Document Management Is Ripe For eDiscovery

July 18, 2012

If you work in any aspect related to the legal community, you should be aware that eDiscovery generates a great deal of chatter. Like most search and information retrieval functions, progress is erratic.

While eDiscovery, according to the marketers who flock to Legal Tech and other conferences, will save clients and attorneys millions of dollars in the long run, there will still be some associated costs with it. Fees do not magically disappear and eDiscovery will have its own costs that can accrue, even if they may be a tad lower than the regular attorney’s time sheets.

One way to keep costs down is to create a document management policy, so if you are ever taken to court it will reduce the amount of time and money spent in the litigation process. We have mixed feelings about document management. The systems are often problematic because the management guidance and support are inadequate. Software cannot “fix” this type of issue. Marketers, however, suggest software may be up to the task.

JD Supra discusses the importance of a document management plan in “eDiscovery and Document Management.” The legal firm of Warner, Norcross, and Judd wrote a basic strategy guide for JD Supra for people to get started on a document management plan. A plan’s importance is immeasurable:

“With proper document management, you’ll have control over your systems and records when a litigation hold is issued and the eDiscovery process begins, resulting in reduced risk and lower eDiscovery costs. This is imperative because discovery involving electronically stored data — including e-mail, voicemail, calendars, text messages and metadata — is among the most time-consuming and costly phases of any dispute. Ultimately, an effective document management policy is likely to contribute to the best possible outcome of litigation or an investigation.”

The best way to start working on a plan is to outline your purpose and scope—know what you need and want the plan to do. Also specify who will be responsible for each part of the plan—not designating proper authority can leave the entire plan in limbo. Never forget a records retention policy—it is legally require to keep most data for seven years or permanently, but some data can be deleted. Do not pay for data you do not have to keep. Most important of all, provide specific direction for individual tasks, such as scanning, word management, destruction schedule, and observing litigation holds. One last thing, never under estimate the importance of employee training and audit schedules, the latter will sneak up on you before you know it.

If, however, you still are hesitant in drafting a plan can carry some hefty consequences:

  • “Outdated and possibly harmful documents might be available and subject to discovery.
  • Failure to produce documents in a timely fashion might result in fines and jail time: one large corporation was charged with misleading regulators and not producing evidence in a timely matter and was fined $10 million.
  • Destroying documents in violation of federal statutes and regulations may result in fines and jail time: one provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act specifies a prison sentence of up to 20 years for someone who knowingly destroys documents with the intent to obstruct a government investigation.”

A document management plan is a tool meant to guide organizations in managing their data, outlining the tasks associated with it, and preparing for eventual audits and litigation procedures. Having a document management plan in place will make the eDiscovery process go quicker, but another way to make the process even faster and more accurate is using litigation support technology and predictive coding, such as provided by Polyspot.

Here at Beyond Search we have a healthy skepticism for automated content processing. Some systems perform quite well in quite specific circumstances. Examples include Digital Reasoning and Ikanow. Other systems are disappointing. Very disappointing. Who are the disappointing vendors? Not in this free blog. Sign up for Honk!, our no holds barred newsletter, and get that opt-in, limited distribution information today.

Whitney Grace, July 18, 2012

Sponsored by Polyspot

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