eDiscovery Ethics: The One Checklist Every Small Law Firm Needs

16 December 2017 by Anith Mathai eDiscovery

eDiscovery creates a new set of ethical standards. And small law firms need to rise to the challenge. Here’s a checklist for collecting, using and protecting your eDiscovery data.

Organizations are transitioning away from ‘paper’ documents. Instead, they use electronic data like Word documents, PDFs and emails. I.e., ‘paper’ discovery is being replaced by ‘electronic’ discovery (e-discovery or eDiscovery). And this sets new ethical standards for attorneys. They need to understand how eDiscovery works and the must-do’s at each of its stages. Click here for a deeper look at the stages of eDiscovery.

So, what are some of the ethical standards you’ll need to keep?

Here’s how to to find and process data the right way:

Preserving the data

  • Does everyone know about your ‘litigation hold’? You’ve put a hold on potentially-relevant data. But if all the employees concerned don’t know about it and don’t understand why it’s in place, you’ll lose valuable information. Remember to give the hold in writing.
  • What is your client’s data-retention policy? For example, do they automatically delete emails after a set period? Or do they delete the data of employees who leave the company? If so, they’ll have to stop this. And they’ll also need to back up their existing data.
  • Is the metadata safe? Metadata (i.e., ‘data about data’) is a digital footprint which tracks the history of the document. It can make or break your case, but it’s easy to damage. For example, you’ll change the ‘last accessed’ metadata field just by copying a file to another computer. Find out more about metadata and how to keep it safe.

Gathering the data

  • Where is all the data stored? You can’t afford to miss out on data sources. For example, an employee may show you emails on her computer, but won’t know that they are backed up on an office server. And those backed-up emails might have unique metadata that will help your case. So, talk to as many people as possible to get a comprehensive list of sources. Talk to the IT team too, if they have one.
  • How do they use their data? Can you see patterns in the way they use and store email, Word documents, internet downloads, texts, etc.? They’ll help you root out overlooked data niches.
  • What kind of data do they have? Sample some of their documents so you know the kind of information you’ll be dealing with.
  • How much data do you need? And from whom? You don’t want to cast the net too wide and drown in data. Yet you want enough to have something to fall back on if your case takes a new direction.
  • How are you going to get the data onto your system? If you use an expert to get it, you’ll have to make sure they don’t release privileged or proprietary information.

Searching the data

**- **What are your search terms? You’ll need to search smart, to build a solid case. So, choose a search term and test it. Are you getting too many irrelevant documents? Or are there too few results? Tweak the search term and try again. Keep doing this till you get the right one.

  • Monitor your client’s searches. They could make simple mistakes. Like, doing a text search of their emails, but forgetting to look at the attachments. In one recorded case, a client missed more than 300,000 documents because they disconnected an external hard drive too early when transferring data.

Protecting the data

Your client’s data is private and only authorized personnel should have access to it. So:

  • Is your office secure? Do you have CCTV, an alarm system and security guards?
  • Do you have good ‘virtual’ security? E.g., firewalls, encryption and the latest anti-virus software.
  • Are you backing up files regularly? So that you can recover them if they get infected, or if your computers are destroyed by natural calamities like fires and floods.
  • Are you regularly updating your security measures? Technology changes fast and you’ll need to keep up.

Or, store your files in the Cloud. Software giants like Amazon and Google lease storage and computing power to businesses all over the world. And their thousands of interconnected servers form the ‘Cloud.’ By storing your data in the Cloud, you don’t have to worry about encryption, security and backups. Your Cloud-provider takes care of all that. And this simplifies your life considerably. Learn more about why Cloud-based eDiscovery is both safe and cost-efficient.

Choosing the right eDiscovery software

You’ll need specialized eDiscovery software. (Why? Here’s what eDiscovery is like without the right software.) So, these are some things to think about:

GoldFynch: eDiscovery simplified

GoldFynch is a fresh, adaptable eDiscovery app. And it’s designed for small law firms like yours. Here’s why it’s cool:

  • No set-up required. It runs in the Cloud, and you use it through your web browser. Plus, your trial case is free. So, you can start working immediately. No sales calls or emails. And no credit card.
  • You can work from anywhere. All you need is an internet connection.
  • It’s easy to use. Just like any other app on your phone.
  • It lets you do eDiscovery essentials. Like, searching, tagging, and ‘producing’ files. And redacting privileged information.
  • It’s secure: Your data is backed up on multiple Cloud-servers with bank-grade security and encryption.
  • You get the best technical support: Its designed, developed and run by the same team. So, the technical support isn’t outsourced. Which means prompt and reliable service.
  • Most importantly, it’s affordable. Just $10 a month for a basic case. That’s $25 less—every month—than the nearest comparable software. And hundreds of dollars cheaper than many others.

Want to learn more about GoldFynch?