Facing a Lawsuit? You'll Need to Do This With Your Data.
Takeaway: Facing a lawsuit involves a process known as eDiscovery, where electronic data is gathered for potential evidence. And good eDiscovery means (1) Conducting regular data audits, (2) Drafting detailed data-retention guidelines, and (3) Educating everyone concerned about why all this matters.
Facing a lawsuit means facing eDiscovery. And you’ll save a lot of time and money by understanding this process.
The line between digital and physical is blurred nowadays, so dealing with a lawsuit requires more than just sifting through stacks of paper. Welcome to eDiscovery – the process where electronic data, from emails to digital documents, get harvested for potential evidence in litigation. And managing this data properly will streamline your legal journey instead of drawing it out into a lengthy, expensive battle.
First, let’s cover the stages of eDiscovery.
If you face possible litigation, here are the eDiscovery stages you’ll need to prepare for.
1. Preserving your data.
Digital data appears and disappears quickly. Every day, emails get deleted, documents are edited, and databases are updated. So, when you face a lawsuit, you’ll need to safeguard all your digital data for attorneys to review. This means finding and protecting all data – from databases to direct messages – especially those hiding in forgotten caches. You’ll need anything that’s even remotely connected to the lawsuit. And you’ll preserve the data for as long as the legal matter lasts – and, sometimes, even further if there are follow-up legal issues.
2. Identifying case-related data.
You’ve found and protected a bunch of data. But which are relevant and which aren’t? Figuring this out becomes easier if you have legal experts to help because they’ll understand the lawsuit and follow up on relevant case-related data. (Identifying relevant files is relatively simple for individuals – but for organizations, it’ll mean consulting with department heads, IT professionals, and more.) Also, you’ll want to document this identification stage to prove you went ‘by the book’ (in case you’re questioned later in court).
3. Collecting your data.
Once you’ve pinpointed potential data sources, you’ll start gathering them in a structured, verifiable manner. You’ll want to use a centralized process so no data slips through the cracks. And for larger organizations, you might need eDiscovery professionals to help. Again, it would be best to keep a detailed log of who accessed the data, when, and why (called a ‘chain of custody’) to guarantee the data is authentic.
4. Handing over the data to your attorneys.
Next, you’ll hand over your data to your attorneys who will use eDiscovery software to process and review everything. The software will help them filter duplicate entries, do a preliminary ‘early case assessment’ (ECA) to choose a strategy, find responsive files using niche keyword searches, and, sometimes, use machine learning and predictive coding to detect data patterns.
You’ll need to pay careful attention through all this or face skyrocketing costs and legal sanctions.
All this structure is there for a reason – it ensures your data is used correctly, according to local legal norms. So, messing up any of these steps has serious consequences – especially for larger organizations. For one, you’ll face escalating costs. Primarily because eDiscovery becomes drawn out when IT doesn’t understand what the legal team wants or when the legal team doesn’t understand how data is structured and stored. Poor communication makes it like searching for a needle in multiple haystacks without knowing which haystack to start with. And you’ll likely over-collect data – meaning there are larger data volumes to review, which will drive up costs. Also, not following protocol means facing legal sanctions for things like altering evidence (i.e., ‘data spoliation’) or breaking the chain of custody. Finally, poorly handling data means your legal team might not get all the information they need to construct a watertight case. So, you’ll likely lose the verdict at trial.
Thankfully, you can take steps to manage your digital data better.
Do the following to be litigation-ready at all times.
1. Create a schedule for regular data audits.
Data and storage mechanisms continually evolve, so you’ll want to keep track of where everything is. And this means knowing where all your data is stored, how it’s categorized, and who can access it. Ideally, you’ll gather all this information during regularly scheduled audits to help you stay in control of all the new data you’re generating.
2. Craft detailed data retention guidelines.
You want to protect data but not hoard it unnecessarily. And this is where well-defined data retention timelines can help – especially for larger organizations. First, you’ll want to involve legal, technical, and department heads to craft a detailed retention policy. And you’ll want to follow up on this by using newer data management software to automate these retention policies.
3. Empower your workforce through regular training.
Organizations with a larger workforce must ensure everyone knows and understands their data policies. And this means conducting regular eDiscovery training sessions covering things like how to keep data secure, which data to keep vs. discard, how to protect file metadata, and more. (A good starting point for this would be to make sure your team understands basic eDiscovery terms.)
And to truly understand eDiscovery, it’s worth exploring how eDiscovery applications work.
Playing around with eDiscovery software will help you understand why data policies matter. And eDiscovery services like GoldFynch offer a free trial case to play around with. You could even suggest it to your attorneys because:
- It costs just $25 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know exactly what you’re paying for: its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
- It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
- It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB) without adding a credit card.
- It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support (our average response time is 30 minutes).
- Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.
Want to find out more about GoldFynch?
For related posts about eDiscovery, check out the following links.
- A Complete Glossary of Essential eDiscovery Terms
- A Quick Primer on GoldFynch’s eDiscovery Software
- A Free PST Analyzer to Check If Your eDiscovery PSTs Are Intact
- Use This In-Browser PST Viewer to Explore Your eDiscovery Emails For Free
- The Secret to Choosing the Best Low-Cost eDiscovery Software for Your Small Law Firm
- How To Make Your eDiscovery Productions Less Hackable
- Is Social Media the Future of eDiscovery?