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The Future of Legal

Solving the Problem of Protecting Data After Case Closeout

Eric P. Mandel

Chair and President, Legal Technology Professionals Institute

It’s a seemingly simple question: what happens to all the data collected for discovery at the end of a case? During discovery, enterprise data is extracted and copies distributed to counsel, opposing parties, experts and others. But unless this data is properly disposed of at case closeout, it remains at risk for loss, theft, misuse and discovery in future, unrelated litigation. With so many distributed copies, and each holder managing data (or not) under different policies and procedures, the failure to prepare for case closeout can result in a ticking data bomb.

A range of perspectives

The Legal Technology Professionals Institute (LTPI) assigned a team of seasoned professionals to examine this problem. After analyzing common practices, the LTPI team determined that the issue was larger than case closeout. That discovery data must be subject to governance at all stages of a case. The LTPI Discovery Data Governance Model (DDGM) was thus created to address the people, systems, processes and procedures for all phases of a matter, examined from a variety of perspectives.  

A tailored approach

The overall mantra of the DDGM is “begin with the end in mind” — essentially a project management approach to case data management. The DDGM provides a system to set up the matter when it first comes in, identify all participants, build an effective communication plan, and set goals and tasks. Recognizing that no “one-size” fits all situations, the framework is a flexible guide. Practitioners can pick and choose the elements of the DDGM to match their needs, including assigning accountability and deadlines for various tasks, as well as flushing out any issues with respect to technology, any legacy problems and cost concerns. The DDGM also supports the ability to defensibly document all steps along the way.

To “begin with the end in mind,” allows the company and its counsel to track and dispose of data appropriately, while also gathering case metrics and determining overall efficiencies and risks. This knowledge can be used to close security loopholes and avoid leaving isolated pools of corporate information scattered across multiple entities after the litigation ends.

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