This is the second article in a series that explores practical tools and strategies to proactively manage costs and effectively navigate through the eDiscovery process for litigation, internal investigations and regulatory matters. Document management decisions made well before the commencement of any dispute impact document authenticity as well as ease and cost of navigating through the eDiscovery process. This series will provide practical tips on document management, data mapping, discovery planning, custodian interviews, document processing and hosting, and eDiscovery technology, as well as explore proposed arbitration rules and alternative dispute resolution.
Construction disputes are inevitable and the document review process is often the most expensive part. The emails exchanged and documents created over the course of a project can be voluminous, and parties to a dispute will need to carefully sort through the mountain of digital paperwork to identify relevant documents. Fortunately, good document management protocols can streamline the process, saving time and money.
Following consistent naming conventions for recurring documents goes a long way towards reducing the costs of eDiscovery.
For example, change orders are often saved as “CO Number 1,” “CO#1,” “CO No 1,” “Change Order 1,” “Change Order #1,” “Change Order No 1,” or (and even more problematically) “Scan 0001.pdf.” Similarly, meeting minutes are saved as “Planning Committee Minutes,” “MOM Planning Committee,” “Meeting Minutes — Planning Committee,” or any number of additional variations.
It does not matter which naming convention your organization chooses, though you should avoid Scan 0001.pdf, the key is to pick one method for each grouping of documents and be consistent in how those records are referred to. While the differences in naming may seem insignificant, choosing a consistent naming convention will allow counsel to efficiently identify and sort through the relevant change orders or meeting minutes, speeding up the document review process.
Another common document management issue is overuse of the phrase “Privileged and Confidential.” The issue with writing Privileged and Confidential on every document without regard to whether the document is actually privileged is that the phrase becomes meaningless.
In fact, it slows down the document review process as counsel are unable to rely on the designation and must thus carefully examine the origins of each document.
On the flip side, it would be extremely helpful if documents that are created for counsel, or at the request of counsel, are designated as such. This helps minimize the risk of inadvertent disclosure and speeds up the document review process.
Version control is another area that should be addressed in a revamped document management protocol. During the document review process, counsel often need to distinguish final versions of documents from draft versions. To streamline this process, organizations should adopt common naming/numbering conventions for draft and final documents.
A Document Management System (DMS) is designed to resolve most of these issues through document profile selections, taking file naming and management out of the hands of individual users. Users will still need to apply consistent tags and follow the organization’s DMS guidelines, but it is easier to manage one system than 100 engineers.
Emails typically form a large proportion of the documents collected in a construction dispute. To reduce the cost of review, mailboxes (both inbox items and sent items) should be organized. While specific folder structure needs can vary by organization, it is extremely helpful to utilize separate folders for separate projects.
While not always possible, it is also best to avoid emails that discuss multiple projects. Additionally, best practice is to always include the relevant project in the email subject lines. An organized inbox can significantly cut down on the cost of document review.
A proper DMS and some upfront work in managing an organization’s emails and documents can have a significant impact on eDiscovery costs down the road. Once these procedures are in place, the next step to proactively manage eDiscovery costs is to create a Data Map. Our next article will discuss this topic in further detail.
Candice Chan-Glasgow is director, review services at Heuristica Discovery Counsel LLP. Heuristica has offices in Toronto and Calgary and is the sole national law firm whose practice is limited to eDiscovery and electronic evidence.