You just got off the phone with outside counsel and they want data – lots of data. Your company is embroiled in litigation, and already it’s been stressful, expensive, and complex. Now they want to bring in an outside consultant to collect and preserve data.
All you see is more of your hard-earned cash flying out the door, and you desperately want to find a way to use existing resources to meet the need and staunch the flow.
“Why should we use a consultant to pull data from our systems when our IT group can do it for free?,” you ask, feeling confident this is a good solution and will save you money.
It’s a fair question. It’s true that consultants can be expensive, and the value we provide can sometimes be vague and difficult to grasp.
If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to walk through what I see as the top five reasons that an outside consultant might be the right solution for your data preservation needs.
1. IT Already Has Full-Time Jobs
I have yet to meet an IT team that won’t jump at a challenge. In my experience, IT teams are full of earnest, hard-working individuals who will be the first to join the crusade and say “we can do that.” I’ve also never met an IT team that didn’t already have a full plate of work.
While the requests at first seem simple – run some queries, export some data – they can quickly spiral into much larger demands with much tighter deadlines. A simple “yes we can” today can end up consuming multiple team members for entire days tomorrow.
And not just for data pulls – counsel will have questions about the data. Or maybe they will want a slightly different set of fields or ask questions about differences from data collections previously received. Your IT team can quickly be drowning in litigation-related requests while its formal responsibilities fall by the wayside.
What if the IT team focuses on its formal job duties instead? The needs of counsel, and the litigation, will suffer, and ultimately the ability to defend the company will be impacted.
This can be especially true when court-ordered deadlines approach and counsel needs answers on a timetable set by the court, not on one considered realistic or reasonable for IT. These demands can seem arbitrary and capricious, and they will add more and more stress to your IT team as deadlines loom and morale begins to slip.
Hiring an outside consultant to shield your IT team from these demands and the resulting stress can help maintain the morale and stability of your IT team, while also ensuring that counsel gets the attention they need when they need it.
2. Understanding Litigation
Legal counsel didn’t spend years in school to learn IT, and your IT team didn’t go to school to understand litigation. Most IT teams are not well versed in the nuances, requirements, and pitfalls of litigation. And trust me, nuances, requirements, and pitfalls are involved.
From simple things like chain of custody, to more complex concerns such as defensibility of the data and understanding “why” the data is being collected, outside experts will be more likely to have a good understanding of the how the merits of the case impact the data collection efforts.
This knowledge and understanding allows us to provide feedback to counsel, illuminating additional data that can shed light on relevant facts related to the case that might otherwise go overlooked, or to suggest different collection methods that might be more defensible and consistent.
We certainly hope it never gets this far, but there are times when someone has to stand up and sit down to answer hard questions about the data: how was it collected; how was it preserved; how do we know we can rely on it?
While this is certainly something we strive to avoid, it is also something we enter into the project prepared to do. That foresight drives many of the processes we undertake, from quality control and review through documentation and integrity checks. Knowing that we may be called to testify about our collection and preservation methodology informs our entire process.
When it does come time to testify about your data collection, having someone who is not only experienced with collection and was involved in the process, but who is also experienced in testimony, can make all the difference. You need to be honest and open when explaining how the process was performed, but you also need to be clear and concise so that the court and counsel understand what was done and that it was done properly and appropriately.
Consultants form the bridge between two highly specialized teams. Your legal team and your IT team both have highly educated professionals who take their jobs very seriously and work diligently to provide the best outcomes for your organization.
But despite all the good will on both sides, they can have difficulty communicating with each other. I’ve been told by counsel, after leaving a face-to-face meeting with IT, that our team got more out of IT in two hours than counsel had gotten in two years. It isn’t that they didn’t all want to solve the problem, it was more that they simply were not communicating.
Knowing the right lingo and the right questions to ask can build trust. And I’m not talking about the kind of trust where people try to help or want to provide answers – both groups want that. This is the kind of trust where people feel they can speak naturally and freely, where they aren’t worried about using lingo or acronyms for fear of being misunderstood, and where they feel they are in a conversation with a colleague and not an interview.
Bringing in an outside consultant can unleash that dialogue and help get people communicating again. I joke with colleagues that half of our job is simply translating, but there is truth behind the joke and certainly value in being able to facilitate a conversation.
5. Reduce Risk
And now we reach the ultimate reason for working with an outside consultant when preserving data for litigation – reducing risk. Wherever litigation is involved, the potential for risk is significant. Reducing and controlling that risk should be a top priority, and an outside consultant with the right experience and skills can make that difference.
From the embarrassment of having to reproduce data multiple times all the way up to the real and significant repercussions of spoliation, litigation is not an endeavor to take lightly. Nothing can remove all risk when you’re involved in litigation, but employing individuals with the right experience and knowledge can help ensure your case goes smoothly and efficiently, and with less risk.
How Could An Outside Consultant Help You?
You can have the best IT department in the world, and hiring an outside consultant still makes sense. The team at iDS would love to talk to you in more detail about how we can help get your IT team off litigation support and back to IT. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.