Managing E-discovery In-House

This article was initially published in the Law Journal Newsletter’s Legal Tech Newsletter

By Diane Pittman, E-discovery Coordinator at Babst, Calland, Clements & Zomnir, P.C.

Since 1986, Babst, Calland, Clements & Zomnir, P.C. (Babst Calland) has been providing focused legal services to corporations, closely-held businesses and municipalities.  Babst Calland began as a boutique firm focusing on environmental regulatory law.  Today, with more than 80 lawyers and offices in Pittsburgh, PA; Sewell, NJ; and State College, PA, Babst Calland is an integral part of the environmental, corporate and construction industries it serves.

As the person at Babst Calland responsible for the technical aspects of electronic or e-discovery, I recognized early on that our mid-sized law firm was facing an ever-increasing amount of electronically stored information (ESI).  This required us to review and improve our e-discovery tools and processes to address the challenges associated with collecting, searching and processing the growing volume of client data.

E-discovery Challenges, Evaluating Alternatives

Regardless of the size of a case, e-discovery has specific compliance and auditing mandates that apply.  Traditional e-discovery tools often require time-consuming procedures with many complicated steps and limited search capabilities that require additional processing time before data can be reviewed.  We realized early on that the tools we used for searching and processing loose files such as the contents of a “My Documents” folder were unsatisfactory for dealing with Microsoft Outlook PSTs.  But the software for handling e-discovery is evolving rapidly and so the task fell to me to evaluate technology alternatives to better suit our expanding needs.

As I began to explore our options, an early need was to find a tool with the ability to search Microsoft PST (Outlook personal folder) files.  PST files – which store information such as email messages, attachments of all types, contacts, calendar items, and more – can be very complex. In fact, they’re not really “files” at all, but a consolidated archive of files.  Emails formed a large part of the ESI being fielded by my department, and finding a reliable tool to efficiently and effectively search, process and review PST files became a priority.

Initially, we used a file-processing tool on PSTs.  While it had served us well for loose files, it was unable to handle the increasingly complex searches we needed, and it required far too much time to process and convert the PSTs.  We could do one basic search on the PST, and then the results would be converted to TIFF or PDF (a very slow, sometimes days-long process) and exported. These files were then imported into the review tool, where further – but still very basic – searches could be performed.  Often, we needed to use independent search tools such as dtSearch on the exported TIFF or PDF emails to get the complexity we required.  We needed a fast tool with flexible search capabilities able to deliver culled PSTs or .msgs (individual Outlook email files) quickly.  Speed was extremely important – the less time required to deliver accurately culled data to our reviewers, the better the results and experience for our clients.  As with all e-discovery tools, it’s important to have the ability to use the software for multiple requests and cases without incurring extra charges that would have to be passed on to the client.

Once we identified our needs, it made sense to reach out to peers in our industry to see what they were using for e-discovery purposes.  One of my most-respected contacts in the computer forensics end of the electronic discovery business recommended a cost-effective tool from Sherpa Software called Discovery Attender.  ”I really think it will do everything you need,” he told me.  I downloaded a free trial and was delighted at what it could do.  My initial PST test search ran so quickly that I was sure the software had malfunctioned, but when I checked, I found my search results.  The accuracy was excellent, and I was sold.

Implementing a New E-discovery Solution

Implementing a new software solution is never simple but Discovery Attender was easy to use, more than satisfactory for our needs, and took me only two hours to get up and running.  It can search multiple PST files simultaneously, significantly speeding up the searching process.  The variety of settings available and rich criteria options help pinpoint relevant documents to match exactly what our attorneys are seeking.   The deduplication functionality greatly streamlines the discovery process by eliminating duplicate copies of the same data from multiple sources.  Deduplication is an important, cost saving step because it helps eliminate redundancy, making sure our attorneys don’t waste valuable time reviewing repetitive data.

As I became more familiar with the tool, I found value in some unexpected features that were included as well. I knew that Discovery Attender could search PST files, but was very pleased to find it could also search, organize, and deduplicate loose files, allowing us to more quickly and thoroughly search office documents, PDF files and the like.  Discovery Attender can also move, copy, and rename emails or loose files (including sequential numbering). The integrated MD5 hashing allows us to verify data integrity.  Combined with the robust reporting, this validation enables our firm to track chain of custody on our data from source to production.

Along with Discovery Attender, we use a number of other applications to complete our e-discovery process.  We use IPRO eScan-IT and IPRO View for metadata extraction and conversion to other document formats (TIFF, PDF), and some data processing.  Our attorneys use the Westlaw CaseLogistix document review tool, and we use their CaseProduction software (as well as Adobe 9) for final production. When I found that new cases required me to search Lotus Notes files, which is an even more complex NSF format, I brought in Sherpa’s Discovery Attender for Lotus Notes.

Results and Benefits

The initial requirement that led us to Sherpa Software was our need to search PST files, and Discovery Attender went beyond my expectations.  It became the Swiss Army knife in my toolbox in terms of managing the technical aspects of searching, deduplicating, and converting data for e-discovery.  Its ability to smoothly process Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes files, as well as loose files and extract basic metadata (including the all-important MD5 Hash) add to its overall effectiveness.

Sherpa Software’s tools vastly increased our search and export capabilities. The integrated deduplication features significantly decreased the amount of data sent for review.  All in all, the amount of time required to search PST files was reduced by about 90 percent over more traditional methods, making our clients and attorneys very happy.  As I mentioned, Discovery Attender is just one of the many e-discovery tools we use, but it’s one of the most often used and most valuable.  Sherpa’s products are a big part of the reason we rarely need to outsource e-discovery.

Looking Ahead

We’ve made tremendous strides in recent years in the productivity and effectiveness of our e-discovery process.  I plan to continue using Sherpa Software’s Discovery Attender, and I’m eager to test the new features in the latest version, which adds functionality to export, deduplicate and convert items for the presearch process.  Not having to switch back and forth between the two very different tools will be a relief.  We’ll be thoroughly testing the new SharePoint capabilities soon, as well.

In the future, I want to further reduce review time and increase review accuracy – who doesn’t?  To that end, our firm is evaluating email threading software and predictive coding tools.  Email threading takes email chains and deduplicates the chain versus the individual parts of the chain.  Consolidating them into one allows a reviewer to look at one final inclusive email and not review each part of it separately.  Predictive coding (or similar technology, such as clustering) would allow for an initial machine-based review of e-discovery data, reducing the time required for attorney or other professional review.

E-discovery rules affect companies of all sizes and budgets.  Our firm has handled an increasing number of cases over the past several years, as well as an increase in the amount of electronically stored data we receive for each case.  Even smaller cases now typically involve electronically stored information, and I expect these trends to continue.  To better support these developments, I think the price of e-discovery solutions will have to come down; it’s an ever-growing market, and competition is the key.  Sherpa Software’s solutions, including Discovery Attender, are reasonably priced and reliable.  The time savings are so immediate that it’s easy to justify the cost, and I expect to be using it for a long time.

See how Discovery Attender can help manage your in-house e-discovery, register for a free trial today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *