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4 In-House Strategies for Taking Control of Internal Investigations and Litigation

by Petra Pasternak

HRP 6406

Legal departments at companies of all sizes need better ways to predict costs, streamline workflows, and empower their teams to do more with less.

And many corporate legal professionals are doing more with the same or fewer resources. Surveys show that bringing more work in-house continues to be a leading strategy, to both better control data and contain outside costs. But taking matters into your own hands has its risks, adding up to a heavier workload especially for already stretched teams that are wrestling with insufficient or outmoded discovery tools. In its annual report, “Hype Cycle for Legal and Compliance Technologies,” Gartner found that while investment in maturing technologies, such as contract lifecycle management and ediscovery solutions, would prove valuable, these technologies only have a market penetration of under 50 percent. That means legal teams are missing out on significant efficiency gains.

While adoption of new technologies may be slow, new research shows that the legal industry’s digital transformation is well underway. A vast majority of corporate legal professionals consider cloud-based ediscovery to be the norm. Nearly all respondents (98 percent) in the “2022 Ediscovery Innovation Report: Corporate Legal,” conducted by Everlaw and the Association of Certified Ediscovery Specialists, said it already is standard or will be in the next two years. Most in-house legal teams (56 percent) also expect that their technology needs will increase within a year. That’s according to “The State of Corporate Litigation Today,” a report in which Everlaw and the Association of Corporate Counsel surveyed in-house legal teams across industries and company sizes.

As legal teams take on more matters internally, they need more control over their data and discovery process. And they need to make sure they’re not adopting tech for tech’s sake. To bridge this gap, Everlaw has introduced Corporate Essentials. This new product offering supports four key strategies for reimagining how internal investigations and litigation are done in-house. 

Responding With Speed to Internal Investigations and Other In-House Matters

Asked what would make their jobs easier, in-house legal professionals emphasize the need for a single centralized platform that gives them the ability to scale their workflows and automate manual processes. Also high on the wish list: functionality to easily search documents for relevant insights to help inform legal strategies. 

Many would like to use more technology, including legal holds software technology (39 percent), data ingestion via API-driven connectors (32 percent), and early case assessment (39 percent), according to “The State of Corporate Litigation Today.” Everlaw’s Corporate Essentials – designed with in-house teams in mind – offers these tools and more to efficiently handle matters of various size and complexity, from regulatory requests and internal investigations to data breach incidents and litigation. 

Managing the litigation-holds process is a critical part of legal work and one that teams handle in-house more often than other discovery steps, such as data collection and review. In today’s ediscovery process, the need to preserve electronically stored information (ESI) such as emails, chat messages, slide decks, and audio and video (A/V) files is paramount. To avoid adverse legal outcomes and potential penalties tied to spoliation, it’s essential to implement a successful, defensible process. 

Many teams continue to manage litigation holds manually by sending email reminders to custodians and tracking information in a spreadsheet. Traditional methods like this may work short-term for smaller organizations, but quickly become unsustainable for larger or growing companies. As a business expands, the risk of ongoing litigation – and the need to handle multiple legal holds – increases. The added layers of complexity all too often lead to missed hold notifications, misunderstandings, and lost or deleted messages that contain pertinent information. Even when the manual process goes smoothly, teams can lose a lot of time on tasks that could’ve taken a few clicks of the mouse.

The right legal hold technology can make the process more efficient and secure by enabling teams to:

  • Create and edit legal hold notices for hundreds of custodians with a few simple clicks

  • Automate the sending of notifications and reminders

  • Automatically track and manage all related communications in a single place, reducing human error and wasted time

Corporate Essentials lets teams manage legal hold notices in one, secure place and offers automation such as built-in tracking and auto-escalations to replace manually-sent emails and tracking spreadsheets. Technology, used the right way, can simplify ESI preservation and ultimately streamlines the legal hold process as a whole – saving teams headaches, time, and money.

WP - Streamlining The Legal Holds Process - Cover
Check out this white paper to learn about the basics of legal holds, common challenges and how they can be avoided, and an introduction to Everlaw Legal Holds.

2. Simplifying Data Uploads and Getting Straight to Review With Cloud Connectors

Interest in cloud connector technology is high, and for good reason. Data collection and handling are a core part of corporate legal teams’ discovery responsibilities, with most managing data collection, culling and processing internally. A Harvard Business Review study found that 89 percent of enterprises use some form of collaboration platform for internal communications, and app usage has grown by 68 percent over the last four years. 

Given the continuing evolution of digital collaboration tools, the collection and delivery of ESI and management of new and complex file types are among the biggest challenges in the in-house discovery process.

