Best Practices for Implementing In-House eDiscovery
When organizations decide to bring eDiscovery in-house, the process involves more than simply purchasing eDiscovery software. Instead, organizations will need to develop and implement best practices to ensure they get the full benefits of in-housing eDiscovery.
Best practices for in-housing eDiscovery should focus on how an organization’s teams manage data. Of course, bringing eDiscovery in-house can be full of challenges and pitfalls. This is especially true when organizational teams are used to outsourcing technical steps in the eDiscovery process and may be intimidated by collecting, processing, organizing, and storing ESI.
However, by implementing best practices, in-house eDiscovery team members will have a road map that will guide them as they learn to take full ownership of the eDiscovery process—and help them maximize the benefits of doing so.
Here are some key best practices for implementing an in-house eDiscovery program.
Understanding Your eDiscovery Needs and Setting Goals
Before developing an in-house eDiscovery process, you must first understand your organization’s eDiscovery goals and needs.
Does it want to bring certain parts of the eDiscovery process in-house, or does it want a fully in-house process?
Why is it bringing the eDiscovery process in-house?
What benefits is it looking to realize from an in-house process?
Some of the common reasons organizations choose to bring eDiscovery in-house include:
- Automating parts of the document review process to speed up production of electronically stored information (ESI)
- Saving on legal spending by reducing reliance on third-party eDiscovery vendors or outside counsel
- Increasing accuracy in eDiscovery productions by taking control over certain steps or the entire eDiscovery process
- Making the eDiscovery process more efficient to reduce in-house legal teams’ workloads or avoid the need to increase legal team headcount
- Ensuring that irrelevant, confidential, or proprietary information is redacted from ESI productions
Only by knowing your organization’s objectives for in-housing eDiscovery can you know whether the options for in-house eDiscovery solutions you’re evaluating will align with them.
Selecting the Right eDiscovery Solution
Today, organizations have many—some might say too many—eDiscovery tools and platforms to choose from. However, not all eDiscovery solutions are the same.
Some tools target specific aspects of the eDiscovery process or are designed for certain types of organizations or organizations of a certain size. Some solutions offer considerable functionality but may be expensive, while others allow organizations to pick and choose functionality to make the solution more affordable.
Your organization should select an eDiscovery solution that offers the best balance of functionality, user-friendliness, scalability, and cost. You’ll want a solution that your eDiscovery team members can use (especially if some aren’t tech whizzes) while still providing capabilities that meet your organization’s eDiscovery needs.
If you expect your organization’s eDiscovery needs will grow or fluctuate over time, you may consider a solution that offers scalability and pricing flexibility. Picking a solution that can change with your organization’s needs can help you avoid switching costs when moving from one tool or platform to another. An RFP process could help your organization evaluate eDiscovery solutions to identify the one that best suits its needs.
Organizing Your eDiscovery Team
Once it has chosen its eDiscovery solution(s), your organization should set up an eDiscovery team. Depending on its eDiscovery needs, your organization may establish cross-functional or cross-disciplinary teams to manage the eDiscovery process.
Besides its legal department, a larger organization may need IT, compliance, HR, and other departments to be involved in the eDiscovery process. Allowing other parts of your organization to become stakeholders in the eDiscovery process can make collecting, processing, storing, and reviewing ESI much easier for the legal team.
When you’ve identified the stakeholders who will take part in the eDiscovery process, you should also establish a standard workflow for the process. Setting up an eDiscovery workflow includes defining roles and responsibilities, developing ESI management protocols that govern how data is collected and managed, and identifying which stakeholder(s) will handle each stage of the eDiscovery process, such as issuing legal holds, identifying custodians, collecting data, processing it, and reviewing it. Having a consistent workflow will help ensure that your organization does not miss critical data and that it has defensible productions if they’re challenged during a legal dispute.
Finally, your organization should make sure its stakeholders in the eDiscovery process receive training and ongoing support for the eDiscovery platforms and tools your organization uses. Picking an eDiscovery platform provider that offers comprehensive training and responsive customer support will ensure that your eDiscovery team can make the most of that platform.
Adjust Processes in Response to Project Feedback and New Needs
After your organization has set up its eDiscovery team and established protocols, your work is not done. The eDiscovery team should regularly review the efficiency and effectiveness of its processes and workflows after each legal matter is resolved to identify issues, weaknesses, or opportunities for optimization in them so team members can improve upon them.
The eDiscovery team should also be able to alter their processes and workflows in response to unique requests or situations. In addition, the team should be able to adjust their processes and workflows in response to operational changes, such as if your organization switches from Microsoft Office apps to Google Workspace apps. Of course, any adjustments should be made before eDiscovery is needed in a particular matter so that team members aren’t trying to adapt on the fly.
Bringing the eDiscovery process in-house can be a game-changer for organizations. In-housing eDiscovery lets them take control of the process to reduce costs, improve the accuracy of ESI productions, and ensure that deadlines are met.
However, organizations must first develop best practices to ensure they get the most out of in-housing eDiscovery. To develop them, they’ll need to reflect on their needs and objectives for bringing eDiscovery in-house, which will allow them to evaluate solutions and find the one(s) that strike the right balance of usability, capabilities, and cost.
Organizations must also identify departments and employees who will serve as stakeholders in the eDiscovery process alongside the legal team, and develop processes and workflows so that everyone knows what duties they have when the need for eDiscovery arises during a legal dispute. Organizations should also empower their eDiscovery teams to regularly review those processes and workflows to identify areas of improvement or ways they can be adapted for unique situations.
Following best practices when in-housing eDiscovery will help organizations ensure they achieve the cost savings and efficiencies that taking control of the process can provide them.