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Technology That Makes a Difference

How the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Is Securing Its Data and Empowering Its Attorneys with Software That Transforms

by Casey Sullivan

From school districts to statehouses to district attorneys’ offices, legal teams in the public sector face many of the same stressors as those in any other organization: They’re often short-staffed, short on time, and swamped by the growing volume and complexity of ediscovery data they’ve got to manage while maintaining airtight security. Add to that the urgency of meeting their critical public service missions, and the challenges facing such organizations can seem immense. 

Herman Brown, Chief Information Officer at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is familiar with this dilemma. “When I first started at the DA’s office, we were very much a pen-and-paper organization,” he says. “That has all changed.” Herman recently sat down with Everlaw to discuss how his organization has tackled the relentless demands of modern discovery and litigation, with technology that allows it to handle exploding amounts of data, empower its attorneys, and secure critical information.

The technology that you’re implementing and using in an organization actually makes a difference.

The SFDA adopted Everlaw in 2018, and it’s made a profound difference, Herman says: “The use of Everlaw has impacted the team’s workflow and efficiency 100%.”

Herman’s experience highlights how the right ediscovery software can streamline the litigation process, freeing team members and investigators to focus on high-priority tasks. 

For a DA’s office, the matter can be one of life and death. 

Herman cites a case where “our investigators were able to track down an abducted child and return that child safely home. The work that myself and my team did in providing our investigators the tools to be able to do that job – we had a direct impact.

“The technology that you’re implementing and using in an organization actually makes a difference.”

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Same Staff, So Much Data

The discovery process has undergone drastic changes over the past decade. Body cam images, surveillance video, geodata, and multiple types of cell phone data have joined institutional records, email, and paper documents as sources of evidence in a typical investigation. 

Yet since the pandemic, many state and local agencies have had to contend with reduced workforces and tight budgets. 

The old method of data management, where team members manually input and individually review each item, is a burden too great for many organizations to bear. In addition to the hours it takes to perform these tasks, there is a higher risk of human error that may critically impact a case.

Facing the growing demands of the discovery process, with resources that remain flat, legal teams need to find force multipliers, advanced tools that allow them to not only meet the needs of modern ediscovery, but to go far beyond baseline requirements – without requiring additional resources.  

Now, reports Herman, “We can try more cases with the same amount of staff.” Team members can access all the information on one common platform that processes native data, produced documents, and data from cloud-storage solutions. Members can then employ sophisticated search programs, leverage advanced but intuitive features, whether collaborative case-building tools or artificial intelligence, to illuminate crucial patterns, reveal key pieces of evidence, and organize their data in a cohesive timeline

Putting Security First 

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office relies on Everlaw to capture and maintain this data on a secure, cloud-native platform. “Most important for me is security, because of the types of data that we have to deal with. HIPAA, PCI, PII, CJIS, DOJ regulations. Everything that we do is based on the foundation of security first.”

Everything that we do is based on the foundation of security first. 

With Everlaw, the District Attorney’s Office can rest secure in the knowledge that its data is protected by trusted infrastructure, rigorous auditing, and best-in-class certifications, including both FedRAMP and StateRAMP authorization.

Ensuring Continuity Across Matters

It’s vital that an investigative team be able to bring on new members with minimal disruption to a case. Everlaw makes the transition seamless.

Herman explains, “We now have centralized data, so when there’s a change to staff, we no longer have to go comb through someone’s history files or their home directory. It’s just a matter of us updating permissions to allow those who need it access to that information.”

Legal team collaboration software allows team expansion across districts and states, and automatic updates ensure that every member is on the latest version.

“Technology definitely can help in getting to the truth of the case,” says Herman. “It’s all about teamwork. We partner the IT with the business side of the house to ensure that the organization is successful.”

To learn how Everlaw users are tackling the challenges of ediscovery today and transforming their organizations in the process, see our library of Everlaw customer success stories here