How to Reduce Your Corporate Risks and eDiscovery Spend with In-house ECA and Culling

  • Will Pfeifer
  • April 21, 2021

On Tuesday, April 13, Venio Systems held the latest webinar in its monthly #VenioVisions thought-leadership series, “How to Reduce Your Corporate Risks and eDiscovery Spend with In-house ECA and Culling.” The information session was presented by Chris Jurkiewicz, Venio’s EVP of Client Services, with input from Ankur Agarwal, Venio’s VP of Products.  (You can watch a recording of the webinar by clicking here.)

Jurkiewicz began by asking the question, “Why does it benefit companies to bring their ECA (Early Case Assessment) and culling in-house?” He explained that as a founder of Venio Systems, he experienced the issue first-hand, seeing the overwhelming amount of data that comes into corporations, along with the complicated processes that corporations undergo to get that data ready for eDiscovery. Clients have expressed concerns about handling that data, and as Venio has developed new solutions for dealing with it, they’ve seen four benefits to dealing with the ECA and culling of that data on an internal basis: 

Reduced cost: The volume of data is a large factor in the costs of eDiscovery. Data accumulates over time, reaching nearly unmanageable levels, and the truth is, most companies are not adept when it comes to managing data. Maintaining and storing all that data – which can quickly add up to terabytes and even petabytes of information – gets very expensive. Dealing with the culling of that data in-house can allow a company to reduce those costs.

Reduced risk: When data does leave the protection of your company’s firewall, do you know how safe it is? What information is in it? Should you be worried? Companies need to be aware that when data leaves the safe confines of their own on-premise storage, it’s not only going to be stored somewhere else, but it could also be exchanged or transferred multiple times among various locations, and could be held on a variety of media, including backup tapes, hard-drives, various servers and other storage locations. The point is, as soon as your data leaves your location, the security risks to that data increase multifold.

Higher quality: The key to quality is having the best, most appropriate data for a case pushed out, and the unnecessary, unrelated data ignored. That is what an effective culling and ECA process can accomplish. It gets rid of the noise and prioritizes quality over quantity.

Quicker reviews: By bringing culling and ECA in house, companies can ensure that reviews performed downstream are expedited more efficiently thus eliminating extraneous, unnecessary data. eDiscovery workflow enables speedier performance, thus reducing expenses, especially in the review process.

Risks of sending data out

Loss of control: Once your data leaves the protection of your firewall, it’s out of your control. Does your protection match the specific requirements that you have established? Why worry that your data is insecure and vulnerable? 

Data content security:  Consider the content of your data: It might hold company trade secrets that could pose a risk to your company if revealed. All information is important and requires protection.  

Risk of exposure to competitors:  Reduce the risk of exposure by reducing the expulsion of your data information. eDiscovery slams the door on invasive competitors who could render your data compromised.

Potential to reuse data: Another problem with not managing your data in-house is that the datasets are not available for you to reuse when necessary. By keeping your data in-house and not relying on external processing, you can reuse that data and save both time and cost.

Destruction not handled properly: Though your company may have internal rules regarding the secure destruction of data, once that data is outside your firewall, those rules can be difficult to enforce. Instituting deletion procedures with other companies and ensuring they’ve been followed to your specifications poses a huge risk, and as that data is processed externally, there are many touchpoints where the data could be, and where exposure is possible.

Bringing ECA and culling in-house

Risks

Admittedly, there are risks when it comes to bringing your company’s ECA and culling in-house, and they must be considered before you make an important decision regarding how – and where – your data is processed: 

Not having the necessary skills among the people on your current staff: ECA and culling is a complex process requiring trained experts and analysts to do the job properly.  Your employees might not be up to the task.

Not having the necessary tools: To bring your company’s ECA and culling in-house, you’ll need the correct technology to ensure that the tasks are accomplished in a defensible manner, and that all the necessary steps and procedures have been accurately tracked.

Ensuring culling processes are defensible: ECA and culling involves a huge number of workflows, and the right analytics and filters must be applied to keep the process accurate. It is vital that your company documents every step to ensure defensibility.

No external oversight: If your company is handling ECA and culling in-house, it is up to you to ensure that all the proper steps have been taken and documented so everything is defensible. Handling these procedures yourself removes valuable oversight, which could spot and prevent costly errors that occur during the process.

Benefits

However, the benefits of handling ECA and culling in-house, when using the right tools and relying on experts in the field, can greatly outweigh those risks:

Increasing internal eDiscovery skills and toolsets: By keeping your ECA and culling in-house, you’ll increase your company’s skill at the process and the tools you use. This will make it much easier for your company downstream.

