Is your office considering building your own eDiscovery support team? Perhaps you already have one but it needs to be developed more fully. Whatever your situation, we’ve put together an overview of the top considerations to bear in mind when assembling your team.
Whether you’re just beginning to build your team or giving it a boost, don’t discount the importance of internal marketing. User adoption is key, and in a tech-averse population like many law offices it can be helpful to have someone already interested in the technology to bring the rest of the office onboard. This internal advocate might be a critical turning point hire, or they might be someone within your office who already knows the culture and can act as a trusted voice for why litigation technology is needed to support a matter or case team. Their main responsibility is shifting the office culture so everyone is onboard with the new technology.
In addition to an internal advocate working to foster user adoption, you’ll want to bring an analyst or technician onboard to take care of the more technical tasks like data management and researching new software to implement. This person is responsible for staying agile and meeting the demands required to keep projects moving forward.
As you build up your in-house team, always remember that some cases will be more complex and you may need the help of an outside expert. Whether the case requires forensic data collection or you simply need to augment your staff because there is a lot of material to get through in a short period of time, or if there are any difficulties outside your team’s level of expertise, we always recommend using a trusted provider for assistance. The eDiscovery field is changing every day and specialist vendors will have the latest information on how to defensibly manage your collections in accordance with local laws.
It’s important to be aware of how your various departments will interact with this support team. There can be a misconception that eDiscovery is an IT or paralegal function, and the reality is that it involves some effort from both divisions. Paralegals act as the practitioners who use the technological tools and review data, while the IT department supports and protects the machines being used.
Another person with an important role to play is your firm’s Records Manager. As the person who governs the retention and destruction policies relating to organizations like the IRS, FDIC, and DOJ, the Records Manger will have the best insight into new rules and regulations around data destruction and retention. So, as you set up your litigation support team, make sure there is room for the Records, IT, and Paralegal departments to contribute in harmony – success will require everyone’s involvement.
Once you have your in-house support team set up, it’s time to focus on educating your office. At first glance, this may seem like the same work your internal advocate was doing to get everyone onboard, but education is more detailed and cements all the effort you’ve gone through to build your litigation support team. No one will take advantage of the new services you’ve set up if they don’t know when to start using them, or how to best utilize them.
There are a few groups of people you want to focus on in an educational push. First, lawyers need to be continuously educated on understanding their ethical responsibility as it relates to their duty of competency with technology. While they don’t need to know how to jump through technological hurdles, they are ethically required to know the role of technology in their case and when to engage subject matter experts. For example, lawyers don’t need to know the ins and outs of a document review platform, but they should know that not using one might result in them being late to critical production deadlines, spending more than is necessary by using manual processes, or even missing key evidence entirely.
Practitioners also need to be educated around their ethical obligations regarding their duty of competency with emerging technologies. For those who are doing the discovery work itself, obligations primarily involve staying updated with new trends and technologies as they appear. This is a field that requires continuous attention to changing regulations, usage, and tools.
Equally important is educating the IT department about the differences between eDiscovery and IT issues. There can be some confusion over the IT department’s involvement in the eDiscovery process, which can wind up harming cases. For example, metadata integrity is critical to responsible eDiscovery and can make or break a case. Perhaps a lawyer asks their IT department to open some difficult data from a client and in the process of trying to be helpful, the IT team changes the original metadata. They might show up as the data author, or they’ve changed the “Last Modified” date. This case data has now been tampered with and will require additional work from eDiscovery experts before it is suitable for review.
Building your in-house support team requires flexibility and persistence upfront but with the right procedures in place, the rewards can last for many years. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to have a trusted eDiscovery vendor who can augment your team’s efforts on complicated cases.