Six Best Practices to Achieve In-House Ediscovery Success

by Zapproved LLC
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Improve your ediscovery processes to save time and money

No matter how well you’re managing ediscovery, you can always do better. And not by a negligible or unimportant amount, either: improvements in ediscovery teams, processes, and technologies consistently produce measurable reductions in costs while improving cost predictability and limiting risks.

We’ve curated the following list of six best practices based on extensive conversations with masters of in-house ediscovery. If you’re ready to take your ediscovery to the next level, start here.

1. Build organization-wide relationships and establish your ediscovery team as a resource

More than anything else, we’ve heard over and over that ediscovery is all about relationships. Taking the time and effort to nurture relationships with everyone in your organization — and doing so outside the context of stressful litigation — is the single most impactful change you can implement. When your employees know you and your team, they feel more comfortable asking questions or raising concerns. That means you’re more likely both to hear about cases early on and to learn where you need to make adjustments.  

How do you start building those relationships? Get outside of your own department. Attend interdepartmental meetings or participate on committees. Hold ediscovery workshops or take your information “on the road,” visiting different departments in turn to answer questions and troubleshoot issues.

When one of your new contacts does reach out with a concern, be sure you are accessible — not just logistically, but also ideologically. Listen to feedback with an open mind and be willing to make changes. For example, if you repeatedly hear complaints that a specific policy is unclear or confusing, take action to re-write it in simpler, more useful language. When the rest of your organization appreciates that you are there to help them, not to trip them up or waste their time, your relationships will blossom.

2. Increase everyone’s skill set through regular ediscovery education

Once you’ve established relationships, one of the best ways to maintain them is through education. After all, the most effective ediscovery teams are those that get involved early, and you’re more likely to be looped in at the outset if everyone in your organization understands the basics of ediscovery. This helps employees grasp what is required of them and recognize what they may need help with. If you keep encountering the same frequently asked questions, consider creating a centralized information resource with answers, examples, and other helpful information.

Don’t overlook specialized ediscovery training for the legal department. Attorneys’ understanding of evolving ediscovery best practices and especially newer technologies may vary; education narrows that knowledge gap, enabling greater consistency.

3. Adopt a strategic business mindset that focuses on project management

Project management has been neglected in the development and standardization of ediscovery processes and workflows. But now, more than ever, budget pressures demand that legal departments — and particularly ediscovery teams — act as responsible business units rather than loose cannons. That means you shouldn’t just monitor how you perform each stage in the ediscovery pipeline; you should also manage individual matters or projects to ensure that each one stays on track and on budget.

Consider employing project management principles based on successful models such as Six Sigma, Kaizen, Lean, or Kanban. Thinking strategically, rather than playing whack-a-mole with emergent crises, can help you streamline workflows, speed up project timelines, and achieve continuous process improvement. And that saves money while improving outcomes all around.

4. Streamline processes by starting with ‘why’

Speaking of streamlining processes, there was another point we heard repeatedly from ediscovery pros: always start process improvement by learning why things are done the way they are. Too often, you’ll probably hear that a particular idiosyncratic process is simply the way it’s always been done.

By understanding why your team is doing certain tasks in a specific way, you’ll be able to identify opportunities to save time, money, or both. You’ll be able to pare away everything non-essential, leaving only the most effective and efficient steps toward execution of a given task. You may, if you dig deep enough, even realize that the entire process is redundant or unnecessary.

As you learn why things are done the way they are and as you make improvements in your methods and workflows, remember to circle back to education. Teach your employees why specific tasks or approaches matter and work with them to find ways to simplify workflows and streamline processes. This training is particularly critical with respect to legal holds, both because they may affect everyone in your organization and because they are, in many organizations, ripe for process improvement via automation.

5. Manage data better through robust information governance that accounts for case closure

With the rising volume of data and electronically stored information, it’s more important than ever to proactively manage data and delete anything that’s redundant, obsolete, or trivial (conveniently known as ROT). Fortunately, the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure emphasized the importance of limiting ediscovery based on proportionality, supporting these necessary efforts to delete low-value data.

Ensure that your ediscovery processes are aligned with your overarching information governance policies. Focus on early-stage data culling through in-house processing technology. Organizations that upgrade their processing capability often realize greater than 90 percent reductions in the volume of data sent out for review — which substantially reduces the cost of review.

Nor should your ediscovery processes stutter to a stop when a matter is resolved. Instead, create a case-closure process that prompts your team to release legal holds, glean useful business information from the data you generated for the matter, return unneeded information to its standard records-retention schedule, and gather any helpful metrics.

6. Learn from experience by calculating metrics

The path to continuous improvement is paved with KPIs. Consider which elements of ediscovery you’d most like to improve and figure out a way to start tracking them. Whether it’s the number of custodians, custodian acceptance rates, volume of data preserved, percent of data culled, vendor costs, outside counsel review costs, or overall costs per case, you’re more likely to understand and control those aspects of ediscovery that you’re actively measuring.  

Metrics represent another way to identify inefficiencies and reduce or eliminate them. Consider looking for outlier cases to assess what made them different or examining changes over time as you implement new processes and tools. Post-matter analysis may also reveal new details about how individual departments or business units operate. Don’t let this information pass you by because you’re not paying attention.

Ediscovery, at its best, is continuously improving and adapting to changes in technology, information sources, and the needs of the organization. Whether you start by building stronger relationships, educating your workforce, focusing on strategy and project management, streamlining processes, improving your data management, or calculating metrics, these six best practices are bound to bring your ediscovery to a new level of efficiency and effectiveness.

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