Preparing Your Company for the New Reality of ediscovery

Mark King, CIO, Lighthouse eDiscovery
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Mark King, CIO, Lighthouse eDiscovery

eDiscovery refers to the discovery of electronically storedinformation (ESI) that is gathered, sorted and prepared as evidence in preparation for a civil or criminal legal case. But why does this matter to you?

We have all seen thegrowing trend towards automation and streamliningprocesses in everything we do,and ediscovery is in no way left behind. In fact, many ediscovery processes now include new technologies and workflows. Therefore, it has become critical for anyone facing ediscovery challenges to stay up-to-date with best practices and implement effective solutions prior to a request for discovery. It is important that you and your IT team understand the processes around collecting, processing, reviewing, and producing ESI otherwise your company could face heavy fines and court sanctions.

So now that you know why it matters, let me explain some specific steps and best practices that you as a CIO can take when it comes to preparing your company for ediscovery. The tips below will allow you to scale appropriately, prepare prior to litigation, and ensure your company saves time and money on ediscovery.

1. Develop and implement an information governance program around data retention. Most IT leaders are awash with data. Enlist your in-house legal team, executive team, and business ownersand work with them to develop a program that manages what is kept, for how long, and under what circumstances.

Information governance is not only deleting what data you do not need, but it is also looking to find value in your business and ways to reduce cost. Begin with smaller, more high-risk sources of data as part of a larger information governance initiative. Once you have become comfortable managing those pieces, start to look into managing other data sources and expanding your program.

  â€‹Having a well-trained team, a plan in place, and knowing what to do when ediscovery hits will enable your business to efficiently and effectively respond under strict deadlines while producing quality work   

Benefit: This will allow you to efficiently find data andmanage your storage costs, all while building a relationship with your legal team and mitigating risk.

2. Build a quality partnership with your internal legalteam. As a CIO, your teams are well versed in technology-based RPFs and will understand the value of ediscovery from a cost standpoint. However, it is also critical to ensure your team is meeting regularly with your legal team to ensureyour initiatives are aligned and that you are aware of each other’s respective concerns. In partnership with legal, you can inform business leaders and others to make the right decisions when it comes to data and spend.

Benefit: This partnership will allow you to adequately meet the needs of the business, while thinking proactively about better future processes. Ultimately, your ediscovery workflowswill become moreconsistent and streamlined, as well as be in line with the overall company objectives.

3. Prepare your IT team on how best to respond to an ediscovery request. Often, employees with an IT background are unaware of the rapid pace of ediscovery, the importance of accuracy in litigation and the severe ramifications your company can be subjected to for non-compliance. Appoint a main point of contact, train them and build a well-defined project plan around your response.Have a specific team of people responsible for data sources so that your teamhas a well-rounded understanding of those sources and you can turnaround projects in a timely and effective manner.

Benefit: Havinga well-trained team, a plan in place, and knowing what to do when ediscovery hits (because when it hits, it hits really fast) will enable your business to efficiently and effectively respond under strict deadlines while producing quality work.

4. Develop a plan for handling mobile devices and data external to your traditional corporate systems, such as smartphones, tablets, and social media. In the ever-increasing mobile world, it is important to identify corporate data that might exist on these devices and create policies, procedures and employee trainings around how to handle them.Work with your legal team to come up with a policy that supports the implementation of technology,while adequately meeting business requirements and the needs of your employees. Finally, ensure these guidelines are routinely distributed and enforced.

Benefit: Ongoing,clear and consistent communication plays a vital role in keeping employees from using devices for anything other than approved uses. Having a plan in place will help you when those requests come in and you have to provide discovery responses to the other side as well.

5. Last, but most certainly not least, ensure and emphasize cross-team collaboration.Aside from Legal and IT, it is also important to emphasizeand encourage otherteams to work together. In order to efficiently and effectively complete projects, groups that typically do not work together must start. For example, IT and HR, Marketing and IT, Records Management and Sales, the list goes on. It is critical that you work together and understand each other’spriorities so that when ediscovery hits you know how to handle critical matters and who is responsible for what.

Benefit: Working together and understanding what each department does will enable your teams to communicate more effectively and better prepare for litigation.

These are the specific steps that I would recommend you, as a CIO, take when it comes to preparing your company for ediscovery. I realize there are other ideas out there, but I would encourage you to start here and discuss with your team.

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