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Posts Tagged ‘Electronically Stored Information’

Judge Scheindlin Blasts Proposed FRCP Amendments in Unconventional Style

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

A prominent federal judge wasted little time to air her dissatisfaction with the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules) the exact day the period for public comment on the Rules opened. In lieu of following the formal process of submitting written comments to the proposed amendments the Honorable Shira Scheindlin, Federal District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, provided her feedback in more dramatic fashion. She went out of her way to blast newly proposed Federal Rule 37(e) in a footnote to a recent court order in a case where she sanctioned a party for spoliation of evidence. The order, dated August 15, 2013, conspicuously coincides with the opening day for public comment to the newly proposed amendments to the Rules and likely riled some attorneys who have lobbied hard for this particular Rule change for years.

The facts relayed in Sekisui American Corporation v. Hart are not uncommon. In fact, most have likely heard this story repeat itself for a decade despite the passage of amendments to the Rules in 2006 and myriad case law guiding against such conduct. The short version of the story is that a group of employees leave their company, the company sues the former employees, discovery ensues, and emails are missing. Why? Because emails were deleted long after the duty to preserve electronically stored information (ESI) was triggered and now those emails are lost. The question then turns to whether and how the judge should rectify the missing email problem. Those familiar with some of Judge Scheindlin’s prior decisions know the answer to that question – sanctions.

Judge Scheindlin is not a renegade who issues sanctions regardless of the facts of the case. However, some believe her attempts to provide clarity for litigants in her courtroom sometimes go too far which stirs debate. Whether you agree with her decisions or not, Judge Scheindlin takes special care to meticulously articulate the facts of the case, identify the relevant legal authority, present the legal analysis, and then nail the offending party with sanctions when they screw up discovery.

That is exactly what happened in Sekisui and the order is worth a read. People new to eDiscovery will learn the basics of when to apply a legal hold, while more seasoned eDiscovery veterans will be treated to a stroll down “case law memory lane” that includes stories of eDiscovery train wrecks past like the Zubulake and Pension Committee decisions. If you don’t have the stomach to read the entire thirty-two page opinion, then read the nice article written by Law Technology News aptly titled: Scheindlin Not Charmed When Visiting Spoliation a Third Time for further background on the case.

What is striking about the case is that Scheindlin used the case and issues at hand as an opportunity to articulate her displeasure with the proposed amendments to the Rules. In particular, she calls out proposed Rule 37(e) in footnote 51 of the opinion where she explains:

“the proposed rule would permit sanctions only if the destruction of evidence (1) caused substantial prejudice and was willful or in bad faith or (2) irreparably deprived a party of any meaningful opportunity to present or defend its claims…. The Advisory Committee Note to the proposed rule would require the innocent party to prove that ‘it has been substantially prejudiced by the loss’ of relevant information, even where the spoliating party destroyed information willfully or in bad faith. 5/8/2013 Report of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules at 47. I do not agree that the burden to prove prejudice from missing evidence lost as a result of willful or intentional misconduct should fall on the innocent party. Furthermore, imposing sanctions only where evidence is destroyed willfully or in bad faith creates perverse incentives and encourages sloppy behavior. Under the proposed rule, parties who destroy evidence cannot be sanctioned (although they can be subject to “remedial curative measures”) even if they were negligent, grossly negligent, or reckless in doing so.”

Judge Scheindlin’s “Footnote 51” is almost certain to become a focal point of debate as the dialogue about the Rules continue. Not only did Judge Scheindlin ignite much of the early eDiscovery debate with her Zubulake line of decisions, she has also served on the  Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Advisory Committee from 1998 to 2005. The fact that she is known as the Godmother of eDiscovery in some circles illustrates that her influence over the rule making process is undeniable.  The time for public comment on the Rules closes on February 15, 2014 and the Godmother of eDiscovery has thrown down the gauntlet once again. Let the games begin.

The Top 3 Forensic Data Collection Myths in eDiscovery

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Confusion about establishing a legally defensible approach for collecting data from computer hard drives during eDiscovery has existed for years. The confusion stems largely from the fact that traditional methodologies die hard and legal requirements are often misunderstood. The most traditional approach to data collection entails making forensic copies or mirror images of every custodian hard drive that may be relevant to a particular matter. This practice is still commonly followed because many believe collecting every shred of potentially relevant data from a custodian’s computer is the most efficient approach to data collection and the best way to avoid spoliation sanctions.

 

In reality, courts typically do not require parties to collect every shred of electronically stored information (ESI) as part of a defensible eDiscovery process and organizations wedded to this process are likely wasting significant amounts of time and money. If collecting everything is not required, then why would organizations waste time and money following an outdated and unnecessary approach? The answer is simple – many organizations fall victim to 3 forensic data collection myths that perpetuate inefficient data collection practices. This article debunks these 3 myths and provides insight into more efficient data collection methodologies that can save organizations time and money without increasing risk.

