2020 will go down in infamy, we can all agree on that. And unfortunately, when the ball descends into the new year, the lasting effects of Covid-19 can not be willed away by mere resolution. Let’s consider how eDiscovery will be an essential component in braving the New Year and the years ahead.

 

 Post Covid-19 posture is everything.

This has nothing to do with whether or not you’re slouching right now (but, are you? 😉). Sure, sit up straight, but the posture that I want to nag you about pertains to whether or not your organization is looking and thinking forward, considering the global pandemic. Legal planning and positioning means more now than it did pre Covid-19, and should continue to be in the forefront of the minds of organizations, without exception, for years to come. 

Last Spring, we sprang into action, complying to mandatory Covid-19 stay-at-home orders, often at the expense of company oversight, and consequently, the soundness of data governance was put on the back burner. Combined with the huge increase of digital data creation and overworked systems, many an organization was left awake at night, wondering if they had done enough to plug the precarious holes that could cause a leak of pertinent data. Implementing a Data Loss Protection (DLP) solution through ediscovery is a good way to guarantee a good night’s sleep. 

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has said, “There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked, and those that will be.” If hackers’ prey on vulnerabilities, the pandemic centric opportunities do not disappoint. With remote working configurations and the excess of Covid-19 related PII and PHI flooding cyberspace, the smorgasbord of opportunity has hackers licking their chops.

Not to mention, the surge in coronavirus related litigation is palpable- From wrongful death to wrongful termination, many experts believe that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg of an epidemic of lawsuits. What does it look like to be litigation ready? I’m glad you asked- It is officially defined as:

“The state of being fully prepared for any litigation or investigation that may occur. It involves being prepared with a repeatable, defensible plan for how an organization will respond to a complaint, beginning with preservation of potentially relevant information.”

 

Keeping the price low when the Covid-19 stakes are high. 

This last year has dealt us a rotten hand, a full house of financial challenges, if you will. Covid-19 Quarantine, unemployment and business closures, have all played a  hand in facilitating a severe economic downturn. In the face of litigation, you want to do everything within your power, and budget, to defend yourself well. With a global recession thrust upon us, people and organizations across all economic landscapes are looking to get more done with less. Undoubtedly, small businesses have taken the biggest hit, with a drop of 20% in revenue since January. 

When clients look to eDiscovery to find the proverbial needle in their ever growing haystack, efficiency is key to keeping costs low. Furthermore, when deciding whether to insource or outsource eDiscovery, the trends show that external providers are often the strongest contenders in keeping costs down. As data challenges become more complex, outsourcing to an experienced vendor who understands the nuances and disciplines it takes to proficiently consult, collect, and cull your data is money well spent (and saved!).

DLP (Data Loss Prevention) is not an area to scrimp, considering the remediation cost of a data breach. DLP software detects potential for protected data, useful in breach remediation and improves response posture by detecting and reporting on the presence of sensitive data wherever it rests. DLP is important in a world increasingly desperate for better privacy for both common sense security or compliance driven initiatives. The fines alone for a regulatory infraction can be exorbitant, let alone the loss of sales, damages to valued customers and a bad look for your brand. Thanks to advances in technology, processing even terabytes of data through eDiscovery based processes like DLP are more affordable than they’ve ever been. 

Also, keep in mind, machines do it cheaper, and Amardeep Thandi, associate director at Control Risks, agrees. He says in response to mitigating cost in the face of exponentially increasing data volumes, thatthere is one relatively straightforward solution: Harnessing technology to reduce costs has and will continue to be a game changer for modern organizations.” Consider implementing AI and ML technology to drive efficiencies and automate legal or information governance workflows.  

 

When your data lake looks like an ocean.

It’s estimated that 1.7MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth in 2020 alone!” Sounds exciting, right? But in the case of eDiscovery, the more isn’t the merrier. Data collection is now bigger and broader than ever before with work from home norms. Today’s virtual workforce often resembles the wild west in the vast terrain where work life and home life have converged. Conversations are happening off the well-beaten path and even well-meaning employees might be conversing and storing data in places that are unwittingly rogue, without consideration to privacy, protection or compliance. Managing the  myriad of information created and consumed may seem daunting, much like throwing a lasso around the stars in the Western sky. But take courage knowing that unlike the stars, data can be controlled and infractions caught. 

As we dynamically adapt to this newfound hybrid office space, we need to do what we can to soften the ramifications of personal device usage, and re-direct people to the safety of the cloud and other in-place security protocols that organizations have created. With these challenges to superintendence and the stressed limits of bandwidth in mind, it’s a great idea to implement a plan to rein in the boundaries of boundless amounts of data. 

All of this being said, cue eDiscovery- the capable not-so-new sheriff in town, policing critical information, and quick on the draw of any and all possible data breaches. Documents are indexed  to make text searchable in databases, non searchable content is made searchable, duplicate content is identified, critical metadata is extracted and ML/AI/DLP indices are created to identify common, important and even protected content extending the once noisy corpus’ research and reporting abilities well beyond simple keyword search.

 

Conclusion

eDiscovery has been a trusty tool in the box of the legal world, and continues to evolve to address the progress of the platforms where it performs. Reimagining this tool, independent of legalese, will only boast its versatility and relevancy as companies seek to troubleshoot all of the above espoused obstacles the covid-19 crisis has created.

 Damage control is not enough anymore. Data management must be preeminent as we enter a new dispensation of ESI. It’s time for the status quo to give way to strategy, and mere compliance to careful consideration if we are to manage our data well, and proficiently navigate legal challenges in the ever-changing landscape that we now tread.