Updated: Dec 14, 2018
Government agencies aren’t typically painted as pioneers in the e-discovery world. In a world plagued by tight budgets and long technology refresh cycles, evaluating new tools and keeping pace with innovation isn’t easy. As a result, many have deployed a transactional approach to investigatory and compliance projects—following processes that are ingrained in their culture, despite using outdated technologies and managing projects in multiple platforms.
Earlier this year, when I had the opportunity to meet some of our Relativity customers in the Asia Pacific region, I spoke with Matt Lan, director, Relativity practice and consulting, at icourts. icourts, an Australian-based law firm and data and evidence management consultancy, covers the full breadth of the electronic discovery process for their customers throughout Asia Pacific.
During our conversation, Matt described a fresh approach the icourts team has taken in working with their New Zealand government regulator customers—all three of which have standardized on Relativity.
“Government regulators in New Zealand deal with similar pressures as other regions when it comes to e-discovery,” Matt said. “They’re trying to manage massive troves of data and adhere to stringent security measures while generally lacking the internal resources and budget to carry out projects as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.”
Reevaluating Antiquated Processes
Technology innovation and policy changes are helping to transform the once tedious task of managing document review—and government agencies and regulators are starting to revisit their approach to effectively handle investigations and data control challenges.
“Previously, team members might track important documents in an Excel spreadsheet while an investigator might keep their ideas and thoughts in a separate Word document. Teams would come together and discuss their findings, continue to take notes and make progress, but they were lacking a central repository to develop their thoughts and have access to everything in one spot, or that repository wasn’t scaled to help them with the volumes of data they’re now needing to manage.” Matt explained.
Government data is often subject to rigorous retention laws, forcing investigative teams to keep outdated information readily available, and perhaps more importantly, easily searchable. Additionally, most investigations are lengthy—spanning many years and involving many different parties, making cases difficult to dive into to get up to speed midstream.
“To complicate things even further, when new technologies or solutions do get approved and implemented, only one or two people commit to learning the products,” he added. “And government agencies tend to have high turnover rates, so when those people leave, you lose that product knowledge.”
A Fresh Approach
The icourts two-pronged approach consists of enabling their customers to be self-sustaining in managing their own data and cases while providing ongoing consulting and education throughout their partnership.
“Enabling and training the project teams to bring the entire process in-house helps address budget pressures from the top-down,” Matt said.
Prior processes involved outsourcing components of each project—like processing and hosting fees—which also increased the risk of moving data from platform to platform, potentially losing control of sensitive records.
Once a new, centralized platform is in place, icourts works alongside internal teams to educate them on best practices and advanced workflows for using the software. Directing them to the Relativity Community and training resources helps them to be more self-sufficient, get confident in the software, and develop stronger institutional knowledge that won’t walk away with a departing employee.
“We want teams to not only understand the benefits of using Relativity, but to continue to find new ways to innovate on the platform,” Matt said. “We encourage them to achieve certifications—especially the Relativity Certified Administrator—within their first 12 months and regularly invite them to expand their product knowledge with live training and events.”
Methodology in Practice
These practices are already having an impact on real teams as New Zealand government regulators are starting to reap the benefits of having case evidence managed within one platform.
The team at the Serious Fraud Office, for example, just started using Relativity as an evidence management tool last November. They decided to ditch their shared Excel spreadsheets and started storing case information—like email communication, computer files, phone, and financial records—within Case Dynamics. Their team creates multiple links across case information using issues, facts, people, organizations, and documents to quickly and efficiently piece together critical events.
“Pulling Case Dynamics into their workflows easily eliminates the version control, multiple points of access, and duplication pains the team was experiencing before, and they’ve been significantly more efficient across the board,” Matt added.
Learning the product, developing new habits, collaborating with team members, controlling their own data—these are just a few of the benefits that icourts’ government customers have seen.
“Being able to impact real change—not just from a process standpoint—but empowering New Zealand government regulators to approach investigative and forensic projects with self-managed workflows is really exciting,” Matt said.
Dynamic teams across the globe are changing the way they approach e-discovery by design—bringing legal teams together to collaborate across a flexible platform and learn from a community of smart and driven people.