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From a legal perspective, email is one of the riskiest forms of communication for a company due to the vast amount of messages that employees send and receive every day.
In fact, the average company processes thousands of emails per day. And many of them often contain sensitive information or legal evidence.
Unfortunately, companies tend to mismanage emails and create a variety of legal issues that are otherwise possible to avoid.
Luckily, businesses can reduce risk by having a robust email eDiscovery solution in place to track, archive, and search for messages during audits and legal investigations. Keep reading to learn more about what eDiscovery is and why it’s so important for companies in today’s data-driven landscape.
What Is eDiscovery?
eDiscovery is the process of collecting, identifying, processing, analyzing, preserving, and archiving electronically stored information (ESI). In a business setting, eDiscovery is important for regulatory and compliance purposes. It’s also important for producing evidence and settling legal disputes.
In addition, a formal eDiscovery process takes place before the start of a legal dispute. At the beginning of a court case, lawyers from both sides meet to set guidelines governing ESI protocol and request information from the other party. During this formal process, both sides can request information. They also have the power to deny eDiscovery requests under certain circumstances. Once eDiscovery is complete, the court case begins.
So as you can see, eDiscovery can have multiple connotations depending on the environment. However, it always refers to the process of discovering, sharing, and managing ESI.
The Role Email Plays in eDiscovery
Companies need to track many types of electronic formats. For example, text messages, images, weblogs, and audio files all fall under the umbrella of ESI and require careful eDiscovery management.
Email is one of the most common types of ESI. For this reason, it’s a major focus among eDiscovery managers and analysts.
All employees — from interns to CEOs — need to operate with transparency when it comes to email. After all, any communication can potentially serve as critical evidence during an audit or investigation. This may include routine check-ins and status updates or more serious emails involving executive orders, financial or data requests, rebukes, and HR-related disciplinary actions.
Because of this, you can’t trust employees to manage emails. Instead, you need a dedicated strategy with clear rules, policies, and guardrails.
Common Email eDiscovery Pitfalls
Despite the importance of properly managing email, companies are constantly getting into hot water over improper management and poor decision-making. With that in mind, here are some of the common pitfalls that companies make with email eDiscovery.
Companies often delete emails to destroy evidence or to avoid potential future disputes. In fact, some companies now take proactive measures by creating email retention policies and automatically deleting emails after a certain period of time (e.g., after five years).
However, this can be a risky process — especially if it involves destroying or modifying sensitive information that could be damaging in court or the media. As such, executives need to be very careful about issuing deletion orders. Otherwise, it could lead to serious legal consequences.
As a best practice, it’s a good idea to check with legal advisors before deleting any emails or requesting others to take action.
Losing Track of Emails
Another common email pitfall involves losing track of emails. This often happens when companies allow employees to correspond internally and externally using private email addresses instead of company accounts.
When this happens, emails go into private third-party storage locations. This can make it difficult or even impossible to detect and produce ESI in court.
For the best results, companies should be very strict about requiring employees to use official accounts and limit access to private, personal email platforms like Gmail.
Lack of Preparation
Companies usually don’t have a lot of time to respond to email requests during audits and inspections. Unfortunately, sudden requests can send employees into a panic and create stress. Employees will sometimes delete emails or take other actions to protect themselves even when they are not in any danger, causing legal ramifications.
The best way to minimize disruptions is to prepare ahead of time and have a system in place for collecting, tracking, and managing emails. Legal teams should work closely with IT administrators and managers to have a system for automatically collecting and managing emails. This can lead to faster and more efficient auditing while mitigating harmful employee behavior.
Email is often the platform of choice for transmitting sensitive documents like contracts, tax forms, and personal information. As a result, cybercriminals often try to gain access to email platforms to steal information and inflict harm on companies.
In general, businesses need to take proper security precautions to minimize cybersecurity threats and disruptions in their email platforms. Threats like ransomware and phishing may act as barriers to eDiscovery, preventing teams from accessing critical documents during audits and investigations.
Oftentimes, companies — especially small organizations and startups — fail to properly manage and protect their emails. Small companies may operate for months or even years without legal advisors and create a substantial amount of risk as a result.
In light of this, companies must take ESI seriously and have a system in place for collecting, documenting, and sharing official company correspondence. By working with an eDiscovery platform or team, companies can reduce risk and also prevent issues like losing, deleting, or failing to secure emails.
How eDiscovery Software Helps With Emails
It’s important to realize that email is a key piece of eDiscovery. One of the best ways to streamline email management is by using eDiscovery software with built-in email tracking and archiving functionality.
A robust eDiscovery platform can help to collect, process, and secure emails and prepare them for use in audits and investigations. This can save time and effort and lower the cost of tracking and managing email communications.
What to Look for in an Email Archiving Solution
When it boils down to it, there are many eDiscovery solutions on the market today that promise to streamline management and communication. But not all eDiscovery platforms offer the same level of quality with their email archiving services and purchasing the wrong platform can lead to more harm than good.
With this in mind, here are a few features to look for when sourcing an eDiscovery platform.
A Unified System
The last thing you want is a disparate collection of widgets and tools. Consider using a unified eDiscovery platform with embedded email archiving. This will save time and reduce frustration for eDiscovery workers.
A Seamless User Experience
The platform should be user-friendly and free of bugs and glitches. Invest in a quality platform that team members can quickly learn and enjoy using.
Rapid Response Support
Eventually, your platform may require service or maintenance. For this reason, it’s a good idea to invest in a service that comes with rapid response troubleshooting and around-the-clock technical support.
Venio Systems: Your One-stop Shop for eDiscovery
If you’re looking to optimize eDiscovery and email retention, Venio can help. Venio Systems offers a purpose-built platform for managing ESI of all types, including email.
This platform helps eDiscovery professionals operate faster and with greater accuracy across all stages — from collection to storage and preservation. Venio leverages AI and predictive coding to reduce review times and narrow down important documents.
To experience the power of Venio Systems, schedule a demo today.
About the Author
Justin Reynolds, Akshita Singhal & Lianna Vaughan
This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling. This post was reviewed and published by Akshita and Lianna, the in-house team of Venio.