increase your efficiency, and reduce costs.

1. Ask yourself: WWBFD (What Would Benjamin Franklin Do)?

Remember the inventor’s famous words? “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.” Take a step back and apply those words to how you think about your data.

Whether you’re currently involved in litigation or not, you should define e-discovery leadership within your organization—for instance, who’s the project manager? Who can guide the process from beginning to end? Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s one of your attorneys; regardless, find someone—or multiple someones—who can oversee each stage in the e-discovery process and crown them PM.

Next, audit your current procedures and determine what you’re doing well and what’s lacking—and don’t be shy about asking your software vendor, IT, and internal admins for tips and best practices. Once you know the steps that need to be taken, who needs to take them, and when, write it down. Documenting a clear process is the key to following it in the future. You’ll also be steps ahead when it comes to defensibility.

2. Give technology a role.

Have a defined and documented process? Good. Now, automate and standardize that process. Use project templates to set up dedicated and repeatable workflows for each stage; for example, maybe you have standard case types where review will have the same structure each time. Using Relativity, you can create a template for, say, pharmaceutical litigation or construction litigation. When you create a new workspace, the template will include the commonly used views, saved searches, layouts, and profiles, so you can get up and running quickly.

3. Get crafty with your data mapping.

Mapping out the data your company creates—and who creates it, how they create it, and where they store it—can have a huge impact on how you approach review. For example, if you have a clear picture of what type of information is available, you’ll be better able to use that insight during the meet and confer to whittle down the scope of the project.

You can get creative when making your map by sending legal hold-style questionnaires on a regular basis—even when litigation is not imminent. This will give you real-time insight into the types of data your company is creating and storing, while also encouraging your employees to think about how they organize their documents. It’s a win-win.

4. Collect only what you need.

As we’ve said before, it often isn’t necessary to collect a custodian’s entire hard drive—at least not in most civil litigations. Try performing targeted collections. The scout feature in Relativity Collection, for example, lets you quickly view folder structure, file names, and system metadata on a custodian’s machine. So, rather than collect everything, you can make smart decisions on what you need for the case.

5. Keep it simple, but smart.

Once you make it to the review stage, you should make use of your platform’s basic functionality, like de-duplication, keyword searching, and text analytics. For example, easy wins like email threading can save you hours of review time in just a few clicks. Of course, you’ll need to discuss some of your techniques during your meet and confer, but don’t limit your discussion with opposing counsel to search terms—try to come to an agreement on the full review plan, suggesting techniques such as only producing documents that hit on the top terms. You can then use keyword searching to find those documents and safely ignore anything that doesn’t meet the criteria, ultimately reducing your data set from the start.

6. Don’t be intimidated by advanced technology.

Computer-assisted review has received quite a bit of buzz over the past few years, yet only 43 percent of in-house counsel say they’ve used it—and the majority of that group uses it on less than a quarter of their matters.

Technology-assisted review may be relatively new to our space, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of its benefits. Start by learning what it can do for your team. Use cases range from using it for quick turnaround productions to simply prioritizing a huge set of data. At the end of the day, when all parties in the litigation embrace the use of technology for review early in the process, discovery disputes will likely decrease. Litigators will be happy, and so will the judges.

7. Make end-to-end your friend.

If you can centralize your e-discovery processes into one end-to-end system, do it. By bringing everything under one roof, you’ll be able to standardize procedures and eliminate many technical setbacks, such as conversion issues between incompatible data stores. Along the way, your team will become experts in using the system, making you even more efficient in matters across the company.

8. Practice, practice, practice...and then practice some more.

Help your team become more familiar with your e-discovery processes by making other procedures in your organization—such as HR dispositions or compliance projects—consistent with your e-discovery workflows. You can even apply your processes to one-off initiatives. For example, here at kCura, we recently took Relativity Legal Hold for a spin to ensure all employees adhered to our new password security rules. It might sound obvious, but practice really does make perfect.

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