Category Archives: eDiscovery

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

Proportionality Focus Presents Challenges and Opportunities for eDiscovery Service Providers

By John Patzakis

Proportionality is now the hottest legal issue involving eDiscovery, with the largest number of eDiscovery-related cases in the past year addressing the subject. Relativity eDiscovery attorney David Horrigan recently led an informative webinar “Data Discovery 2022 Mid-Year Update” (access recording here) reporting that 642 published court decisions tackled legal considerations involving proportionality in discovery in the first half of 2022. As only a very small number of cases involve a published decision that we can access online, it is safe to assume that several thousand more cases litigated the proportionality issue during this time period.

Proportionality-based eDiscovery is a goal that all judges and corporate attorneys want 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. Lawyers that take full advantage of the proportionality rule can greatly reduce cost, time and risk associated with otherwise inefficient eDiscovery.

While there is keen awareness of proportionality in the legal community, attaining 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 runs up of a lot of human time 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.

An example of a process that effectively applies proportionality on an operational basis would be an iterative exercise to identify relevant custodians, their data sources, applicable data ranges, file types and agreed upon keywords, following the process outlined in McMaster v. Kohl’s Dep’t Stores, Inc., No. 18-13875 (E.D. Mich. July 24, 2020), and Raine Group v. Reign Capital, (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2022), and collect only the data that is responsive to such specific criterion. Both McMaster and Raine Group decisions apply proportionality at the point of identification and collection, not just production. The latest enterprise collection tech from Relativity and X1 enable such detailed and proportional criteria to be applied in-place, at the point of collection. This reduces the data volume funnel by as much as 98 percent from over-collection models, yet with increased transparency and compliance. In other words, a collection process that is targeted, automated and proportional, instead of one that is overbroad and manual.

However, traditional eDiscovery services typically involve manual collection, followed by manual on-premise 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 many manual data handoffs. However, the first half of the EDRM involving collection and processing are now far more automated than they were even a few years ago. The purchasers of eDiscovery services and software have clearly noticed and are demanding adaptation from vendors, especially service providers. This new normal of proportionality focus presents a very significant challenge to many service providers.

So how can services firms adapt to this new paradigm? Here are few strategies:

First, services firms 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. However, this ideally involves high-end strategic consulting to bring these processes together and operationalize them. This also enables services firms to develop direct and ongoing relationships with corporate law departments, IT and other key corporate stakeholders.

Second, service providers should pivot to managed services (like most other IT consultants) instead of a reactive project-based mindset. Fire drill eDiscovery projects by definition lack any process and result in data-overcollection and many other inefficiencies that thwart the realization of proportionality principles. Establishing a managed service relationship “bakes in” the service provider into an established eDiscovery workflow, including information governance, pre-collection analytics, targeted collection and integrated processing and hosting to enable far more proportional eDiscovery efforts, across multiple matters per client.

Third, services firms should find ways to develop or otherwise acquire their own differentiating tech or establish meaningful partnerships with tech platform providers. These partnerships should entail more than merely using the software, but the development of proprietary workflows or even technical integrations that enable unique service offerings that operationalize proportionality.

At the end of the day, eDiscovery is a technical process that is subject to technology disruption just like any other technology-based services industry. eDiscovery services firms that not only adapt to but embrace this change as a strategic opportunity will be the ones who prosper the most.

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Filed under Best Practices, collection, ECA, eDiscovery, Enterprise eDiscovery, Preservation & Collection, proportionality, Relativity