 

Myth #1: “Forensic Copy” and “Forensically Sound” are Synonymous

 

For many, the confusion begins with a misunderstanding of the terms “forensic copy” and “forensically sound.” The Sedona Conference, a leading nonprofit research and educational institute dedicated to the advanced study of law, defines a forensic copy as follows:

 

An exact copy of an entire physical storage media (hard drive, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, tape, etc.), including all active and residual data and unallocated or slack space on the media. Forensic copies are often called “images” or “imaged copies.” (See: The Sedona Conference Glossary: E-Discovery & Digital Information Management, 3rd Edition, Sept. 2010).

 

Forensically sound, on the other hand, refers to the integrity of the data collection process and relates to the defensibility of how ESI is collected. Among other things, electronic files should not be modified or deleted during collection and a proper chain of custody should be established in order for the data collection to be deemed forensically sound. If data is not collected in a forensically sound manner, then the integrity of the ESI that is collected may be suspect and could be excluded as evidence.

 

Somehow over time, many have interpreted the need for a forensically sound collection to require forensic copies of hard drives to be made. In other words, they believe an entire computer hard drive must be collected for a collection to be legally defensible (forensically sound). In reality, entire hard drives (forensic copies) or even all active user files need not be copied as part of a defensible data collection process. What is required, however, is the collection of ESI in a forensically sound manner regardless of whether an entire drive is copied or only a few files.

 

Myth # 2: Courts Require Forensic Copies for Most Cases

 

Making forensic copies of custodian hard drives is often important as part of criminal investigations, trade secret theft cases, and other matters where the recovery and analysis of deleted files, internet browsing history, and other non-user generated information is important to a case. However, most large civil matters only require the production of user-generated files like emails, Microsoft Word documents, and other active files (as opposed to deleted files).

 

Unnecessarily making forensic copies results in more downstream costs in the form of increased document processing, attorney review, and vendor hosting fees because more ESI is collected than necessary. The simple rule of thumb is that the more ESI collected at the beginning of a matter, the higher the downstream eDiscovery costs. That means casting a narrow collection net at the beginning of a case rather than “over-collecting” more ESI than legally required can save significant time and money.

 

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 and case law help dispel the myth that forensic copies are required for most civil cases. The notes to Rule 34(a)(1) state that,

 

Rule 34(a)…is not meant to create a routine right of direct access to a party’s electronic information system, although such access might be justified in some circumstances. Courts should guard against undue intrusiveness resulting from inspecting or testing such systems.

More than a decade ago, the Tenth Circuit validated the notion that opposing parties should not be routinely entitled to forensic copies of hard drives. In McCurdy Group v. Am. Biomedical Group, Inc., 9 Fed. Appx. 822 (10th Cir. 2001) the court held that skepticism concerning whether a party has produced all responsive, non-privileged documents from certain hard drives is an insufficient reason standing alone to warrant production of the hard drives: “a mere desire to check that the opposition has been forthright in its discovery responses is not a good enough reason.” Id. at 831.

On the other hand, Ameriwood Indus. v. Liberman, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93380 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 27, 2006), is a good example of a limited situation where making a forensic copy of a hard drive might be appropriate. In Ameriwood, the court referenced Rule 34(a)(1) to support its decision to order a forensic copy of the defendant’s hard drive in a trade secret misappropriation case because the defendant “allegedly used the computer itself to commit the wrong….” In short, courts expect parties to take a reasonable approach to data collection. A reasonable approach to collection only requires making forensic copies of computer hard drives in limited situations.

 

Myth #3: Courts Have “Validated” Some Proprietary Collection Tools

 

Confusion about computer forensics, data collection, and legal defensibility has also been stoked as the result of overzealous claims by technology vendors that courts have “validated” some data collection tools and not others. This has led many attorneys to believe they should play it safe by only using tools that have ostensibly been “validated” by courts. Unfortunately, this myth exacerbates the over-collection of ESI problem that frequently costs organizations time and money.

 

The notion that courts are in the business of validating particular vendors or proprietary technology solutions is a hot topic that has been summarily dismissed by one of the leading eDiscovery attorneys and computer forensic examiners on the planet. In his article titled, We’re Both Part of the Same Hypocrisy, Senator, Craig Ball explains that courts generally are not in the business of “validating” specific companies and products. To make his point, Mr. Ball poignantly states that:

 

just because a product is named in passing in a court opinion and the court doesn’t expressly label the product a steaming pile of crap does not render the product ‘court validated.’ 

 

In a nod to the fact that the defensibility of the data collection process is dependent on the methodology as much as the tools used, Mr. Ball goes on to explain that, “the integrity of the process hinges on the carpenter, not the hammer.”

