By Tim Rollins
Business process mapping, as a topic, may not excite everyone. That doesn't mean it's not necessary. Every business process should be mapped out, because the level of insight you gain from the exercise is what allows you to manage, measure, improve, and ultimately optimize it. But in the realm of e-discovery, understanding--and crucially documenting--your processes can be extremely important.
Without an accurate picture of what your team does to preserve documents, issue legal holds, or review ESI, how can you measure their effectiveness? How can you implement new ideas to improve efficiency? And most importantly, how can you establish to the court that you have reasonable, defensible processes in place? It's an important exercise, because with optimized work flows, supported by the right technology, your legal department can:
- Ensure consistency and defensibility
- Increase productivity
- Reduce cost and risk
In a recent Exterro webcast, 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying E-Discovery Software, three e-discovery experts discussed how they went about mapping their e-discovery processes.
- Interview Stakeholders and Experts
- Compile Documents
Find out about your current process by talking to the people who use it every day: attorneys, paralegals, custodians, IT personnel, and even outside counsel.
Alayne Russom, Business Ethics and Legal Support Manager at Thrivent Financial, asked her colleagues, “What is working well, and what’s not working well? What do you see as an ideal state? What should e-discovery look like for you? From there, I did a lot of research on best practices. I talked to e-discovery professionals from vendors and other companies.”
Even if you don’t have defined standard operating procedures for e-discovery, chances are you have some basic steps that your team follows every time. There may be informal documentation—training or orientation documents, cheat sheets, even emails explaining how to perform tasks.
“Just because you don't have fancy software or an official website or SharePoint site, don't assume your process is undocumented. Dig around and see if you can find some of the pieces of the puzzle. Even if you have a very loose process,” Tom Mullane, E-Discovery Process Manager at United Technologies Corp., explains, “you’ll probably find more documents than you think you have.”
Take a day, lock yourself and key colleagues in a meeting room, and draw out the process from beginning to end on a whiteboard. Start at the very beginning, from receipt of a complaint or legal notice, through the very end.
Tara Jones, Lead Paralegal for E-Discovery and Litigation at Oath, explains, “We whiteboarded our process from the very beginning, like from when we received a complaint or notification, all the way to the very end of the process, the destruction of data in accordance with our document retention plan. It's difficult and time-consuming, but it helped us find any deficiencies. The whiteboard process allows you to visualize where you need the most help, and it also outlines the pieces of your process that are fine. It helps identify what’s working and what’s not. From there, you can decide as a group where you need the assistance of a tool.”
If you're not sure you want to take on the challenge of mapping your e-discovery workflows, then check out the four workflows included in Exterro's Comprehensive E-Discovery Workflow Guide today.