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SharePoint: Overcoming the E-Discovery Challenges

Created on January 18, 2012

With a staggering adoption rate, Microsoft® SharePoint® is one of the most dynamic data management platforms in the market today.  Unfortunately, SharePoint's web-based, collaborative framework brings significant challenges when it comes to e-discovery especially when legal teams must preserve and collect content created in SharePoint in a timely and defensible manner.  Among the obstacles that legal teams face:

 (1) Collecting Metadata:

A defensible e-discovery approach entails securely collecting responsive data and its associated metadata.  Because SharePoint enables multiple users to access and modify the same file, the metadata associated with one document can be extensive and complex.  To ensure defensibility, legal teams must show:

  1. Who had access to the file
  2. What changes were made,
  3. Who made the changes and when

Due to SharePoint's complex infrastructure, retrieving and preserving this detailed information can be very difficult and time consuming.

(2) Data Ownership:

In SharePoint, a document may be created by person A, edited by person B and ultimately copied onto person C's computer.  Who then is the document's owner?  Is it the creator of the document?  The person who did the bulk of the editing?  These questions may not seem all that critical.  But in e-discovery, parties are obligated to preserve, collect and produce relevant data from specific custodians named in the complaint.  That means understanding who owns what and where to find it.

Where Problems Arise:

Rushing into SharePoint Implementation:

Given the myriad benefits SharePoint delivers, some organizations are tempted to rush into implementation without first considering the larger legal risks.  Legal and IT teams should research and gain an understanding of the SharePoint environment and configuration (how data is stored and where it is located) before implementation.

Failing to Properly Manage SharePoint Data:

If poorly managed, SharePoint can become an expensive morass for legal teams needing to respond quickly to an e-discovery request.  Guidelines should be created to address issues specific to SharePoint including access controls, data retention, data ownership and myriad other policies and procedures that corporations rely on to govern other data sources.

SharePoint Integration with E-Discovery Collection Tools:

Beyond improvements to the management of the SharePoint environment, organizations also need technology that can integrate and communicate with SharePoint for the defensible preservation and collection of the data stored within. Fortunately, e-discovery software with advanced capabilities has the ability integrate with SharePoint and leverage its unique indexing system to locate and ultimately extract responsive data and all associated metadata.

As SharePoint continues to grow in popularity, such tools are becoming an essential component to a comprehensive and defensible e-discovery process. To learn more about the legal issues associated with e-discovery collections and how technology is advancing to address these challenges (including SharePoint), view Exterro's “Proportionality vs. Defensibility in E-Discovery Collections" webcast here.