 

Conclusion

 

In the past decade, ESI collection tools have evolved dramatically to enable the targeted collection of ESI from multiple data sources in an automated fashion through an organization’s computer network. Rather than manually connecting a collection device to every custodian hard drive or server to identify and collect ESI for every new matter, new tools enable data to be collected from multiple custodians and data sources within an organization using a single collection tool. This streamlined approach saves organizations time and money without sacrificing legal defensibility or forensic soundness.

 

Choosing the correct collection approach is important for any organization facing regulatory scrutiny or routine litigation because data collection represents an early and important step in the eDiscovery process. If data is overlooked, destroyed, altered, or collected too slowly, the organization could face embarrassment and sanctions. On the other hand, needlessly over-collecting data could result in unnecessary downstream processing and review expenses. Properly assessing the data collection requirements of each new matter and understanding modern collection technologies will help you avoid the top 3 forensic data collection myths and save your organization time and money.

The Need for a More Active Judiciary in eDiscovery

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Various theories have been advanced over the years to determine why the digital age has caused the discovery process to spiral out of control. Many believe that the sheer volume of ESI has led to the increased costs and delays that now characterize eDiscovery. Others place the blame on the quixotic advocacy of certain lawyers who seek “any and all documents” in their quest for the proverbial smoking gun. While these factors have undoubtedly contributed to the current eDiscovery frenzy, there is still another key reason that many cognoscenti believe has impacted discovery: a lack of judicial involvement. Indeed, in a recent article published by the University of Kansas Law Review, Professor Steven Gensler and Judge Lee Rosenthal argue that many of the eDiscovery challenges facing lawyers and litigants could be addressed in a more efficient and cost-effective manner through “active case management” by judges. According to Professor Gensler and Judge Rosenthal, a meaningful Rule 16 conference with counsel can enable “the court to ensure that the lawyers and parties have paid appropriate attention to planning for electronic discovery.”

To facilitate this vision of a more active judiciary in the discovery process, the Advisory Committee has proposed a series of changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Most of these changes are designed to improve the effectiveness of the Rule 26(f) discovery conference and to encourage courts to provide input on key discovery issues at the outset of a case.

Rules 26 and 34 – Improving the Effectiveness of the Rule 26(f) Discovery Conference

One way the Committee felt that it could enable greater judicial involvement in case management was to have the parties conduct a more meaningful Rule 26(f) discovery conference. Such a step is significant since courts generally believe that a successful conference is the lynchpin for conducting discovery in a proportional manner.

To enhance the usefulness of the conference, the Committee recommended that Rule 26(f) be amended to specifically require the parties to discuss any pertinent issues surrounding the preservation of ESI. This provision is calculated to get the parties thinking proactively about preservation problems that could arise later in discovery. It is also designed to work in conjunction with the proposed amendments to Rule 16(b)(3) and Rule 37(e). Changes to the former would expressly empower the court to issue a scheduling order addressing ESI preservation issues. Under the latter, the extent to which preservation issues were addressed at a discovery conference or in a scheduling order could very well affect any subsequent motion for sanctions relating to a failure to preserve relevant ESI.

Another amendment to Rule 26(f) would require the parties to discuss the need for a “clawback” order under Federal Rule of Evidence 502. Though underused, Rule 502(d) orders generally reduce the expense and hassle of litigating issues surrounding the inadvertent disclosure of ESI protected by the lawyer-client privilege. To ensure this overlooked provision receives attention from litigants, the Committee has drafted a corresponding amendment to Rule 16(b)(3) that would enable the court to weigh in on Rule 502 related issues in a scheduling order.

The final step the Committee has proposed for increasing the effectiveness of the Rule 26(f) conference is to amend Rule 26(d) and Rule 34(b)(2) to enable parties to serve Rule 34 document requests prior to that conference. These “early” requests, which are not deemed served until the conference, are “designed to facilitate focused discussion during the Rule 26(f) conference.” This, the Committee hopes, will enable the parties to subsequently prepare document requests that are more targeted and proportional to the issues in play.

Rule 16 – Greater Judicial Input on Key Discovery Issues

As mentioned above, the Committee has suggested adding provisions to Rule 16(b)(3) that track those in Rule 26(f) so as to provide the opportunity for greater judicial input on certain eDiscovery issues at the outset of a case. In addition to these changes, Rule 16(b)(3) would also allow a court to require that the parties caucus with the court before filing a discovery-related motion. The purpose of this provision is to encourage judges to informally resolve discovery disputes before the parties incur the expense of fully engaging in motion practice. According to the Committee, various courts have used similar arrangements under their local rules that have “proven highly effective in reducing cost and delay.”

