The closure of an eDiscovery database is a milestone in litigation that should be carefully contemplated, regardless of whether the plan involves permanent or indefinite closure. With the current emphasis on reusability of data and the long duration of litigation proceedings, every database closure should be done with consideration given to the possibility of the future need for the same electronically stored information (ESI) with its corresponding work product. Frequently, data used for one matter becomes useful for a subsequent matter, as does some of the work product, like privilege designations. When eDiscovery databases switch to offline storage or transfer to near-online status, reasonable efforts should be made to ensure that a restart of the same data will be adequately supported with available documentation and resources.
If a determination has been made that the ESI has a likelihood of future usefulness, the following best practices can be helpful in preparation for closure.
Confirm that all original media has been placed in a secured location for storage and access, if needed.
Make sure that a copy of all chain of custody records have been completed and distributed to the designated custodian of matter records.
Gather all search term lists used for filtering, review identification, and production identification. If the terms changed from event to event, retain a summary of the terms on an event basis.
Maintain a list of all performance groups involved in the review, witness prep, and trial prep with their corresponding group members and eDiscovery system accesses.
Assemble a log of all batches of documents processed with corresponding custodian number ranges and document counts. Do the same for all production sets. Further, keep a copy of the privilege log with these records. Store this information in a central location so that it’s available on an ongoing basis.
Pull specifications used for processing and for structuring productions. Be sure that the associated specifications include a list of metadata fields with descriptions and field type/size information. This documentation will be particularly helpful with restarting work with the data set on a future litigation if a significant amount of time passes before reactivation of the data. Subsequent uses of data may involve conversions into new versions of the same system or a new system altogether. In either instance, the specifications will be helpful to expedite the relaunch of the database.
Save a summary of the designations used during review and production with an explanation of the relationships between them, if any. This information will be helpful for determining which of the original designations will be useful for the new matter at the time of relaunch. It will also make clear the level of human involvement and opportunity for error in the assignment of designations considered for reuse.
The review summary documentation should also include a summary of the criteria used to move documents through the various phases of review and any automatic assignments of designations.