3 Things Corporate Legal Needs to Know Part 1: Who Is Making the Data?

October 05, 2021
In this three-part series, Daniel Gold, Managing Director of BDO E-Discovery Managed Services, will discuss what corporate legal needs to know about its data as it pertains to eDiscovery. We’ll cover:
  1. Why it’s critical to know who is making the data
  2. Why it’s important to know where your data is being made
  3. Why you must know what apps are touching your data
In Part 1, we’ll look at the ‘who’ as it pertains to data in the legal industry.

175 zettabytes. Let that sink in. What does this number represent? That is the volume of data the world will likely create in just 3.5 years according to the IDC. For context, it’s said that if you were to think of a zettabyte as a brick, you would have 258 Great Walls of China or about 428 miles worth of brick. I’m old enough to remember how novel it was that we could store data on both sides of a 3.5” double density disk that I put into my Apple IIe. The world has clearly evolved since those days.

So when your organization’s legal team is tasked with collecting and identifying the right data as part of a legal hold, it can devolve into a long and expensive game of scavenger hunt. The first step is to understand who is making your data?

Who Creates Data?

In the context of e-discovery, every employee within an organization is known as a ‘custodian’ of data. They have custody over the data they make on their laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. Whether their device is work-issued or not, the data being created in furtherance of and for the benefit of the corporation in which they are employed is ultimately discoverable for purposes of any company investigation, regulatory compliance, or litigation matter.

Outside of the employees, other individuals that may be creating responsive data would include independent contractors, vendors, and consultants. Essentially, if there is data that has been created by anyone who may be responsible for communicating with the organization would ultimately have discoverable data.

Reducing Cost, Decreasing Risk and Future Planning

Understanding who is creating the data helps the company do several things much better.

First, knowing in advance of when a legal hold needs to be issued helps the organization in reducing discovery costs. The reason it helps reducing discovery costs is because if stakeholders know that specific individuals within a specific department are creating data, preserving and collecting that data using solutions like Microsoft Advanced E-Discovery or RelativityOne no longer becomes an expensive scavenger hunt.

Second, by knowing who is generating the data, stakeholders can have better transparency around potential risks. For instance, with technologies such as Microsoft Sentinel, the AI can alert HR and Legal about sentiments contained within data being generated by specific individuals. Now, this isn’t going so far as Tom Cruise’s portrayal of John Anderton in Minority Report, but it does help reduce potential risk and allow companies to get in front of potential issues.

Third, by understanding who is creating the data and what devices they are being made on, companies can create a better data journey story which allows key stakeholders which can potentially help create more informed policies around data types and types of devices company data is being created on.

The Benefits of Data Maps

For nearly a decade, I have been talking about the benefits of company’s using a data map. A data map allows an organization to have a visual representation of each employee, the department they align to, who they report up to, the classification of the data that they are generating, and the file types they are creating.

Creating a data map has been made vastly easier now with the advent of Microsoft Purview. The specific business outcomes of creating and maintaining a dynamic data map allows the company to understand the story the data being created is telling the key stakeholders. Because there are always stories being made by the employees who creating and maintain this data. When that level of transparency exists, the legal department in collaboration with HR and IT can better create and/or augment policies that are more narrowly tailored to what is happening. Policies such as Data Retention, Data Destruction, Legal hold, Acceptable Use, Social Media, Ephemeral Data, et cetera can all harmoniously be in sync because the teams have worked together to enable the technology to help reduce risk and liability, and contain costs associated with e-discovery.

If you’re exploring advanced e-discovery solutions, check out BDO’s Athenagy—the only solution that combines RelativityOne and Microsoft 365 Advanced E-Discovery technologies.