Getting Started With E-Discovery

The news is filled with reports about companies buried in legal fees as a result of the presence or absence of a key document. The process of using various automated systems to track documents is called electronic discovery, and many e-discovery solutions are available—often with six-figure implementations attached. Unfortunately, only a small number of companies have implemented such systems fully.

A blog post by Forrester analyst Brian Hill says, “Few companies report having a holistic approach to e-discovery. Just 23 percent have an end-to-end approach to gather and filter data.”

So what’s the best way to get started before that big suit hits, and what can you implement quickly that will be a good foundation? When implemented correctly, the best e-discovery systems can save a pile of cash and time, and can become real productivity boosters.

Curtis Rawlings, assistant CIO of DeKalb County, Ga., is using Symantec’s Enterprise Vault Discovery Accelerator and calculates that the county has saved more than $75,000 annually as a result. “The county receives about four requests a month for various records, and, in the past, each one used to take an average of 33 hours of staff time to do the research and respond because many e-mails were only available on backup tapes,” he says. “Now, a request can be filled in an hour, as a result of having all the various e-mails and files cataloged and organized by the software and online.”

For Dallas-based law firm Haynes & Boone, using Excel worksheets to track custodians, data sources and other e-discovery-relevant information and following project status through phone calls and e-mail were cumbersome tasks that often resulted in the duplication of efforts and information. To centralize the maintenance of its documentation and workflow needs, the firm invested about $40,000 on Exterro’s Fusion software. It more than paid for itself in time and cost savings on communications and creating more consistent operations, says Randy Girouard, manager of automated legal services.

“Fusion didn’t introduce us to documenting and creating workflows,” he explains, “but it did give us a centralized place with better access for all users, and it helped us force compliance of our internal processes.”

Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in Buffalo, N.Y., improved efficiencies by using the Integrated Archive Platform (IAP) from Hewlett-Packard (HP) to archive its corporate e-mail. “Before we had this system, we had to ask people to find their e-mail on their individual PCs because we didn’t keep them on a central server until January 2008,” says Camille Wicher, vice president of corporate ethics and research subject protections at the institute. “Now that we have the IAP, we are able to quickly locate specific matters or employees. It’s useful for a variety of applications. For example, we can substantiate whether a harassment claim happened over e-mail.”