Please enjoy this blog post co-authored by Carolyn Bragiel, CEDS, Advisor, Legal E-Discovery Team, Cardinal Health and Daniel Stamper, Senior Engineer, Information Security & Risk, Cardinal Health.
When working with legal, e-discovery, IT and even data custodians, sometimes there are barriers in the process, as we have all probably noticed. We need the cooperation of all to have a smooth process of getting the data we need. How can we overcome these barriers?
Let’s start with the data custodians. For some custodians, this may be the first time they have been named in a document preservation issue. Good and patient communication is the key. They may be scared, nervous, or unsure of what is needed. A good Document Preservation Notice (DPN) helps explain what is needed. An option in the DPN acknowledgement for the legal team to contact them for questions and explanation of the process is also very helpful in reassuring them.
Working with the legal team also requires good communication. Getting good information on the data needs, good keywords, date scope is crucial. Most attorneys are not highly ‘technical’, so speaking with them in terms everyone can understand is important. Speaking in terms of number of pages or documents as opposed to volumes of data (terabytes, gigabytes, etc.), for example.
Working with IT can be frustrating at times. They can be very protective of the data, and rightfully so! They are charged with keeping data safe, avoiding breaches, etc. Communication and education are key here as well. I have found that it is very helpful to educate the IT stakeholders on the e-discovery process, the programs used by the e-discovery team, the storage and data transfer processes, etc. The more they understand that data protection is a priority for e-discovery as well can be very reassuring to them. They need to be aware of the potential pitfalls in the process that can cause spoliation and possible sanctions. Create a good process of collecting data. If security/access to shared drives is an issue, then communication of the need for access or a discussion of how they might defensively collect for the e-discovery team is crucial. Again, speaking in terms that everyone understands is very helpful. We may not understand all the IT terms and acronyms, and they may not understand the legal terminology. Ask questions if you do not understand. Treat it as a learning opportunity!
If you have a legal operations team, engage them as well. If they have an IT person or liaison from IT to legal operations, that person can be extremely helpful with coordinating efforts and helping all parties to understand the need and the reason for the need. They may also be helpful in finding the best resources to work with. There is nothing worse than being passed around again and again to get to the right source when you are trying to meet a tight deadline. If your organization does not have a liaison or IT person in legal operations, that should be a suggestion to your leadership.
We need to get past the ‘silo’ mindset and work together to best benefit our business. Legal departments are much more dependent on electronic data than ever before, so opening lines of communication early, learning from each other and building bridges goes a long way. Let’s face it, from a legal standpoint we have used legal scare tactics to encourage cooperation. I think this should be a very last resort! Be creative in your approach. Lunch and learn sessions are great because they can be done in person or virtually. Training as part of the onboarding of new employees is a good tool as well. Continuing education or refresher courses are great tools too since processes change. Invite IT professionals to team meetings or have legal department representatives attend IT meetings for Q &A sessions. I cannot stress enough the benefits of meeting with other departments ‘face to face’, even if on a Zoom call. I think it makes a huge difference when we see our colleagues as individuals instead of as a department that is putting up roadblocks. I had a former boss who would deliver baked goods to a team or person who was very helpful and engaged in our e-discovery process. Never underestimate the power of cake, cookies or chocolate in removing silos and building good relationships!