When a highly sensitive government subpoena comes in, the legal team has to quickly determine whether the company is facing exposure. Before cloud connector technology made near-instantaneous data ingestion from multiple sources possible, legal professionals typically spent several days downloading data to local devices, then uploading it into their discovery system. If the download from the enterprise account to a laptop timed out, that would add another day or two of delay. The risks of outdated or inefficient tools would continue to pile up, especially if the downloaded data was sensitive and the team needed to manage multiple copies – and ensure the extra copies were safely eliminated. Internet speed and team  bandwidth pose additional roadblocks to speedy review and helpful insight into data. Meanwhile, the opponent has kept moving, and may well have found key information the company’s law department was not aware of. 

Everlaw’s Cloud Connectors tool helps teams ingest data in moments from a variety of modern applications such as O365, Slack, Box, and Google Workspace. With cloud connector tools, teams are able to:

  • Connect to cloud data without delay

  • Ingest data straight from the source, and secure it directly in an encrypted platform backed by FedRAMP authorization and SOC 2 Type 2 certification

  • Avoid the costs of overcollection and accidental production by collecting just the data that’s necessary 

Legal teams need innovative tools to keep pace with existing business, productivity, and collaboration technologies as they gain popularity within organizations. A “plug and play” infrastructure enables them to do so by quickly adding connections to new enterprise applications as they emerge. 

3. Sparking Insights via AI and Analytics-Enhanced Early Case Assessment

Early Case Assessment (ECA) allows teams to investigate data early in the discovery process and improve efficiency during review. With Corporate Essentials, teams can host data at a lower cost in a staging environment with robust search and analysis capabilities. Everlaw’s AI-powered Clustering technology, for instance, lets legal teams sort through and understand millions of documents – all without human input. 

Speed is important when, for example, a corporate legal team needs to respond to an urgent third-party subpoena from a government requester. The goal is to avoid undercollection and potentially incomplete productions. The first step is to retrieve a broad swath of data. Reviewing that data manually can take days, weeks, and longer depending on the volume. 

But using ECA, the team is able to quickly identify the relevant documents that require eyes on review, eliminating the vast majority of the data initially pulled. The tool helps ensure that their review and production are accurate, thorough, and defensible – far more quickly and far more affordably than they could have otherwise.

Everlaw’s ECA capability lets teams:

  • Work in a single unified platform to perform the entire early case assessment and review process, with real-time collaboration from various locations

  • Access data visualization tools, which are typically excluded from ECA offerings  

  • Leverage smart search and visual concept clustering to unearth meaningful connections across data, isolate potential gaps, surface key documents, and stage a review more efficiently 

ECA drastically reduces the amount of data requiring outside review, helping teams work more efficiently and control overall costs. 

WP Getting Started with Early Case Assessment: Strategies for Performing ECA
In this whitepaper, dive into what ECA is, the challenges inherent in document review, and tips for enhancing the ECA process.

4. Breaking Down Silos and Collaborating Across Distance in Real Time

To get results, corporate legal teams need to work with other departments across their organization, and with external partners. All too often, that collaboration happens in silos. 

A modern cloud-based discovery tool like Everlaw lets hybrid and remote teams collaborate in real time on a variety of legal matters, including for example, preparing internal investigation reports. Whether a team is facing a sudden departure of a key employee to a competitor, a harassment claim, or a data breach, the right technology can make data collection, review, and analysis easier, faster, and more defensible. 

The legal team, its colleagues within the organization, and expert witnesses and outside counsel can work together to organize and analyze key documents into timelines and prepare a report for stakeholders and other relevant parties. 

Everlaw’s platform is made for collaboration on investigations and other legal matters in mixed remote and in-office environments, enabling teams to:

  • Respond to internal investigations with speed 

  • Manage the end-to-end internal investigation process in one secure place

  • Collaborate in real-time with HR, legal, IT, and other internal teams, and with external partners

  • Organize documents in a timeline for investigation purposes

  • Build out and save final reports with key findings and recommendations for executives and stakeholders

Take Corporate Essentials for a Trial Run Today

Leaders of in-house legal departments are increasingly called on to deliver more strategic value to their businesses. Many are planning to invest in, or are already rolling out, new technologies designed to free their teams up to focus on higher level strategy. 

Through Corporate Essentials, teams can respond to legal matters quickly and with confidence, working seamlessly with colleagues across company departments, and with outside partners. The plan is built around software that is intuitive to use and supports the entire organization. With built-in flexibility to scale up and down as needed, the offering enables teams to work more efficiently on legal matters of various complexity – lowering overall costs in the process. 

To see Everlaw Corporate Essentials in action, and to learn how it can help transform your approach to discovery, internal investigations, and litigation, request a demo today