“Once a party reasonably anticipates litigation, it must suspend its routine document retention/destruction policy and put in place a ‘Legal Hold.”
The above definition is easy to understand the ‘legal hold’ process for any legal department or law firm. Legal teams need to ensure that the legal hold notification reaches to each custodian, stakeholder, or contingent staff to preserve data relevant for further investigation. They need to work abruptly before the date loses its vitality, but the real challenge is the manual process.
The idea is to simplify legal hold process for the legal team against the manual legal hold system. It created the emergence of automated ‘end-to-end Legal Hold Management (LHM)’ system. Let’s understand the automated process and its importance in detail.
The slow turnaround of document submission and missed deadlines damages the reputation of law firms and it costs a lot if not fortune to the legal department of any organization. There is a clear need for a holistic solution in order to keep a strong relation, collaboration, and communication between law firms and their clients. These four steps give an insight about the legal hold management system.
Step 1 – The first step is to identify the ‘right’ custodians and their data sources. Once the HR directory is integrated with the solution it becomes easy to keep the track of the process for each individual.
Step 2 – The second and the most important step is to create legal hold from a predefined template/s in order to establish the case requirements.
Step 3 – With a Legal Hold Management (LHM) solution, simply assign a hold as earliest possible to the custodian via automated notifications and verify the same in case. If the custodian is non-responsive then use the ‘auto-escalations’ or ‘reminders’
Step 4 – Get instant updates on the results in order to go further with the defensible legal hold process as required
Step 5 – Once the case closes, and custodians are free from all the liabilities, release the hold and notify the custodians about the status change so that the regular policies can be put back into practice.
Legal Hold Management using the above process enables legal hold enforcement under the information governance and helps in Early Case Assessment (ECA). Here comes the common question why is there a need of end-to-end legal hold management for any law firm, let’s discuss now.
The legal hold is one of the sensitive concerns for law firms or any legal department of an organization and it is of utmost importance to find the ‘right’ data and ‘right’ custodian respectively. The instructions to preserve the data across various sources have to be communicated with the responsible individuals in detail; here the traditional manual legal hold model fails.
It is difficult to convey the same to all the possible custodians when the data is scattered, especially in any large organization or for a law firm that has multiple clients. The process gets simplified for the stakeholders when a legal hold management solution which can be integrated with their native platforms in deployed within the legal department. The law firms and legal department can systematically send, collect, and track legal hold notifications and ensure ECA.
Law firms and legal departments can manage their workflow around legal hold with improved collaboration and integration with custodians. Here ‘size doesn’t matter’; even in a fairly small organization or law firm, the amount of data could be higher and scattered among custodians.
It makes the data preservation and efficiency more vulnerable; so the legal hold management solution helps to reduce the efforts for collaboration and integration among stakeholders. The legal hold can be initiated within the solution and establish centralized monitoring. So, it saves time, money, and of course, the fear of losing any sensitive data during the legal hold.
In the 3rd step of the above guide for end-to-end Legal Hold Management (LHM), is simply automates the entire legal hold process; from initially creating a hold, notifications, to reminders, and to escalations from a single solution. In this process, interviewing the potential custodians is one of the major expenses. The legal team can create customize self-guiding questionnaires, reminders, and notifications to get a quick and accurate response before proceeding further.
It has been common in the manual legal hold system that the notification gets skipped, ignored, or delayed in response by custodians. In some worst cases, the notification reaches the wrong party that delays the legal hold process. It makes the legal team’s further processing more complicated as the custodian is idle to response.
When a legal hold management system is in place then the notifications, reminders, and escalations are automated therefore custodian can’t ignore it. Other than that, it can be integrated with the HR directory hence reaching out to the accurate custodian is not a concern. Also, it can be escalated to the reporting supervisor if unresponsive after multiple reminders. Thus, the legal hold management system keeps the custodian compliance effective.
And once the cases closes it becomes easier to release the custodian and communicate the clearance at the end of it all. Legal Hold Management (LHM) empowers the law firms and legal teams to effectively manage multiple legal holds with utmost accuracy under lesser time compare to the manual legal hold system.