Over the past few decades, the technologies businesses rely on have evolved tremendously. From a mass migration to the cloud to an increasingly remote workforce, the ability to work anytime, anywhere has become invaluable. The level of communication and collaboration that cloud-based platforms like G Suite, Slack, Zoom, and more have afforded workers has not only accelerated productivity, but also skyrocketed the production of unstructured data. In fact, the average company manages 162.9TB of data hosted on an average of 88 applications. The data businesses are producing is scattered amongst different applications, jam-packed with dynamic metadata, and trickier to preserve.
If you’re a law firm, service provider, or any other eDiscovery professional, new platforms can make eDiscovery feel like finding a grain of sand in an ocean of information. However, with the right approach to these new platforms, there are ways to get ahead of the challenges they present. In this article, we’ll discuss a few changes you can start making today to set yourself up for eDiscovery success as information technology evolves.
Get to know the platforms you’re collecting from
It seems simple, but not enough people take the time to truly understand the platforms they’re collecting from. Whether it’s Box eDiscovery or Zoom eDiscovery, unless you’re using the platform everyday, it’s hard to comprehend the bells and whistles of the interface. If you’re a beginner in Slack for instance, you may not understand the difference between a workspace, a channel, or a multi-party message, which makes understanding the context behind information challenging.
If you don’t understand what the platform actually does and how its users interact with it, you’re not going to know how to search for the information you need. The days of collecting every last shred of data from platforms are over — with hundreds of thousands of messages, files, and users to sort through, narrowing down what you’re looking for is the best way to work smart and save time and money. To do this, you must educate yourself and your team on the ins and outs of the platform at hand and step into the user’s shoes. If you don’t know where to begin, get connected with an IT advocate who does. There’s no doubt the worlds of IT and legal are merging, and the technological knowledge gap when it comes to these platforms is a great reason why they should operate as a single unit.
Build relationships with vendors
It’s just as important to get to know the platforms you’re collecting from as it is to get to know the people behind them. When your client or team is assessing a new platform, their priorities are typically much different from yours. Where they might be assessing the platform’s efficiency and functionalities for their line of work, you’re assessing the platform’s eDiscovery capabilities. Not knowing the platform’s native capabilities and limitations from the start can have damaging effects to your eDiscovery process later on. For example, if the platform can’t process and
export its data in a comprehensive format, you’ll have trouble tracking down defensible data when the time comes.
For these reasons and more, it’s critical to connect with technology vendors and ask point blank what the platform’s legal limitations are. Consider questions like: What do your retention settings look like? Is there a legal hold functionality? Do you have a solution partner for defensible collection? The sooner you begin building relationships with your vendors, the sooner you’ll become an expert on the eDiscovery side of the platform leading to a quicker and more agile process.
Leave the knock-on-wood strategy behind
Even now, too many legal teams have a reactive rather than a proactive approach to eDiscovery. Whether it’s a client or even your own team, occasionally you’ll run into a “knock-on-wood” eDiscovery strategy where teams don’t prepare for eDiscovery until they’re forced to. The truth is that if you’re waiting for litigation to thrust you into learning about the eDiscovery capabilities of a platform for the first time, you’re already too late. Worst case scenario, you’ll come to find out important information was deleted, risky information was kept, or you simply can’t find what you need.
With rising data privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA, increasing security vulnerabilities, and the lax, chatroom-like nature of messaging platforms prompting more inappropriate workplace communication, waiting until litigation strikes is no longer an option. Understanding the nature of new technologies, the data they produce, and where that data lives, will help you assess risk and spot critical gaps that need to be filled before the time for eDiscovery comes. To be a proactive eDiscovery professional in the age of emerging technology, you have to ask the right questions, do the research, and assume you’re behind before you even start.
Embrace the velocity of innovation
Every new technology comes with new benefits, but also new risk — and risk is usually the opposite of what the legal community wants to engage with. However, this fact shouldn’t deter you from embracing innovation, instead it should motivate you. The technologies developed over the past few decades have broken down so many barriers. They’ve connected teams across the globe, empowered people through access to knowledge at an unprecedented scale, and allowed us to work smarter and faster with productivity automations. It is changing the way we operate for the better. At times, it can feel impossible to keep up with rapid changes in tech, however, not being able to keep up is a good problem to have. We should challenge ourselves to shift our mindset on this front. Instead of scratching our heads at new technological terms, let’s learn what they mean. Instead of harboring our frustrations to ourselves, let’s express them to vendors and call on them to make native eDiscovery features more standard. There’s no way to simply hop on board the eDiscovery train of the future, we need to be the ones driving it. The bottom line is that wherever there’s electronically-stored information, there’s eDiscovery — and we’re not seeing a decline in ESI volume anytime soon. Instead of being the passengers of the future of eDiscovery, we need to be the drivers — and the ones steering the way will take a proactive, self-educational approach with every new platform that comes their way