The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many organizations’ bottom line. To help start 2021 off right, here are five strategies organizations can implement to reduce eDiscovery costs.
Create a litigation readiness plan
It is important to have a litigation readiness plan in place prior to the commencement of litigation. The plan should include an internal litigation response team consisting of management, counsel, IT staff and a point person to oversee the process.
The litigation readiness plan should include policies that address the “identification” phase of an eDiscovery project. Identification involves understanding the location and nature of the data and the people involved. To this end, organizations should have a “data map,” or a detailed list of the hardware and software sources of electronically stored information (ESI). The data map should also identify any record retention schedules and locations of ESI that may be hosted in the cloud or held by a third party (i.e. a subcontractor or bank).
It is also important to have a plan in place for the “preservation” phase of an eDiscovery project. The preservation obligation is the requirement to take reasonable and good-faith steps to preserve potentially relevant ESI. To meet this obligation, organizations should have a plan to, among other things, identify an IT liaison to co-ordinate the preservation, suspend automatic file destruction policies, identify records for preservation and issue litigation hold notices to custodians of potentially relevant ESI.
Having such a team and plan in place will allow an organization to respond quickly to eDiscovery requests, saving time and money.
Audit document management procedures
One of the most effective ways to minimize eDiscovery cost and risk is to start with good document management and retention policies. However, even the best document management policies are ineffective unless they are audited and followed. For example, employees working on a jobsite may save daily reports to their personal laptop (instead of the document management system) out of convenience. It is important to have procedures to address and rectify violations.
Email links to documents
Most document management systems will allow users to share links to documents rather than attaching files to the email. Adopting this practice can have multiple benefits. From a document review perspective, links will drastically reduce the number of documents requiring review and the volume of data hosted for review. This can result in significant cost savings and reduce the number of duplicate documents that are reviewed for relevance and privilege.
Use templates for standardized documents
Using templates for standardized documents such as meeting minutes, daily reports and decision records will reduce document review costs. Counsel will often need to identify sets of these records for the litigation. Documents that follow the same structure are easier to search for and organize during the document review process. It is also faster for counsel to review documents that follow a standard template as it is easier to zero in on the important sections of the document.
Understand your data
Understanding the types of relevant documents in your possession can help drive cost savings in the document review process. For example, photographs, CAD drawings and shape files may require a separate document review plan as these types of documents will not respond well to keyword searching or analytics. If you can identify these documents through document titles or folder names, they can be segregated and reviewed separately. Further, if there are thousands of handwritten timesheets that are saved into the project folder, it would be ideal to identify these at the outset as they do not require an individual eyes-on document review.
Discovery is typically the most time-consuming and expensive aspect of any legal dispute. Adopting these five strategies can help parties save time and money.
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.
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