Proportionality in eDiscovery is Ideal, but Difficult to Realize Without an Optimized Process

By John Patzakis

(Originally published October 24, 2022 by JD Supra and EDRM)

Image: Kaylee Walstad, EDRM

Proportionality-based eDiscovery is a goal that all corporate litigants seek to attain. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), parties may discover any non-privileged material that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Litigants that take full advantage of the proportionality rule can greatly reduce cost, time and risk associated with otherwise inefficient eDiscovery.

While there is a keen awareness of proportionality in the legal community, realizing the benefits requires the ability to operationalize workflows as far upstream in the eDiscovery process as possible. For instance, when you’re engaging in data over-collection, which in turn incurs extensive labor and processing costs, the ship has largely sailed before you are able to perform early case assessments and data relevancy analysis, as much of the discovery costs have already been incurred at that point. The case law and the Federal Rules provide that the duty to preserve only applies to potentially relevant information, but unless you have the right operational processes in place, you’re losing out on the ability to attain the benefits of proportionality.

However, traditional eDiscovery services typically involve manual collection, followed by manual on-premises hardware-based processing, and finally manual upload to review. These inefficiencies extend projects by often weeks while dramatically increasing cost and risk with purposeful data over-collection and numerous manual data handoffs. The good news is that solutions and processes addressing the first half of the EDRM involving collection and processing are now far more automated than they were even a few years ago.

Recently EDRM hosted a webinar addressing these issues – “Operationalizing your eDiscovery Process to Realize Proportionality Benefits” – and more specifically, as the title reflects, explored how to operationalize your eDiscovery process to achieve lower costs, improve early case strategy, realize faster time to review and reduce overall legal risk.

Here are some key takeaways from the webinar:

  • A detailed legal analysis was provided highlighting the case of Raine Group v. Reign Capital, (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2022), which applied proportionality at the point of identification and collection, not just production. The court endorsed the use of detailed and iterative keyword searches to identify and preserve potentially relevant ESI.
  • A demonstration was shown on how to enable detailed and proportional search criteria, applied in-place, at the point of collection. Such a capability is key to realizing the blueprint for targeted and proportional ESI collection outlined in Raine Group.
  • The speakers also discussed how organizations should move upstream to focus on information governance to reduce the data funnel as soon as possible. The new generation of eDiscovery technology in the areas of collection, identification, analytics, and early data assessment, enables enterprises to operationalize proportionality principles.

The webinar culminated with the notion that an optimized process that applies proportionality upstream at the collection and identification stage reduces the data volume funnel by as much as 98 percent from over-collection models, yet with increased transparency and compliance. A link to the recording from the webinar can also be accessed here.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, Case Study, ECA, eDiscovery, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, Preservation & Collection, proportionality

The Traditional Workplace is Not Coming Back, with Major Implications for eDiscovery

By John Patzakis

The world has in many ways returned to life as it was prior to the pandemic. Restaurants and hotels are packed again. Children are all back in their classrooms. Rock bands and philharmonics are playing in front of full audiences. But this is not so for the office.

Only about a third of knowledge workers are back in the office more than once a week, but, according to CNN, only 5 percent of employers are requiring in-office attendance five days a week. And it doesn’t look like these trends are going to change dramatically any time soon. In fact, the trend toward remote work should continue as office leases continue to expire. The vast majority of knowledge workers prefer some form of hybrid or remote work, and executives are increasingly coming to accept that reality. Remote and hybrid work is here to stay. And this has major repercussions for eDiscovery practices.

This is because the legacy manual collection workflow involving travel, physical access and one-time mass collection of custodian laptops, file servers and email accounts is a non-starter for the new era of remote and distributed workforces. Manual collection efforts are expensive, disruptive and time-consuming as many times an “overkill” method of forensic image collection process is employed, thus substantially driving up eDiscovery costs.

When it comes to technical approaches, endpoint forensic crawling methods are now a non-starter. Network bandwidth constraints coupled with the requirement to migrate all endpoint data back to the forensic crawling tool renders the approach ineffective, especially with remote workers needing to VPN into a corporate network. Corporate network bandwidth is at a premium, and the last thing a company needs is their network shut down by inefficient remote forensic tools.

For example, with a forensic crawling tool, to search a custodian’s laptop with 20 gigabytes of email and documents, all 20 gigabytes must be copied and transmitted over the network, where it is then searched, all of which takes at least a day or so per computer. So, most organizations choose to force collect all 20 gigabytes. But while this was merely inefficient and expensive pre-pandemic, it is now untenable with the global remote workforce.

Solving this collection challenge is X1 Enterprise Collect, which is specially designed to address the challenges presented by remote and distributed workforces. X1 enables enterprises to remotely, quickly and easily search across up to thousands of distributed endpoints and data servers from a central location. Legal and compliance teams can perform unified complex searches across both unstructured content and metadata, obtaining statistical insight into the data in minutes, and full results with completed collection in hours, instead of days or weeks. The key to X1’s scalability is its unique ability to index and search data in place, thereby enabling a highly detailed and iterative search and analysis, and then only collecting data responsive to those steps.

X1 operates on-demand where your data currently resides — on desktops, laptops, servers, or the cloud — without disruption to business operations and without requiring extensive or complex hardware configurations. After indexing of systems has completed (typically a few hours to a day depending on data volumes), clients and their outside counsel or service provider may then:

  • Conduct Boolean and keyword searches of relevant custodial data sources for ESI, returning search results within minutes by custodian, file type and location.
  • Preview any document in-place, before collection, including any or all documents with search hits.
  • Remotely collect and export responsive ESI from each system directly into a Relativity or RelativityOne® workspace for processing, analysis and review or any other processing or review platform via standard load file. Export text and metadata only or full native files.
  • Export responsive ESI directly into other analytics engines, e.g. Brainspace®, H5® or any other platform that accepts a standard load file.
  • Conduct iterative “search/analyze/export-into-Relativity” processes as frequently and as many times as desired.

To learn more about this capability purpose-built for remote eDiscovery collection and data audits, please contact us.

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Filed under Best Practices, ECA, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, Preservation & Collection