The Relationship between eDiscovery and Information Governance (IG)

When entering into litigation, one of the first things to consider is your organization’s datamap, or the entire scope of stored content for the company. This includes live data on assigned computers and devices, archived data on tapes or in the cloud and shared data in organizational repositories like Google Drive, Sharepoint, Dropbox or OneDrive.

The documented strategy or framework that defines the lifecycle, access and retention workflows around this content is called Information Governance (also known as IG), and it could be your best friend when it’s time to build the Litigation document strategy.

A documented strategy provides a foundation on which these controls can be built and adhered to. Without a documented IG strategy, it can be easy for the day-to-day operations of an organization to stray. On top of that, a lack of a written document, or non-compliance to the plan can potentially lead to disaster should an organization enter litigation.

Information governance initiatives are designed to provide for better auditing and control. When data is called into question, the information governance standards provide the framework to find the chain of edits and alterations or final versions of content. Better auditing processes inherently lead to better accountability throughout the organization, but the fidelity of the information is also a critical aspect of information governance.

When it comes to building a litigation strategy, the accuracy of data collection is essential to success. If critical data is corrupted or lost, the firm may not be able to complete its operations to meet its deadlines. In fact, it may not be able to complete its operations at all. If counsel reports to the judge that key data has been lost or if they need to recover data again, it can cause significant burden for the client at an already tumultuous time, not to mention impacting the confidence of the judge.

Information governance also comes into play any time the chain of custody is called into question. It’s not only the visible aspects of data that needs to be maintained but also aspects such as metadata that could otherwise be discarded by those who are not aware of governance initiatives. Once this data is lost, it may never be recovered.

Time is money: Agile and confident responses save money and win cases.

When data requests begin, it’s important for the company to effectively communicate the organization’s datamap to counsel to help assess value and risk for the scope of content in question. If there is no information governance framework in place, it’s possible that all organizational data may be brought into question at one point or another in the case.

It’s estimated that only 30% of most organization’s stored data is actually valuable to the company. In litigation, typically less than 1% of data is valuable to the cause. A well designed and implemented IG strategy can save a company hundreds of thousands of dollars when it’s time to review for responsiveness and privilege by promoting the most relevant data for review from the start.

For example, some companies use tools like GSuite (Google) or Office 365 (Microsoft) for email and document management. These services make it easy to collect data by date range, by custodian, keyword or participants in correspondence. The entire scope of organizational content can be searched instantly from a universal console. The resulting data can be turned over to counsel or an eDiscovery vendor to structure data in a uniform manner, deduplicate and batch out to document reviewers for production selection.

Adversely, if the organization allows for traditional client/server based communication like that leveraged by Microsoft Exchange and Outlook email or utilizes a ‘shared network drive’ for content management with loose taxonomy and access standards, more data may need to pass through the eDiscovery process to review than is necessary. Additionally, consider local email backups, organizational artifacts at homes and mobile devices… The scope of collection and review could become quite challenging, interruptive or embarrassing to regular business of the company.

The most expensive part of litigation discovery is often document review. The reason is often due to poor information governance strategy, whether in execution or the competence of the actual strategy itself. This is why an information governance plan is important for all organizations, however simple it may be.

Legal hold and it’s role in Information Governance.

The right technology can make all the difference when it comes to a legal hold. Technology can be used to facilitate this in multiple ways.

  • During the legal hold notification process, technology can be used to automate the notifications that are sent out to custodians.
  • During the actual legal hold, technology can be used to automatically enforce the legal hold on digital documents throughout the organization. This provides far superior control mechanics than simply notifying custodians.
  • By locking down digital documents, an organization and its legal team does not need to rely upon the individual competence or compliance of employees.

Though a legal hold may be a relatively simple concept, it can become quite complicated in practice. Due to the sheer proliferation of data throughout an organization, legal holds have to be comprehensive and well-planned. From first identifying the need for a legal hold to distributing the legal hold throughout the company, an organization needs to be able to maintain tight control of its processes.

Automated services, document management technology and a reliable litigation support partner can help. Have questions about where to start? Reach out today!

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