Conclusion

Whether or not these changes are successful depends on how committed the courts are to using the proposed case management tools. Without more active involvement from the courts, the newly proposed initiatives regarding cooperation and proportionality may very well fall by the wayside and remain noble, but unmet expectations. Compliance with the draft rules is likely the only method to ensure that these amendments (if enacted) are to be successful.

Push or Pull? Deciding How Much Oversight is Required of In-house Counsel in eDiscovery

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

When Kolon Industries recently found itself on the wrong side of a $919 million verdict, the legal department for the South Korean-based manufacturer probably started to take inventory on what it might have done differently to have avoided such a fate. While that list could have included any number of entries, somewhere near the top had to be an action item to revamp its process for supervising the preservation and collection of electronically stored information (ESI) from company executives and employees. Breakdowns in that process led to the destruction of nearly 18,000 pages of ESI. This resulted in an instruction to the jury in E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc. that Kolon had engaged in wholesale destruction of key evidence. All of which culminated in the devastating verdict against the manufacturer.

Most enterprises will likely never have to deal with the fallout from a nearly $1 billion verdict. Nevertheless, many companies still struggle with the same issues associated with document collection that ultimately tripped up Kolon Industries. Indeed, one of the most troubling issues facing in-house counsel is determining the degree of oversight that must be exercised in connection with document preservation and collection in eDiscovery. While this is an issue counsel has always grappled with, the degree of difficulty has substantially increased in the digital age. With the explosion of information, courts have raised their expectations for how organizations and their counsel address ESI in discovery. Now that the stakes have been raised, should counsel allow executives and employees to decide what is relevant and have them “push” the data for production? Or, should the team collect  (i.e., “pull”) the data and then cull and review for relevancy?

These issues were recently considered in an article published in May 2013 by the ACC Docket. Authored by Shawn Cheadle, General Counsel, Military Space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, and me, the article describes how counsel can balance these countervailing factors to appropriately supervise the inextricably intertwined eDiscovery phases of ESI preservation and collection. In this article, we detail the elements in play, and discuss the leading court cases and their respective factual scenarios, with an eye toward helping in-house counsel understand the dynamics that are driving this trend. We also provide some suggestions for how counsel can meet the required degree of eDiscovery oversight without neglecting its other duties.

A copy of this article is available here for your reading pleasure.

The Gartner 2013 Magic Quadrant for eDiscovery Software is Out!

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

This week marks the release of the 3rd annual Gartner Magic Quadrant for e-Discovery Software report.  In the early days of eDiscovery, most companies outsourced almost every sizeable project to vendors and law firms so eDiscovery software was barely a blip on the radar screen for technology analysts. Fast forward a few years to an era of explosive information growth and rising eDiscovery costs and the landscape has changed significantly. Today, much of the outsourced eDiscovery “services” business has been replaced by eDiscovery software solutions that organizations bring in house to reduce risk and cost. As a result, the enterprise eDiscovery software market is forecast to grow from $1.4 billion in total software revenue worldwide in 2012 to $2.9 billion by 2017. (See Forecast:  Enterprise E-Discovery Software, Worldwide, 2012 – 2017, Tom Eid, December, 2012).

Not surprisingly, today’s rapidly growing eDiscovery software market has become significant enough to catch the attention of mainstream analysts like Gartner. This is good news for company lawyers who are used to delegating enterprise software decisions to IT departments and outside law firms. Because today those same company lawyers are involved in eDiscovery and other information management software purchasing decisions for their organizations. While these lawyers understand the company’s legal requirements, they do not necessarily understand how to choose the best technology to address those requirements. Conversely, IT representatives understand enterprise software, but they do not necessarily understand the law. Gartner bridges this information gap by providing in depth and independent analysis of the top eDiscovery software solutions in the form of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for e-Discovery Software.

Gartner’s methodology for preparing the annual Magic Quadrant report is rigorous. Providers must meet quantitative requirements such as revenue and significant market penetration to be included in the report. If these threshold requirements are met then Gartner probes deeper by meeting with company representatives, interviewing customers, and soliciting feedback to written questions. Providers that make the cut are evaluated across four Magic Quadrant categories as either “leaders, challengers, niche players, or visionaries.” Where each provider ends up on the quadrant is guided by an independent evaluation of each provider’s “ability to execute” and “completeness of vision.” Landing in the “leaders” quadrant is considered a top recognition.

The nine Leaders in this year’s Magic Quadrant have four primary characteristics (See figure 1 above).

The first is whether the provider has functionality that spans both sides of the electronic discovery reference model (EDRM) (left side – identification, preservation, litigation hold, collection, early case assessment (ECA) and processing and right-side – processing, review, analysis and production). “While Gartner recognizes that not all enterprises — or even the majority — will want to perform legal-review work in-house, more and more are dictating what review tools will be used by their outside counsel or legal-service providers. As practitioners become more sophisticated, they are demanding that data change hands as little as possible, to reduce cost and risk. This is a continuation of a trend we saw developing last year, and it has grown again in importance, as evidenced both by inquiries from Gartner clients and reports from vendors about the priorities of current and prospective customers.”

