This is the first 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 tips on document management, data mapping, discovery planning, custodian interviews, document processing and hosting, eDiscovery technology and explore proposed arbitration rules and alternative dispute resolution.
An initial step for any construction company looking to proactively manage costs through the eDiscovery process is to re-examine its document management system (DMS).
A DMS is a system used to store, manage and track electronic documents. The general benefits of an effective DMS have been touted for years. A DMS offers enhanced security and employees spend less time searching for information while losing less time to versioning issues. While these are all important considerations, a crucial perspective that is often overlooked is the eDiscovery aspect. An effective DMS can save an organization significant time and money in identifying, preserving, collecting and reviewing documents for litigation, internal investigations and other regulatory matters.
The most fundamental feature of an eDiscovery-friendly DMS is the ability to export data out of the system. This may sound basic, but it is an important inquiry to make — several DMS use proprietary formats that cannot be exported, creating an expensive eDiscovery nightmare. You may have the most organized and categorized document set, but if you cannot export the data to a suitable format, your eDiscovery costs will soar.
It is also important to consider whether native file metadata and metadata associated with the DMS metadata can be preserved and exported from the DMS. Metadata is information about the data and can include the author of the document, the date the document was created and last modified, the location of the document on the server, and the author and recipients of an email.
Not only is metadata important for efficient searching and document review, it can also be of evidentiary value in legal or regulatory proceedings. Metadata is important in the eDiscovery world and a good DMS will preserve both the native file metadata and the metadata associated with the DMS.
To effectively identify sources of potentially relevant information, an eDiscovery-friendly DMS should have robust search capabilities. This should include the ability to search date ranges, email custodians, folder names and file names, and even the full text of a document. While it is important to understand the metadata fields that can be searched through your DMS, it is equally essential to understand the information that cannot be searched. For example, some email systems search the body of an email, but not the content of the email attachments.
From an eDiscovery perspective, an effective DMS will allow an organization to effectively identify sources of potentially relevant information and then export the data in a manner that preserves the integrity of the document. Equipping an organization with an eDiscovery-friendly DMS is the first step to containing eDiscovery costs. The next challenge, to be explored in our next article, is properly utilizing the DMS, including following consistent conventions for naming and saving documents within the organization.
Candice Chan-Glasgow is director of review services at Heuristica Discovery Counsel LLP, which has offices in Toronto and Calgary. It is the sole national law firm whose practice is limited to eDiscovery and electronic evidence.