Park right expertise to stay e-legal

Firms need to pull expert resources into dedicated team to comply with digital forensics requests, says consultant, who outlines common pitfalls they should avoid.

SINGAPORE--Organizations worldwide are still coming to grips with information management processes necessary to meet legal requirements related to electronic document discovery, according to an expert.

In fact, many companies are slow in making progress in this space because they "haven't really had their fingers burnt badly", said Roger Clay, associate director for fraud investigation and dispute services at Ernst & Young.

Noting that organizations are "not there yet" in terms of proper records management, Clay said there is an ongoing process to educate companies not just in Asia, but globally as well.

Speaking Wednesday at the E-Discovery & Digital Forensics conference here, the Singapore-based specialist further outlined several actions businesses need to take to initiate e-discovery or digital forensic activities.

Assembling the right team is a necessary first step, said Clay, and this entails bringing together personnel with expertise in the required areas such as the legal counsel and IT manager.

Staff members with experience in e-discovery cases are also ideal candidates, as they often are equipped with the relevant project management principles, he added. "E-discovery is not necessarily about the tools and technology; it's about managing the data," he said.

External assistance may also be beneficial for organizations new to e-discovery, he noted.

Once the team is formed, members should meet up to understand the scope and timeframe of the request and any restrictions from a legal perspective, Clay noted. Such discussion also provides a platform to consider issues such as costs.

According to the consultant, there are 10 organizational risks and pitfalls associated with e-discovery:

1. Incomplete information gathering.

2. Inadequate search terms, where companies fail to produce enough keywords that can be used in "reasonable search" requests.

3. Price over risk. Opting to pay less for software that may not be of sufficient quality could introduce more risk to a company's litigation process.

4. Lack of communication. Because multiple parties are involved in such e-discovery processes, there is crucial need for regular updates and for information to be shared accurately and timely.

5. Inconsistent review. Companies need to ensure consistency in methodology employed by the different individuals involved in the review process.

6. Lack of appropriate quality assurance.

7. Inaccurate reporting of backup tapes. Firms should avoid relying on a single source to assess the amount of data available for meeting the e-discovery request.

8. Hosting issues. Speed and usability play a part in efficient data gathering and reporting.

9. Unrealistic project timeframe. Companies must understand the amount of data that has to be reviewed, and allocate enough time or personnel for the job.

10. Printing or inadequate management of electronically stored information.

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