We see this as consistent with the theme that providers with archiving solutions designed to automate data retention and destruction policies generally fared better than those without archiving technology. The rationale is that part of a good end-to-end eDiscovery strategy includes proactively deleting data organizations do not have a legal or business need to keep. This approach decreases the amount of downstream electronically stored information (ESI) organizations must review on a case-by-case basis so the cost savings can be significant.

Not surprisingly, whether or not a provider offers technology assisted review or predictive coding capabilities was another factor in evaluating each provider’s end-to-end functionality. The industry has witnessed a surge in predictive coding case law since 2012 and judicial interest has helped drive this momentum. However, a key driver for implementing predictive coding technology is the ability to reduce the amount of ESI attorneys need to review on a case-by-case basis. Given the fact that attorney review is the most expensive phase of the eDiscovery process, many organizations are complementing their proactive information reduction (archiving) strategy with a case-by-case information reduction plan that also includes predictive coding.

The second characteristic Gartner considered was that Leaders’ business models clearly demonstrate that their focus is software development and sales, as opposed to the provision of services. Gartner acknowledged that the eDiscovery services market is strong, but explains that the purpose of the Magic Quadrant is to evaluate software, not services. The justification is that “[c]orporate buyers and even law firms are trending towards taking as much e-Discovery process in house as they can, for risk management and cost control reasons. In addition, the vendor landscape for services in this area is consolidating. A strong software offering, which can be exploited for growth and especially profitability, is what Gartner looked for and evaluated.”

Third, Gartner believes the solution provider market is shrinking and that corporations are becoming more involved in buying decisions instead of deferring technology decisions to their outside law firms. Therefore, those in the Leaders category were expected to illustrate a good mix of corporate and law firm buying centers. The rationale behind this category is that law firms often help influence corporate buying decisions so both are important players in the buying cycle. However, Gartner also highlighted that vendors who get the majority of their revenues from the “legal solution provider channel” or directly from “law firms” may soon face problems.

The final characteristic Gartner considered for the Leaders quadrant is related to financial performance and growth. In measuring this component, Gartner explained that a number of factors were considered. Primary among them is whether the Leaders are keeping pace with or even exceeding overall market growth. (See “Forecast:  Enterprise E-Discovery Software, Worldwide, 2012 – 2017,” Tom Eid, December, 2012).

Companies landing in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for eDiscovery Software have reason to celebrate their position in an increasingly competitive market. To review Gartner’s full report yourself, click here. In the meantime, please feel free to share your own comments below as the industry anxiously awaits next year’s Magic Quadrant Report.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Save the Date: Defensible Deletion Google + Hangout

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

As information volumes continue to explode, the need for a strategic information governance plan has never been more important. Organizations are struggling to reduce their electronically stored information (ESI) footprint, while at the same time ensuring they are prepared to satisfy eDiscovery requests and comply with retention requirements stemming from Dodd-Frank and FINRA 10-06.

This is where Defensible Deletion comes into play. Defensible Deletion is a comprehensive approach that companies implement to reduce the storage costs and legal risks associated with the retention of electronically stored information. Organizations that establish a systematic methodology for cutting down their information clutter have been successful in avoiding court sanctions and eliminating ESI that has little or no business value.

Please join the Symantec Archiving & eDiscovery team on Wednesday, June 19 at 9:30am PT for an On Air Google+ Hangout and learn techniques for reducing risk and storage costs through the implementation of a Defensible Deletion plan for both active and archived content: http://bit.ly/17by3e6.  Also, join the conversation at #SYMChangout.

Defensible Deletion and The A-Team: I Love It When An Information Governance Plan Comes Together

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

One of the clear eDiscovery trends that has taken root during the past year is defensible deletion. Indeed, there are any number of news stories reporting that more organizations are taking steps to eliminate electronically stored information (ESI) that has little to any business value. This is further confirmed by industry surveys whose empirical data suggests that a tipping point has been reached on the issue of defensible deletion. For example, in a recent survey conducted by the eDJ Group, over 96% of the respondents recognized that “defensible deletion of information is necessary in order to manage growing volumes of digital information.” The report accompanying the eDJ Group survey succinctly summarized the new-found urgency surrounding defensible deletion: “Deletion isn’t just a nice corporate “housekeeping” idea; it is now a necessity…”

Nevertheless, many organizations remain on the defensible deletion sidelines. While they see the potential value in getting rid of useless ESI, they are often hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons. As described in a recent Inside Counsel webinar, those reasons include any or some combination of the following:

  1. The Lack of an Organized Process
  2. Ineffective Technology
  3. Budget Constraints
  4. Fear of Repercussions Stemming from Data Destruction

While these reasons are understandable given the challenges associated with developing a defensible deletion strategy, they can be addressed with an effective information governance plan.

