25 Sep 2012

Getting the Most Out of Your Legal Hold System

Posted in: Tuesday Trends No Comments

By: Andrew Bartholomew

With so much attention focused right now on advancements in search and review technology, many people are overlooking the rapid maturity of legal hold technology. In the last few years, legal hold products have evolved from rudimentary email notification systems to dynamic, multidimensional applications that can be used for managing legal holds as well as a variety of other e-discovery tasks. And even though the courts are paying attention, survey after survey continues to show that many organizations are not fully utilizing the technologies.

In his recent article Signs Of Information Governance Maturity?, eDJ Group analyst Barry Murphy examined results of a recent survey addressing legal hold adoption rates among large organizations.  According to the survey, almost 2/3 of respondents report having documented legal hold notification processes. Is this a sign of increasing market maturity? Murphy expresses doubt: “Documented legal hold notification processes are a start, but alone are not enough to qualify for ‘mature practice’ status.  We asked respondents if they are using any kind of tools to manage and track the legal hold notification process.  Unfortunately, almost half are not using any kind of tool to manage the process.” This recent survey came on the heels of another eDJ report, which concluded many organizations are still reliant on manual, homegrown methods for managing their legal hold processes. Murphy’s concern, shared by countless others, is that organizations are compromising defensibility by not investing in dedicated legal hold software. Spreadsheets and form emails may work in some matters, but they aren’t scalable and involve far more manual work than what is necessary. That means a lot of handoffs and opportunities for mistakes.

Exterro experts have talked with several clients that, before moving to the Exterro Fusion® automated system, were forced to have an employee or even a small team of employees essentially manage legal holds full time. That sort of inefficiency is becoming increasingly harder to justify, especially in a less than flourishing economy.

Beyond ensuring defensibility, many organizations are largely unaware of the many ways a robust legal hold system can be used and even repurposed for other tasks. Following are some examples of ways companies are taking advantage of some of the more advanced legal hold features on the market:

  • Linking Matters: It is not uncommon for large organizations to get hit with a slew of lawsuits related to one particular issue or event (think product liability cases). Advanced legal hold systems can link these matters, allowing users to send one hold notification to a group of custodians, rather than many. This ensures that holds are maintained through the life of all matters; not just one. This approach bolsters defensibility and drastically reduces the amount of manual work associated with applying and releasing hold after hold for matters involving the same custodians.
  • Through advanced technology, custodians can view and respond to all of their legal hold obligations from one screen rather than have to search through old emails.

    Custodian Visibility: Much has been written about the challenges and frustrations associated with managing a legal hold process. As in the example provided above, it can be equally vexing to be on the receiving end of an onslaught of ambiguous hold requests, especially for a busy employee with far more pressing matters. It’s common for custodians to get confused particularly when they’re involved in multiple holds. Comprehensive legal hold systems provide compliance interfaces where custodians can quickly and easily gain visibility into all the holds that impact them without having to go back through the inbox looking for specific instructions (see image above).

  • Integration: It’s difficult for a legal hold process to be successful when it isn’t being supported by current information. Large, global organizations see people come and go on virtually a daily basis, not to mention the frequency of internal promotions and other employee movements within the company. Robust legal hold technologies can be integrated with existing IT investments, such as an organization’s HR database or ServiceNow asset management system, and can alert discovery teams when an active hold may be impacted by an employee status change. Short of daily communication between a company’s legal team and HR department, that level of visibility is impossible to achieve without the proper systems integration.
  • Internal Investigations: The value of a robust legal hold system extends beyond the typical litigation matter. For instance, sensitive internal investigations may require the preservation of an employee’s data without him or her actually being notified. In certain industries, such as the financial or insurance, these investigations can occur quite regularly. Legal and compliance teams now have the ability to issue “silent” legal holds, which ensures data is preserved without the custodian being alerted. This enables more thorough investigations and prevents the type of issues that can arise when potential internal conflicts are exposed before proper evidence is collected.

These are just a few of the many examples of how proactive organizations can (and are) utilizing advanced legal hold systems. To learn more about the many features available in Exterro’s Fusion Legal Hold application, click here.

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