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Early Data Assessment – Finding What Matters, When it Matters Most An Insider’s Perspective

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Author: Martin Audet, JD, LLM, CISSP, MCP, MCSE, Riskcovery® Consultant

It usually starts with a ‘trigger’ – a complaint, civil investigative demand (CID), subpoena, or a disgruntled employee storming out of the building.  Practitioners sit in a room and discuss how to respond and what steps to take. If they’re lucky, they’ve implemented some type of pre-approved response plan, including eDiscovery best practices: collection, processing, and review of potentially relevant Electronically Stored Information (ESI).

Not so long ago, discovery meant requesting banker’s boxes of records and physically sorting through the information, reviewing each page to see what we had.  We’d hold some initial discussions around the locations of boxes most likely to contain important files, usually stored in a warehouse, a closet in HR, or maybe at one of our branch offices.  Yes, we’d lament the weight of the boxes, their relative inaccessibility, and the ongoing storage fees.  But, generally, we had a handle on our documents.  No matter what the situation was, the subject matter experts were never so far removed from pertinent information that gaining early insight and making solid decisions was that great of a challenge.

However, in today’s global, digital environment, organizations are awash in data from an expanding set of data types. As technology evolves and people become increasingly willing to adopt new apps and platforms, the range of locations where potentially important information might be found continues to expand.  eDiscovery now typically means high volume, high stakes, and high speed matters; as a result, even with significant matter expertise and the best available early data assessment platforms, specialists may only have time to provide a high-level assessment of materials (counts, sizes, types, locations) during the early stages of the matter.

Given the sheer scale and scope of ESI, it’s  no surprise that practitioners are more and more distanced from the actual content of their data until much farther downstream, after it’s been processed and “normalized” for some type of review.

What’s needed today is for technology to help find what matters, when it matters – as early in the discovery process as possible.  That early data assessment solution is called Riskcovery®.

Riskcovery has proven to be an effective pre-collection investigatory tool that can be used to assist clients in understanding the content, meaning, and importance of the data they hold, in short order. It leverages sophisticated analytics with grounded metrics to quickly ascertain patterns and identify the presence – or absence of key concepts, even in large volumes of ESI. On its own or coupled with more traditional EDA methods and tools, it can create significant cost savings and support both defensibility and efficiency from the very outset of the matter.

Time frames get shorter as the sea of data expands, and the recent imposition of the “Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Project” (MIDP) in the district of Arizona and the Northern District of Illinois, which calls for sharply accelerated eDiscovery, exemplifies what’s likely coming down the pike for all of us.  For practitioners trapped between these tectonic pressures, Riskcovery’s patented feature set could offer badly needed efficiencies.

Here are my top 5 capabilities in Riskcovery – in a nutshell, the things that make it a real asset in the early stages of any matter or investigation (based on my real world use of the solution):

  • It can assess data from multiple sources: laptops, desktops, servers, mobile devices, and even cloud-based accounts – which means you can readily sample data from everywhere in the organization.
  • It supports early understanding for practitioners, providing an executive summary based on conceptual content and communications analysis which helps quickly narrow the scope and prevents over-preservation. This saves money in two ways: first, you avoid collecting and processing irrelevant material, and second, your costs for legal hold management and even data destruction – far downstream from the point of typical cost avoidance – are reduced.
  • It offers a means of defensibly assessing content to test and scale search criteria/concepts for claims and defenses, so you can get to the heart of the matter, so to speak, quicker and with a more complete context.
  • It can help you identify data sources, lines of inquiry, and important nuances in the evidence that you might otherwise have overlooked, so your case is better defined right from the start.
  • It supports an iterative process, allowing you to add new samples and zero in on important or interesting patterns – and you can pull samples from anywhere.

Clearly, with all the sophisticated technologies that are increasingly available to eDiscovery practitioners and client organizations, it’s time we found a way to enhance our early case assessment efforts so that we can better handle the challenges of increasingly complex, data driven litigation. With its portability and speed, Riskcovery offers badly needed capabilities that stand to push innovation in the right direction. It has become my new electronic banker’s box.

About Martin Audet:

Martin Audet is an Attorney and forensic technologist with over 21 years’ experience in electronic data management within government/law enforcement and commercial organizations, focused on investigations, eDiscovery and compliance. Throughout his career, Martin has assisted law firms and corporations in meeting their legal and compliance objectives by providing substantive, strategic guidance regarding best practices in data management, analytics, and workflow and process design. His extensive experience in forensic data acquisition and analysis has supported his management of complex, data-intensive eDiscovery initiatives in a broad variety of matter types. Additionally, he has a strong background in systems, network and security architecture and administration, which provides critical perspective on the nuances of managing and leveraging sensitive, confidential data in compliance and discovery efforts.

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