The Potential of e-discovery in Fortifying the Legal Sector

By CIOReview | Friday, June 16, 2017
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The onset of electronic discovery (also e-discovery or eDiscovery) has fostered a remarkable transformation in the legal sector, ushering it to new heights. E-discovery simply refers to the process where electronically stored information (ESI) is sought with the intent of using it as evidence in legal proceedings such as criminal trials, government investigations, or Freedom of Information Act requests. As the industry evolves, law firms today are seen to focus on devising standardized models and techniques in an attempt to regulate practices in e-discovery. Significantly enough, e-discovery and compliance standards of large enterprises are equally applicable to small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). While SMBs might not have an extensive range of systems to manage, they are deficient in assets, especially with IT and legal resources.

On the technology front, it is high time companies take a proactive approach towards e-discovery. The first step to this is to retain content only for a business need and discard the information once its purpose is served. As a consequence, the e-discovery process becomes a lot easier to implement as it alleviates the burden on companies to scour through a vast array of information. This is where e-discovery tools like documents retention, message archiving, and management applications come into play. Notably enough, these functions must be well aligned with legal holds to ensure that no information scheduled for disposing is subject to current or pending lawsuits. Apart from the technology viewpoint, the convergence of IT and the legal sector is just as crucial to draw out the blueprint for taking hands-on approaches to e-discovery.

Another methodology of conducting e-discovery, favorable for SMBs, is SaaS-based or hosted archiving. In addition to its low cost of ownership, hosted solutions also bring home the advantage of being agile and responsive. Moreover, the present industry dynamically counters privacy, security, and other operational issues that previously dogged hosted systems. Most recently, a new trend of creating specialized branches—‘Litigation/ Practice Support’—has emerged among litigation practice groups to tackle the challenges of governing bulks of electronic data. Subsequently, a number of categorical positions like ‘Litigation Support Specialists,’ ‘Project Managers,’ ‘Litigation Support Analysts,’ and such others are now surfacing, covering grounds throughout the highly structured workflows for litigation practitioners.

While such compartmentalization of aptitude entails the potential of augmenting efficiency, it can also encumber innovation owing to undue dependence on practices that are exclusive to individual case lifecycles. In worst-case scenarios, critical records may get effaced due to relying on incompatible procedures for case testing. The best way for litigators to cope with situations like such is to develop a clear-cut understanding of the distinct problems of each case. They must also bolster this understanding with the suitable competence and knowledge. A litigation support team is bound to succeed if it upholds a consistent and flexible approach to e-discovery.

For good measure, law firms can draw on educational and training programs that motivate specialists to veer out of their prescribed comfort zones. At the support level, technicians must be urged to acquire working knowledge of legal proceedings, or summoned into team huddles where they can be acquainted the case polices. Similarly, associates at a higher level, especially those technologically deprived, should be instructed on basic technicalities like operating a database, which will enhance their decision-making as well as boost productivity. To procure optimum results, it is advisable that litigators resort to open systems instead of tailored closed systems. When it comes to leveraging novel technologies, firms should pay attention to the flexibility of the solution combined with the specialized skills of the members who will be handling it.

For litigators—perhaps more than in any other feature—adaptability is imperative. On the contrast, today’s litigation support departments are heavily contingent on “the method” and using all-around technology solutions, as opposed to enriching their internal talent. Hinging solely on technology and standardized procedures culminate in an apathetic industry that represses creativity, tolerates inefficiency, and pigeonholes the end user. To thwart this outcome, litigation practice groups must readily undertake cross-disciplinary training and be intent on steering team members beyond their comfort zones.