This fact was recently spotlighted by United States Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal, Anne Kershaw, Founder and Principal of A.Kershaw, PC // Attorneys & Consultants, and Eric Lieber, the Director of Legal Technology at Toyota Motor Sales, at the Legal Tech conference in New York. What is most evident and important from the various video excerpts of their discussion is the panelists’ general agreement that the judiciary has recognized that companies may destroy ESI in many instances without adverse consequences. That the judiciary is leaving the door open for organizations to defensibly delete ESI in a reasonable fashion belies the myth that all data must be kept forever. This is consistent with other industry voices, which have observed that the risk of eDiscovery sanctions is dropping. And as the panelists confirmed, this risk could decrease even further if the proposed amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e) are implemented.

With the threat of sanctions reduced, there are now fewer obstacles outside the organization to get in the way of developing an effective information governance plan. Such a plan, which includes an organized process with sufficient budget to engage necessary personnel and acquire effective technologies, is not mission impossible. Instead, companies whose personnel work cooperatively to find a solution that decreases the massive amounts of stored ESI will likely echo the sentiments of John “Hannibal” Smith from the 1980s television series the A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together!”

ADR Offers Unique Solutions to Address Common eDiscovery Challenges

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Much of the writing in the eDiscovery community focuses on the consequences of a party failing to adequately accomplish one of the nine boxes of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model. Breaking news posts frequently report on how spoliation and sanctions are typically issued for failure to suspend auto-deletion or to properly circulate a written litigation hold notices. This begs the question, aside from becoming perfectly adept in all nine boxes of the EDRM, how else can an organization protect themselves from discovery wars and sanctions?

One way is explore the possibilities Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has to offer. While there is no substitute for the proper implementation of information governance processes, technology, and the people who manage them; there are alternative and creative ways to minimize exposure. This is not to say that ESI is less discoverable in ADR, but it is to say with the proper agreements in place, the way ESI is handled in the event of a dispute can be addressed proactively.  That is because although parties are free to use the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in ADR proceedings, they are not constricted by them. In other words, ADR proceedings can provide parties with the flexibility to negotiate and tailor their own discovery rules to address the specific matter and issues at hand.

Arbitration is a practical and preferred way to resolve disputes because it is quick, relatively inexpensive and commonly binding. With enough foresight, parties can preemptively limit the scope of discovery in their agreements to ensure the just and speedy resolution of a matter. Practitioners who are well versed in electronic discovery will be the best positioned to counsel clients in the formation of their agreements upfront, obviating protracted discovery. While a similar type of agreement can be reached and protection can be achieved with the Meet and Confer Conference in civil litigation, ADR offers a more private forum giving the parties more contractual power and less unwanted surprises.

For example, JAMS includes this phrase in one of their model recommendations:

JAMS recognizes that there is significant potential for dealing with time and other limitations on discovery in the arbitration clauses of commercial contracts. An advantage of such drafting is that it is much easier for parties to agree on such limitations before a dispute has arisen. A drawback, however, is the difficulty of rationally providing for how best to arbitrate a dispute that has not yet surfaced. Thus, the use of such clauses may be most productive in circumstances in which parties have a good idea from the outset as to the nature and scope of disputes that might thereafter arise.

Thus, arbitration is an attractive option for symmetrical litigation where the merits of the case are high stakes and neither party wants to delve into a discovery war. A fair amount of early case assessment would be necessary as well, so parties have a full appreciation about what they are agreeing to include or not include in the way of ESI.  Absent a provision to use specific rules (American Arbitration Association or Federal Arbitration Act), the agreement between parties is the determining factor as to how extensive the scope of discovery will be.

In Mitsubishi Motors v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 625 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court has explained that the “liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements’…is at bottom a policy guaranteeing the enforcement of private contractual agreements. As such, assuming an equal bargaining position or, at least an informed judgment, courts will enforce stipulations regarding discovery, given the policy of enforcing arbitration agreements by their terms.” Please also see an excellent explanation of Discovery in Arbitration by Joseph L. Forstadt for more information.

Cooperation amongst litigants in discovery has long been a principle of the revered Sedona Conference. ADR practitioners facing complex discovery questions are looking to Sedona’s Cooperation Proclamation for guidance with an eye toward negotiation by educating themselves on ways to further minimize distractions and costs in discovery.  An example of one such event is at The Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at UC Hastings, where they are conducting a mock Meet and Confer on May 16, 2013. The event highlights the need for all practitioners, whether it be the 26 (f) conference for litigation or the preliminary hearing in the case of arbitration, to assess electronic discovery issues with the same weight they do claims and damages early on in the dispute.

