As counsel knows, if a corporation has to perform e-discovery, it is typically a high-pressure situation. Without the proper knowledge and experience, the process can become inefficient and costly. Firms have been increasingly encouraged to have an e-discovery attorney on staff. This also applies to corporate legal departments, well before e-discovery is handed off to outside counsel.
Alex Stemkovsky, an attorney in Los Angeles who specializes in e-discovery, expertly wrote about “The Ever-Growing Need for an e-Discovery Attorney at the Corporate Level.” It’s about having the right person in the right place at the right time.
To begin his thorough post, Stemkovsky makes three points: e-discovery encompasses much more than just document review, e-discovery can be costly; but e-discovery cost can be managed.
The key to managing e-discovery cost at the corporate level is having the right people in place ahead of time.
Stemkovsky encourages counsel to embrace the technology that is here to help the legal industry. It’s through technology that the corporate e-discovery attorney can help the company be “nimble and economize.” But well before e-discovery, corporate data must be retained and preserved and a data map must be created, and an e-discovery lawyer can work with a company’s IT department to execute these important steps.
Important side note: To avoid possible spoliation sanctions, both retention and deletion policies should be in place within a company.
In addition to information governance, early case assessment is critical. Says Stemkovsky:
“Although outside counsel may be the company’s overall advocate in a lawsuit, the entity needs to be its own advocate during discovery.”
An in-house e-discovery attorney can save the company money by conducting the early case assessment and being prepared for outside counsel.
“The goal here is not to displace outside counsel but to be proactive; helpful to the cause; minimize the risk of mistakes; and at the same time reduce costs.”
With the corporate litigation readiness plan implemented by the e-discovery attorney in place, outside counsel doesn’t have to play catch-up. Instead, the firm can focus on key personnel and data gathering from already-identified sources.
By having an e-discovery expert on staff, a legal department can best use available legal technology, including litigation software; IT alone cannot do this.
“An e-discovery attorney who connects the legal team with IT and record management will enable data to be located quicker, which will inevitably reduce cost and risk.”
An e-discovery attorney not only offers a single point person for e-discovery and can best prepare the company for e-discovery, but also can save the company a great deal of money.