by Nancy Patton, Professional Services, Fios, Inc.
In the first two posts in this series, I’ve emphasized that Legal and IT are the core building blocks of any Discovery Response Team. Representatives of other departments can be added to the team as required; depending on the organization’s structure, individuals from records management and compliance also may serve on the Discovery Response Team, as will members from other key business units. If desired, external partners including outside counsel, key vendors, off-site data storage managers and e-discovery consultants may also be added to the team for their knowledge around ESI.
Members of the team should bring a unique perspective on ESI management, which is critical in assuring that ESI is properly considered from a “big picture” viewpoint by the entire Discovery Response Team. This “sum of the parts” approach will ultimately:
- Reduce the amount of ESI that is stored
- Improve the storage of ESI in general
- Identify where the ESI is created and where it lives
- Enhance the response to demand for data production
- Develop and enforce defensible policies around legal holds that minimize business interruption while meeting legal obligations
The composition of the team typically looks somewhat like a pyramid. At the very top, there’s a senior manager in the organization who has responsibility for team oversight. This senior manager’s involvement lends credibility to the team’s goals and objectives. The manager does not need to be involved on a daily or even weekly basis, but should receive regular reports, ask questions and give feedback. This individual should review the execution of the discovery response plan and recommend adjustments as the organizational litigation portfolio changes.
Beneath the senior manager on the pyramid lies a two-tiered discovery response team – one strategic and the other tactical. The strategic group provides high-level governance and oversight, and helps set direction for the organization’s overall e-discovery program. The tactical unit serves as the workhorse of the ESI management effort. This unit, which may meet daily if events dictate, handles the nuts and bolts of e-discovery response. The team will also be directed by, and provide feedback to, the strategic group. This tactical team may require additional staff support as ESI production demands increase, thus creating the organizational need to shift staff responsibilities or hire new personnel.
Ultimately, these two units will develop processes that benefit the organization, not only for e-discovery response, but also in other areas that require repeatable, defensible policies and systems. In the end, having a formal, established Discovery Response Team brings together competencies that benefit the entire organization. The result is an incredible win-win for any organization confronted by ongoing litigation or regulatory oversight. Each member of the team’s contributions is validated by collaborating and working together to win the e-discovery battle.