By Tim Rollins
Although much of the focus on e-discovery is around civil litigation involving large corporate entities, it's clearly not restricted to that sphere. In fact, government agencies have a strong need for e-discovery technology and processes as well, to respond effectively to both e-discovery and public records requests. In fact, federal government agencies are in the midst of implementing The Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18), with the goal of having all permanent government records stored electronically this year.
Exterro recently undertook a survey of e-discovery and records management professionals at federal, state, and local government agencies to get a better picture of their current e-discovery practices, and here is what we learned.
Government agencies lag behind private corporations in e-discovery processes.
Where our recent white paper E-Discovery by the Numbers showed that over 40% of private companies had process and/or technology in place to collect from social media and instant messaging applications, only 20% of the government agencies responding had that capability. Given the amount of business data present in these applications, government agencies are fitting the stereotype of being slow adopters of new technology. And in this case, that can create unnecessary risk.
Government agencies have invested in technology used later in the EDRM.
Surprisingly, one area where governments seem ahead of private corporations is in the use of technology that is further toward the right-side of the EDRM, with 55% saying they have dedicated technology for collection, processing, and review. Given that the common wisdom is for organizations to invest in e-discovery technology on the left-side of the EDRM, with information governance and legal hold software, it seems a little odd that technology laggards would tackle collection, processing, and review much more frequently than preservation and identification (only 31%).
It could be because review is such an expensive process, but more likely it has to do with the public records request use case, which requires these agencies to respond to requests for information on a timely basis.
Even more than technology, government agencies need to adopt best practices.
Asked about the greatest challenges they faced in responding to e-discovery and open records requests, more respondents (37%) cited inadequate processes over budgetary issues (28%), outdated technology (19%), or poor coordination between legal and IT (16%). Thankfully, there are plenty of great educational resources out there with best practices for e-discovery processes, so that problem should fade as more and more organizations adopt fully digital record-keeping.
To find out all the details of this survey of federal, state, and local government officials, download Exterro's 2019 E-Discovery Trend Report for Government today!