Mergers & Budgets & Legacy Email, Oh My! How to Mature Your E-Discovery Process in the Face of Challenges
By Jim Gill
Chris Garber, Head of E-Discovery at Allergan, hand her team has one of the most mature e-discovery processes in the industry. But process maturity doesn't happen overnight. Some legal departments might see updating their e-discovery processes as an all-or-nothing proposition, which is great it you can get everything in line to make that happen; but too often, legal teams are facing numerous challenges at once (budgets, personnel, mergers, technology). But even with these challenges, you don't have to give up. Instead, you simply have to be flexible and stay focused on the end goal, even if it takes a while.
Using a Staged Approach:
Chris Garber expands on her experience with updating her team's e-discovery processes. “Early on, we recognized the benefit for an end-to-end solution, but as with any major project, we had budgetary concerns. This was in 2009, as the e-discovery process was starting to develop. We realized then that we needed an electronic legal hold system that had audit trails and tracking, because we were doing everything manually.
“We started with standalone e-discovery tools, like ‘Incase’ and ‘Intella’ to run our data. We didn't even have an email archive then. We got caught, for lack of a better word, with our pants down and were not e-discovery ready. Then we were served with a Department of Justice subpoena in 2008, so we had to scramble. Once that quieted down, we realized we had a need to do more in-house.
“The more mature Exterro became, and the more mature our process became, and the more demos I was a part of, the more we saw the need for those tools. Then things changed again around here with a hostile takeover attempt, and our e-discovery efforts were back-burnered for a few years, and we just kept going with what we had. We were able to get an email archive. Along with the company merger, we successfully merged an east coast and west coast e-discovery process, and from that we were able to convince management to go with the end-to-end Exterro tool, including legal project management solution. It was very exciting!”
Allergan’s Three-Pronged Attack: E-Discovery, Process, Technology
Chris continues, “At this point, we had a world-class process, and an e-discovery team with a lab on site. And we had pretty sophisticated tools, so that we were doing a really good job. But where we were lacking expertise was crawling our own Non-Custodial Data Systems. We would process data to 90%, but then send it to a vendor like Epiq, because every step through processing didn’t cost a nickel, so we would spend it on the third-party review.
“After the merger, we did some cost analysis and said, the Exterro tool will pay for itself within the first year, because we can produce our own data and can do smaller subpoenas in-house. The cost benefit seems so clear when you lay it out, but people are so darned scared to take that leap, because it's an unknown. Everyone is used to saying, 'Just farm that out,' but that isn't always cheaper or the most efficient way of doing things. When we asked for the budget, we said, “Here's what we spent, here's what it costs for these new tools, and here's what we can save in a year." It was several millions. With the Exterro platform, it’s much cheaper to hire a full-time employee to manage the whole end-to-end process than it is to send things to third-party vendors.
On Selecting an E-Discovery Solution
“The most important thing we were looking for was an end-to-end solution,” Chris stated. “I don't want to farm it out. I want to collect and produce documents all in one place. A lot of vendors say they do end-to-end, but then we would go to the demo and say, ‘wait a minute you're missing this’ or ‘I can't use your dashboard, because I'm not a forensic person or an IT person, I 'm a legal person.’ Terril Lohse, our I.S. Business Relationship Manager (who also has an IT background) took the lead from a project management standpoint and drove the whole process, while legal sat in on all the demos to make comments and decisions. We had demos with five different vendors before Exterro won the job. Nobody had it all except you guys, which is awesome.
“Of course, we can’t run all of our cases -- some are huge, and we wouldn't have the necessary personnel -- but we pay for the tools very easily by completing all of our processing in-house, as well as running our own managed reviews and hiring our own contract reviewers.”
Managing Data Volumes and Data Types
Another challenge Chris and her team faced was data management, especially during the mergers and acquisitions. She said, “We encountered multiple servers from the different companies, and some of the email data was inaccessible. It was a huge challenge to create a data map, figure out what was there, and get it stored in one place.
“One of the ways we do this is to keep data types down to only a few systems. In 2011, when we bought the email archive -- we currently use Live Office and Druva -- we ingested every single person’s PSP off their machine into the email archive, so everything is journaled in and out from that point forward and nothing is ever deleted from the back end. This lets you sleep at night. People can delete away, because delete doesn't mean permanently delete. We're also getting better tools to look at mobile devices and text messages, and when employees use their own devices, those are ingested and put in our archives.
“To accommodate our archive, we pay for unlimited storage with all stakeholders, including Exterro. We don't want to have to lay search terms on our email archives, which would be a nightmare. Fortunately, our tools work great, and the strong partnership and software connectors between Exterro, Epic, and Druva makes everything easy.”
You Can Have it All
Many times people, myself included, challenges become overwhelming to the point that objectives seem unattainable, and the safety and comfort of the status quo win out. But it's a long race, and it's important to remember that as long as you keep moving forward, slow and sure won't just finish, but will finish in grand form.