Information governance processes are a crucial element in successful e-discovery, and records managers are vital to outlining and maintaining those processes. In order to optimize the collection and preparation of electronic data in case of litigation, it’s vital that the records manager properly utilize their information governance skills.
Benefits of In-House Electronic Discovery
Aligning electronic discovery efforts with an in-house records manager just makes sense. After all, records managers will already have a good understanding of their working environment, are familiar with their unique chain of command, and know exactly which people should be asked in order to get much-needed answers. Additionally, establishing strict protocols will help determine any exceptions which need to be noted later, in the interest of creating a documented repeatable, defensible process.
A records manager is in the unique position of overseeing internal aspects of a business which may be harder to spot for outsiders. They keep track of where data is stored, who is in charge of that information, and the length of time it will take to access that data storage. Records managers can also use “data maps” in order to keep track of specific record formatting. This information helps give a more realistic estimate in determining how complicated data retrieval will be.
All of these elements-- storage, file format, custodial contact-- are important parts of the e-discovery process. Assisting the legal team with identifying and retrieving pertinent information can help companies save significantly in both time and money during the litigation process.
As beneficial as a records manager can be, there are still some relationship elements to remain wary of during the discovery process. One of the most common of these is creating a potential for bias. The relationship between litigation support and records management often becomes close during legal discovery, and grows as trust develops. If outside counsel is led to believe that certain information is not important, that trust element can lead counsel to take management’s word for it, rather than investigating more closely on their own.
Resource restrictions are one of the main obstacles for records managers. Every company has its own set of budgeting concerns, and drastic measures like hiring freezes can have an impact on electronic discovery processes and records management.
Additionally, records management must be an advocate for the server and storage upgrades necessary to handle the information governance process effectively. Companies see the bottom line for these big-ticket items and deny funding; the records manager has to maintain the financial foresight necessary to make the case for investing now in order to save against potential future litigation.
One solution for small and mid-sized businesses is to concentrate funding on the initial setup and control of records and information. This means fewer tools and upgrades will be needed down the road, and less robust methods can be used for e-discovery collection later on. Of course, this depends on the size of the company and its projected needs for electronic discovery. You don’t want to spend more than the case is worth; efforts have to be scaled appropriately.
Responsible Record Management
Ultimately, the records manager must have the neutrality, professionalism and foresight to create a working environment in which electronic discovery can be conducted more smoothly and at a reduced cost. Lining up procedures so they are repeatable and defensible, plus keeping detailed records for data location and retrieval can save companies countless dollars in case of litigation. With proper strategy, the records manager can be the key to a successful e-discovery process, benefitting counsel and company alike.