For anyone who has ever thought big government isn’t looking out for the little guy, there are plenty of useful ideas about eDiscovery that can be gleaned from the public sector.
Allison Stanton, the Civil Director for the United States Department of Justice, explained in our Viewpoint on “Government eDiscovery needs and challenges” that although there are places where the public sector has unique problems and solutions, there are important ideas that can be taken away and applied to those working in the private sector.
Don’t let Big Data take you off course
The government currently deals with several terabytes of data in litigations, and their numbers are approaching petabytes. They are the definition of dealing with Big Data.
Although data can arise in unexpected places for the government, such as social media and mobile devices, it doesn’t change the fact that there are new ways in which information is preserved and collected, and these are all things that lead to unexpected costs. What Stanton suggests is to leverage technologies and partner with agencies and CIOs to appropriately gather information. Don’t just look at big data for its own sake. Be sure to ask, what are the merits of the litigation?
“Litigation will happen.”
“Litigation will happen. It doesn’t matter the size of your organization. You will have an employment suit. You will have some sort of situation where you need to preserve and collect information,” Stanton warned.
She knows this because the government deals in affirmative and defensive suits every day for every branch of the federal government. And because the use of their funds is dictated by Congress, they do not have the flexibility to move around funds in the case of unexpected costs, in their case, disasters, hurricanes, oil spills, health outbreaks and more. Stanton says, “You do really need to think through what are those costs, and how do we reduce those costs in different ways?”
Good partners can be found in unexpected places
The government maybe doesn’t have the best reputation right now for reaching across the aisle, but the model that exists in the Department of Justice proves that those who communicate with legal, records managers, a chief privacy officer or other departments are better equipped to address challenges and minimize costs down the road.
“There is a lot of good, intelligent, brain power in the federal government, and it’s often in places where you wouldn’t think to look to partner,” Stanton said. She adds that if there isn’t a dialogue open in advance, you can’t expect different branches to join up later and expect software or systems to perform in ways it wasn’t initially intended to.
Because the government is held to a higher standard in maintaining goodwill with the public and wisely using public funds, Stanton argues the government is surprisingly ahead of the private sector in terms of thinking about eDiscovery.
The Department of Justice always advises that various agencies remain vigilant about how to set up contracts and retrieval policies when moving data to the cloud or to other storage systems. There is a great variety of data and resources that could be at play in litigation, and over preparedness is always best when it comes to data discovery.
Listen to the Viewpoint on Government eDiscovery needs and challenges and learn more about the challenges the public sector faces.