In the early days of electronic discovery, technologies that legal teams utilized were researched and procured by specialists independent of information technology teams. Getting IT, legal, compliance, records managers, and other stakeholders to come together to discuss and strategize as a team was almost impossible. The move to the Cloud is changing that dynamic, as corporations move to address data challenges including eDiscovery, information governance, data privacy, and cybersecurity, in a more holistic fashion. When a corporation leverages Microsoft 365 (M365), they have procured a technology that not only meets their data storage requirements but provides eDiscovery, privacy, data governance, and cybersecurity features as well.
With the upside that a single platform can provide, there are also challenges including the continued growth in data and new data types that M365 presents. Most eDiscovery professionals are still working to understand how to leverage the functionality in M365 and how to incorporate it into their existing program. Teams usage, for example, has risen with the addition of 31 million new users in one month when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. Based on that statistic, it is clear that Teams is new to many professionals and eDiscovery teams need to understand how to deal with Teams data in discovery.
eDiscovery features in M365 vary based on licensing, but can include data culling, data processing, and even some high-level review. The functionality in no way is an end-to-end solution for discovery. It can achieve some basic needs and other technologies are still required to address limitations in the platform.
M365 is also an incredibly dynamic program. It is a challenge to track modifications and updates to the system. Organizations need to invest in personnel to test their M365 environment proactively to identify potential issues that could occur in the discovery process, understand limitations, and capture benchmarking data on the time and effort certain tasks can take in the system. This information should be discussed with legal teams, as it can impact their discovery negotiations and should be considered for proportionality assessments. It’s vitally important to train internal and external legal teams on the capabilities and the limitations of the technologies.
Keeping pace with M365 often requires multiple resources. Consider having a dedicated team to test the new tools and ensure any new updates get incorporated back into your workflows. Reach out to your peers at other organizations to learn from their experiences with the tool. Working with service providers who have deep expertise in the tool and the roadmap is extremely beneficial. Microsoft is open to receiving feedback on your experiences outside of simply support tickets. In fact, there is a formal design change request option available to M365 users. Contact your Microsoft representative to learn more about that alternative.
When it comes to leveraging M365 for eDiscovery, keep these key takeaways in mind:
- The explosion of data, new technology, and cybersecurity risks have all led to a continual evolution of the M365 tool.
- Staying up to date with these continuous evolutions can be a challenge, be sure to (1) have dedicated resources to test new capabilities and report back; and (2) ensure these new updates get incorporated into training and workflow documentation.
- Train both your internal and external teams on your M365 needs.
- Collaborate with your various partners (i.e. providers, third-party vendors, outside counsel, etc.).
To discuss this topic further, please feel free to continue the discussion by emailing me at PHunt@lighthouseglobal.com.