It is also very important that arbitrators, especially given the power they have over a matter, to understand the consequences of their rulings. Discovery is typically under the sole control of the arbitrator in a dispute, and only in very select circumstances can relief be granted by the court. An arbitrator that knows nothing about eDiscovery could miss something material and affect the entire outcome adversely. For parties that have identified and addressed these issues proactively, there is more protection and certainty in arbitration. Typically, the primary focus of an arbitrator is enforcing the contract between parties, not to be an eDiscovery expert.

It is also important to caution against revoking rights to discovery by entering into mutual agreements to unreasonably limit discovery.  This approach is somewhat reminiscent of the days when lawyers would agree not to conduct discovery, because neither knew how. Now, while efficiency and cost savings are a priority, we must guard against a potential similar paradigm emerging as we may know too much about how to shield relevant ESI.

As we look to the future, especially for serial litigants, one can imagine a perfect world in arbitration for predictive coding. In the Federal courts, we have seen over the past two years or so an emergence of the use of predictive coding technologies. However, even when the parties agree, which they don’t always, they still struggle with achieving a meeting of the minds on the protocol. These disputes have at times overshadowed the advantage of using predictive coding because discovery disputes and attorney’s fees have overtaken any savings. In ADR there is a real opportunity for similarly situated parties to agree via contract, upfront on tools, methodologies and scope. Once these contracts are in place, both parties are bound to the same rules and a just and speedy resolution of a matter can take place.

South Africa’s Motivation for Information Governance: Privacy, Fraud and the Cloud

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

On a recent trip to South Africa, where Symantec sponsored an event with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) entitled The Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Drives Information Governance, customers and partners shared important insights. One major concern the attendees had was how they will comply with the newly proposed privacy legislation set to pass any day now.

POPI is the first comprehensive body of law addressing privacy in the country. Personal data is defined as a natural person’s name, date of birth, national identification number, passport number, health or credit information and other personally identifiable information. The bill has eight principles, each of which addresses aspects of how data must be collected, stored, processed, secured, expired and how access may be granted. This bill will apply to both public and private organizations and is driving the need for archiving, classification, eDiscovery, and data loss prevention technology.

Interestingly, the main motivator for purchasing eDiscovery technology will be the need for organizations in Africa to be able to conduct internal investigations to detect fraud. South Africa’s recent POPI legislation was crafted in order to address the age of digital information and the risks associated with it, but also to instill a level of confidence from the global economy in South Africa as a safe place to do business. A recent survey by Compuscan found that South Africa and Nigeria have the highest number of reported fraud cases in Africa. In addition, fraud related crimes have cost African businesses and governments at least $10.9 billion in 2011-12. Of the 875 reported cases, 40% of fraud perpetrators were in upper management.

Archiving the email of top management is a recommended best practice to address this fraud because it ensures that there will be a record of electronic communications should an investigation or lawsuit be necessary. Similarly, leveraging in-house eDiscovery and data loss prevention (DLP) technology enables investigators within the organizations to collect and analyze these emails in conjunction with other pertinent information to detect and even prevent fraud. To date, the majority of organizations in South Africa lack this kind of capability because they have not invested in technology.

Because corruption and fraud have been impediments to doing business in South Africa in the past, businesses and the government are taking steps to address these issues. Having the ability to conduct internal investigations will be a huge advantage for organizations looking to gain control over their information and those who commit fraud. PwC Partner Kris Budnik noted at the conference, “Many times when clients call me for an emergency forensic investigation, about 50% of the time in South Africa I cannot help them.  The reason for this is that the clients are not keeping the appropriate information governance systems in place and not keeping log files. Many times when we go to collect evidence, none is there because it has truly been overwritten in the data environment due to poor information governance practices.”

Litigation does not appear to be the biggest factor for purchasing eDiscovery technologies and implementing workflows as one might expect. The reason for this is unclear, but may be related to a less aggressive litigation profile as compared to that of the U.S. Much of the discovery in South Africa that involves electronically stored information is printed, reviewed and produced in paper format. The concern over retaining relevant metadata and reviewing/producing data in the format data was originally created does not seem to be top of mind for litigators.

Litigators in South Africa are not taking advantage of the rich information in metadata to supplement their cases or to challenge opposing counsel’s claims/productions. Also of concern is the inability to deduplicate and sort data once metadata is removed. The reason for this is most likely because there have not been enough cases where lack of metadata has been challenged. With time, and as cross-border litigation increases, there will be more demand for eDiscovery technology in the traditional legal context.

