Recap: Creating Your Own Discovery Team

This is our final recap from Discovery Symposium 1.0. If you would like more information on the event or to inquire about attending in 2010, please email us.

As more corporate legal departments are looking to bring discovery in-house, this panel was of keen interest to attendees.

What was very striking was how the panelists – an incredible group of leaders who really know about bringing matters in-house and managing the discovery process – have truly become knowledgeable about their respective companies’ IT departments. They're very familiar with IT -- something that likely could not have been said of most attorneys even just a few years ago. This sheds a little more light on the demands of the discovery process today.

Even though each of the panelists work within a large company with substantial IT departments, it was clear that the best practices they brought with them could apply to companies of any size. Creating a team often means including legal, IT, human resources, operations, outside partners – whoever touches the company’s data on a regular basis. And this team helps guide and monitor progress from through collection, production and review.

It’s also worth mentioning that the attorneys on this panel have collectively saved their companies tens of millions of dollars on the discovery process in a relatively short period of time. Talk about demonstrating the value of the legal department ...

Creating Your Own Discovery Team
Panelists: Senior attorneys from Fidelity Investments, Cox Communications, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Georgia-Pacific
Moderator: Candice Reed (Executive Director, Counsel On Call)

Summary of Dialogue
IT staff is critical to the team as well as representatives of other departments specific to your business. Know the people on your team; trust them. Know where the data is located. Know your systems. Trust your company knowledge, which surpasses that of a law firm.

The discussion began with a statement: E-discovery is a management task. Those in charge of discovery cannot be afraid of technology, must serve as traffic cop and coordinator, and need to be a “techie” who can talk to lawyers. When choosing members for your discovery team, it’s about 1) Having the right people on the team, and 2) Trusting your own judgment that you have put the right people on the team. One panelist said her team meets weekly.

Another panelist said she received incredible pushback from her outside law firm when she decided to build a discovery team in-house. Her team includes attorneys with employment and patent experience, a paralegal, representatives from the IT department, as well as a person from the legal department dedicated to e-discovery (who has since been moved to another department and not directly replaced). The team meets once a month.

Another panelist put her team together when in-house e-discovery experience quickly surpassed that of the company’s outside counsel. The core team consists of her, representatives from the IT department, as well as an outside consultant. Other team members are attorneys with commercial, labor, and insurance experience and representatives from Records Retention. Since three-quarters of her company’s corporate employees are members of the IT department, it is important to have everything IT-related documented – how the department is organized, who reports to whom, detailed protocols, and the location of specific data. This information also is in the company’s E-Discovery Manual, which is constantly updated. Due to an increasing number of matters, the panelist wanted to create a “thoughtful and consistent approach to review.” After each project, the team would discuss what data was collected, what part(s) of the process worked and what didn’t, and even examined the overall cost. Perhaps most importantly, they looked at what could be done to make future matters cost-effective. In order to better predict future costs, her company partnered with Counsel On Call, whose team handles several parts of the company’s discovery process, to find a software vendor that would do just that.

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Recap: Retention and Holds, Preservation and Collection

There was a lot of very interesting dialogue at Counsel On Call’s Discovery Symposium, and one (overarching) topic clearly on the front burner was retention, holds and the collection/preservation of documents -- and the internal processes and logistical challenges surrounding these often laborious tasks.

This will be one of our longer summaries from DS1.0’s four main sessions; more will be posted Wednesday.

Good Policies for Retention and Holds; Standards of Care in Preservation and Collection
Panelists: Senior attorneys from Equifax, FedEx Express, Hilton Hotels
Moderator: Anne Whitaker (Vice President, Counsel On Call)

Summary of Dialogue
A properly developed retention program can be a useful tool for reducing the cost associated with document review and other discovery-related matters. The preservation of appropriate data is one of the most pressing issues facing litigation managers today.

Panelists discussed eight basic steps to developing a program that is reasonable, defensible, and practical:

1. Identify when the preservation obligation begins.

Every company has different needs that must be addressed.  One panelist said a preservation obligation may begin with, for instance, an internal employment investigation. It does not begin when a claim is filed for lost goods. Another company begins the process if there is intent to initiate litigation. The in-house attorney asks, “Is this meaningful? Credible?” It’s a judgment call.

2. Determine what ESI (electronically stored information) must be preserved. 

The main question to ask is, “What do we need in order to win or defend this case?” A map of the IT landscape is needed; therefore, a close relationship must be developed between legal and IT and a common language between the two established. It is also important to define “necessary business records” and in some companies’ legal holds, this term is defined and a list of triggers provided (such as an EEOC charge or knowledge of a complaint filing). Another panelist mentioned that custodians must be identified prior to determining what ESI must be preserved and posed the question of whether companies ask custodians to “give him what they’ve got” or if it is sometimes better to retrieve materials.

In terms of what goes into a hold, one panelist said that two pages is too long for a litigation hold, and to be concise (but possibly attach the subpoena to the hold just to be sure to cover all bases). Several panelists suggested including "warnings" in the holds, such as "do not share any information in this hold or you will be in violation of company policy" or something to scare custodians into compliance. Another attendee suggested web-based training for custodians prior to being subject to their first litigation hold.

3. Who is in charge with respect to technology?

Staff from IT, security, and legal are involved, but most agreed that someone from IT manages the effort. All processes and procedures are in writing in order to keep communication consistent. Important to be consistent.

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