Litigation readiness may originate in the legal department, but it can’t end there. Everyone department within your organization must be prepared to respond to litigation in a cohesive manner in order to minimize risk and improve outcomes.
Our eight-part litigation readiness series delves into the key steps and best practices that can help you respond quickly and defensibility to litigation. In this post, we review how to effectively collaborate with other departments.
Legal Can’t Manage Litigation Response Alone
An isolated legal department that attempts to control the organization’s litigation response is bound to fail for two reasons. First, data custodians may be dispersed throughout the organization, which means that every department and employee should have at least a baseline level of knowledge about their ediscovery obligations.
Second, the legal department does not, and can not, know everything it needs to know in a vacuum. In a 500-person organization, the legal department may have no idea that Bob in accounting, a primary custodian in a pending case, is about to retire. Similarly, legal may not know that IT is installing new chat applications for the engineering group, leading to new data streams that must be mapped, targeted for preservation, and eventually collected. An organization-wide culture of compliance is key to disseminating information that affects litigation response.
Coordination Leads to Better Outcomes
By establishing open lines of communication with other departments, legal can set itself up for an optimal response to pending litigation. This communication must flow both ways: other departments must know what legal needs them to do, and the legal department must be informed of relevant custodian activity. As a bonus, an organization-wide educational program around litigation response ensures that individual custodians are also prepared to do their part to preserve and collect potentially relevant information.
Top Tips for Effective Litigation Readiness Partnerships
- Make sure the HR department knows what to do when employees join or leave the organization. Whether it’s onboarding new staff, terminating employees, or implementing temporary changes, HR is in charge of personnel transitions that can affect legal holds. Even when an employee moves to a new position or role, the legal department needs to know who is where within the organization.
- Work with the IT department to stay on top of new data sources. By having regular conversations with IT about new applications and data sources, the legal department can stay apprised of changes that affect legal holds, information preservation, and data collections. Make sure IT understands the importance of keeping legal up to date so that you can adjust legal holds as your technology evolves.
- Establish yourself as a resource within your organization. Take the time to explain your new litigation response plan to everyone in your organization. When you do, be sure to define the relationships between departments, identify responsible liaisons for each department, and establish expectations in both directions.
Determining what other departments you need to partner with and establishing open lines of communication with them will set you up for an effective, efficient response to any threat of litigation.
Next up in our eight-part series, we’ll consider ways to identify and train the individual custodians involved in that response.