The increase in privacy concerns and internal fraud investigations presents a compelling reason for investing in archiving, eDiscovery, and DLP technologies for businesses in South Africa. Many organizations are moving data to the cloud to streamline POPI related objectives faster and because outsourcing their infrastructure is very attractive to organizations that don’t want to own the responsibilities of managing their information on premise. The main business drivers for cloud archiving in South Africa are: email continuity, cost and compliance.

It is interesting to observe how different countries and economies respond to technology and what drives use cases. The legal frameworks in each jurisdiction around the world vary, but the great equalizer will be technology. This is because whether it is privacy, litigation or fraud driving the information governance plan, the technology is the same.

Check out this article for more information on privacy legislation in South Africa.

Available soon: please visit our eDiscovery passport page for more information the legal system, eDiscovery, privacy and data protection in South Africa and other countries.

 

Gibson Dunn eDiscovery Report Hails Industry Advances

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

At eDiscovery 2.0, we have consistently followed the reports that Gibson Dunn has released on the state of eDiscovery. This is for good reason given its reputation as an excellent source of information on the trends affecting individual organizations and the industry as a whole.

The recently released 2012 annual report is no different, except that the overall tone is more positive. Instead of spotlighting the continuing problem of sanctions, the report showcases predictive coding and rules reform as the key eDiscovery trends leading into 2013. Describing these trends as being potential game-changers, the report also notes that “many questions remain” and warns that the impact of these trends may affect organizations in unanticipated and perhaps troubling ways.

Predictive Coding

In its report, Gibson Dunn happily indicates that unlike previous years, predictive coding technology appears to be ready for prime time. With several decisions from 2012 expressly or tacitly approving the use of predictive coding, the report speculates that many organizations and their counsel could become adopters of the technology. As the technology becomes more widespread and additional court decisions provide judicial imprimatur to the technology, the prospects increase that predictive coding could “drastically alter the way in which documents are reviewed for production.”

Nevertheless, challenges remain before this gradually increasing trend becomes a fully blown industry norm. While the promise of predictive coding is in its potential for rapid and cost effective document review, the report questions whether the technology will live up to that hype. Indeed, Gibson Dunn asks whether predictive coding is like any other review tool: “is it merely the latest review technology that, while useful, neither obtains widespread adoption nor revolutionizes the landscape?” Such questions are particularly legitimate given the substantial costs associated with most of the reported predictive coding cases. Indeed, the recent case of Gabriel Technologies v. Qualcomm exemplifies this predictive coding cost paradox.

Rules Changes

Another positive industry development that is fraught with questions concerns potential changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As the report indicates, the federal Civil Rules Advisory Committee has made significant progress on a proposed draft amendment to Rule 37(e). Designed to broaden the existing protection against sanctions, the proposal would theoretically safeguard an organization’s pre-litigation destruction of information from sanctions in most circumstances. The lone exceptions would include destruction that was “willful or in bad faith and caused substantial prejudice in the litigation” or that “irreparably deprived a party of any meaningful opportunity to present a claim or defense.” While such a rule undoubtedly could reduce the costs and risks associated with ESI preservation, ambiguities in the draft language, together with statements in the draft advisory committee note, could ultimately water down the proposal’s intended protections.

Another encouraging rule change being considered by rules-makers includes an effort to better emphasize proportionality limitations on the Rule 26(b)(1) permissible scope of discovery. While characterized by the report as an “underused” though “increasingly important” doctrine, a proportionality amendment to Rule 26(b)(1) could do much to bring the problematic costs and delays of eDiscovery under control.

The report also sounded a note of caution on the proportionality front. Referring to the Sedona Conference’s recently updated Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery, the report observes that technology will be a key aspect in any proportionality analysis. With that background, Gibson Dunn cautions against misusing the efficiencies of cutting edge eDiscovery technologies to increase the scope of production under the guise that such discovery will comport with proportionality principles:

Litigants and courts will therefore need to be vigilant in preventing the use of such technologies from becoming a justification for expanding the scope of discovery beyond an appropriate focus on documents relevant to the issues in dispute, and thereby exacerbating the very problems that technologies seek to address.

Other Industry Trends

Gibson Dunn spotlighted several other key trends from 2012 in its 33-page report. Among them were developments in cross-border eDiscovery, the increasing importance of foreign data protection laws, congressional attempts to bolster domestic privacy regulations, the correlation between ESI preservation and courts sanctions, and discovery of information found on social networking sites. These and other industry trends confirm that “progress is being made in addressing e-discovery’s challenges[,] [t]he dense fog that often seems to surround e-discovery appears to have lifted somewhat, and the collective anxiety lowered a little.”

Despite such sanguine observations, risks remain for organizations and their lawyers. The report concludes by raising the specter of sanctions, which will likely continue to be an unpredictable hobgoblin unless meaningful rules reform takes place. Until that time, clients and counsel alike should be proactive in adopting industry best practices to better ensure compliance with existing rules and jurisprudence.