eDiscovery Project Management: Data Gathering Plan, Identify Data Sources
One of the first electronic discovery tasks you’ll do for a case is to collect potentially responsive electronic documents from your client. Before you start that collection effort, you should prepare a data-gathering plan to ensure that you are covering all the bases. That plan should identify the locations from which data will be collected, who will collect the data, and a schedule for the collection effort.
Learn about Your Client
First, you need information from your client that is aimed at identifying all the possible locations and custodians of responsive data. Some of this information may be available in written form, and some is best gleaned by interviewing client employees.
Start by looking at:
- Organization charts to identify potential custodians.
- Organization charts for the IT and Records Management departments so you’ll know what individuals have knowledge of the technology that is used and how and where data is stored.
- Written policies on computer use, back-ups, record-retention, disaster recovery, and so on.
To identify all locations of potentially relevant data, interview client employees to find out about:
- The computer systems that are used, including hardware, software, operating systems and email programs.
- Central databases and central electronic filing systems.
- Devices and secondary computers that are used by employees.
- Methods that employees use for communicating including cell phones, instant messaging, and social networking.
- Legacy programs and how and where legacy data is stored.
- What happens to the email and documents of employees that have left the organization.
- Third party providers that store company information.
Once you’ve done your homework and learned what you can from your client, compile a list of data sources of potentially relevant materials. To compile that list, you should get input from:
- Attorneys who are familiar with the issues in the case and the rules of civil procedure.
- Technical staff who understand how data is accessed and how and where data is stored
- Records management staff who are familiar with the organization’s record retention policies
- Client representatives who are experts in the subject matter of the litigation and familiar with the operations and business units at issue.
Once you’ve got your list of data sources, you’re ready to put together the data-gathering plan.
So, what do you think? Do you routinely prepare a data-gathering plan? Have you had problems when you didn’t? Please share any comments you might have or tell us if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.