Litigation readiness can make or break a business. The goal is to be prepared ahead of time so that when — not if, but when — litigation begins, you’re able to spring confidently into action. To get there, you need to understand your data and where it can be found. In the same vein, you need to know who your data custodians are for different types of data and where they can be found. It takes a coordinated, well-trained team, supported by best-in-class technology, to effectively preserve, collect, process, review, and produce discoverable information.
We’re wrapping up an eight-part blog series summarizing the best practices for litigation readiness and response. We started out by discussing data mapping and policy definition before moving on to custodian and staff training. In the last few posts, we’ve shifted our focus to technological tools, specifically automation of legal holds and in-house data collection and hosting. Today, we’re finishing the series with one of our favorite tools and strategies: early case assessment.
Inaccessible Data Slows Response Times
Many businesses face the problem of having too much data stored in disorganized, inaccessible locations. Once data is archived in traditional systems, the business loses functional access to it. If you can’t search your information archives for keywords or metadata, it’s not doing you any good.
And if you can’t process or review any of that information in house, you’ll lose valuable time after a matter first hits your radar. Being forced to wait days or weeks to review the facts of a claim prevents you from taking prompt, decisive, well-informed action. Should you settle? Should you press on to litigation? Is this a big deal or small potatoes? Without the ability to review data in-house, you’ll be left waiting too long to find out the answers to these questions.
Early case assessment (ECA) with in-house processing and review turns this typical situation on its head.
ECA Saves Money, Reduces Risk, and Increases Confidence
The faster you can locate relevant information and evaluate a claim, the faster you can decide how to resolve it and what it’s worth. By bringing at least some processing and review capability in house, you give your business the ability to conduct that early case assessment in hours or days rather than weeks.
After quickly running a keyword and metadata search on your data archives — stored in an accessible, functional data repository — you’ll be able to present well-informed options to your team. And that means you can save money by not settling worthless claims, reduce your risk of fighting claims that you’re bound to lose, and increase confidence in your outcomes and decisions.
Top Tips for Bringing ECA in House
- Start with routine matters. If you’ve been sending all of your early case assessments to outside counsel or an ediscovery vendor, start small with straightforward projects with discrete fact patterns. You can still outsource major cases.
- Develop an ECA process. As you experiment with a few small cases — or with a broader range of cases — determine how you want to formalize your ECA process. You might choose to assign specific responsibilities to individual staff, set a limit for how long you’ll spend reviewing data, or create a review team to evaluate conclusions and weigh your options.
- Build your organization’s institutional knowledge.Chances are there’s a lot of common data that you’ve evaluated for multiple matters. As you build your in-house processing and review capacity, consider storing that information in a searchable, scalable repository. By saving previous tags, coding, and other attorney work product, you’ll create an institutional store of knowledge about your organization and how it works. This reservoir of information will save you time and money by eliminating redundant ediscovery tasks.
In-house processing and review can make all the difference between an organization that scrambles to respond to litigation and one that takes everything in stride.
We hope you’ve gotten some valuable tips and information from our eight-part blog series. If you have other suggestions for areas where we could provide best practices and actionable advice, please comment below and let us know!