3 E-Discovery Lessons That Governments Can Use to Fulfill Public Records Requests
By Tim Rollins
Government agencies face e-discovery challenges familiar to any large organization: massive amounts of data, a wide range of technology platforms, all-too-frequent litigation, and the need to implement consistent, defensible policies across multiple departments and offices. But aside from these universal issues, governments face difficulties that are unique to them—and one of the biggest ones is complying with public records requests (PRRs).
In many ways, fulfilling public records requests is similar to meeting e-discovery requests. They include:
- Finding relevant data in a vast trove of electronically stored information (ESI)
- Reviewing it against requirements for privacy and confidentiality
- Producing it to the requester under tight timelines
It’s only natural, then, that when three government agency employees discussed their solutions to these challenges in an Exterro webinar that they ended up sounding like so much good e-discovery advice.
So then, what are the tips they offered?
- Communicate with requesters to narrow requests. Laura Browning, In-House Counsel at Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority explains, “Taken literally, public records requests could encompass hundreds of thousands of documents—and no one wants that.” She makes an excellent point. A document dump doesn’t help anyone. It’s burdensome to both parties—the producer and the requester. An initial request more often than not will cast a broad net, but good communication allows the agency to produce the most relevant material and the requester to save time.
- Maintain good relationships with requesters. Good communication also begets good relationships. If both parties assume and act in good faith, that gives rise to true cooperation. (As anyone who’s read Exterro’s 4th Annual Federal Judges Survey knows, cooperation is key to efficient and effective e-discovery!) Browning continues, “With ‘frequent fliers’ like media organizations, maintaining a good relationship with them helps us produce what they want in the most efficient manner for the company while still fulfilling their request.”
- Integrate technology with common data sources. Government agencies aren’t necessarily known for implementing cutting edge technology, but that doesn’t mean they don’t face technology challenges. If your e-discovery technology integrates with your most important data sources—Office 365, Microsoft Exchange, Gmail—then you can use it to retrieve data for PRRs in a defensible and efficient manner.
Of course, governments do face additional challenges beyond public records requests. They often operate under tight timelines, with limited budgets, dictated by regulatory and statutory requirements. To find out more about how these three experts solve those problems, download Exterro’s infographic Solve 4 Common E-Discovery and Public Records Request Challenges today.