Greater knowledge of your data: You will know more about your own data, so you’ll be able to keep data in-house that doesn’t need to be released. There’s often a great deal of data that might need to be verified while not being necessary for the case. By handling your ECA and culling internally, you’ll be able to make those decisions.

Focused data versus broad data: More data doesn’t have to be an expensive liability to manage. Getting your data focused is the key to making your business run more smoothly and your cases more successful.

Save downstream attorney review time: Review is the most expensive part of the eDiscovery process, but by focusing your data, you decrease the time attorney’s spend in review, which can reduce your costs.

Freeing up budget for higher value services: By saving money during the review process, your company can re-invest those funds into AI-driven processes, such as CAL (Continuous Active Learning), and leverage these technologies to improve your culling and review.

Ability to reuse datasets: By keeping things in-house, you can reuse data that’s been filtered, thus increasing efficiency. Why do work twice? By reusing data, you carve out subsets for a new case within the same systems, and repurpose work that’s already been done.

Why should you streamline your process?

You’ll save time: The time you put in at the beginning is miniscule compared to time you’ll save on the back end. 

You’ll make fewer mistakes: The more you can do early in the process minimizes the chances for mistakes downstream.

Your reviews will improve: The more you can do to reduce the amount of data will make your reviews more efficient and save you time and money down the line.  

Your outcomes will improve: By minimizing, you give attorneys much more focused and structured information to deal with the case.

Workflow

The existing eDiscovery platform ECA workflow wasted a great deal of time, with several steps that could be easily automated or eliminated. Venio’s workflow removes several time-wasting steps, including:

  • Indexing check
  • Create of backup database
  • Restore case with script
  • Update case directories
  • Combine case with script
  • Delete sub case

This workflow is designed to be “set it and forget it.” Venio’s focus with its eDiscovery SaaS is to make sure this is the best workflow on the market and one that is efficient and defensible. By employing this workflow, you’ll benefit from:

  • Reduces risks
  • Less time
  • Lower cost
  • Higher quality

The ideal ECA workflow has only five steps, and the central three steps are part of an automated process:

  1. Create Legal Hold Project
  2. Ingest Data
  3. Search and Move to Dynamic Folder
  4. Run Legal Hold Applet – helps deal with deleting source data
  5. Export Natives – with a few automated steps

This is the reality that many Venio clients have moved towards to simplify their workflow. They make a few clicks, and the automated system does the rest. The system is Venio’s focus, and it’s the reason the company hasn’t branched out into other areas. Venio wants to make sure this is the best, most efficient, most defensible workflow on the market.  

Step 1: Create the Project 

Everything is template based. You can add information with advanced options. This is your data, and these are your custodians. Venio’s system will take care of them. It allows for the incorporation of existing passwords — just drag and drop, and the system will take over from there. 

Step 2: Ingest data 

There are multiple formats that your data can take: Multiple formats the data can take

  • Unstructured:  Raw data, your company’s hard drives and shared drives
  • Structured: Data coming from a third party, database data
  • Transcript Data: From previous cases
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Bloomberg, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.  

Data ingestion is all drag-and-drop. You don’t have to be an IT expert to use this system. If you can drag and drop, you can load data.  Venio’s eDiscovery SaaS can also pull data from Office 365. Venio offers integration from Office 365, with the ability to bring in Mailbox, OneDrive and Teams data – which is the bulk of data that’s needed. And there’s a lot you can do to filter that data from Office 365 before you bring it in. Also, with many companies leveraging the cloud for storage, we work with Amazon’s teams to pull data from their S3 storage. 

Step 3: Move to dynamic folder

Dynamic folders are built around searches. You create them and store them in the system, then you can leverage them within a case or throughout all cases. As you build libraries, it makes your process much more efficient. 

Step 4: Legal Hold Applet

The legal hold applet is an option for clients to manage the process of dealing with data once it’s been processed and searched. We do our best to minimize data we don’t need anymore. That includes identifying and creating custom de-duplication fields, the ability to pull in any actual path where that data sits on the network so the information will be captured, and the system will automatically apply tags, giving clients the  option to delete duplicate files in the system and across the network. 

Step 5: Export natives. 

Once a client has data sub-setted out and down to the low-risk, high-quality data that you need for the case, it’s time to get that data out to outside counsel or to a service provider that is managing the data.  Venio’s system walks clients through the process. They choose what to export based on dynamic folders or tags. The workflow is built on custom export templates, and clients can have as many templates as they want for different scenarios.

Best practices for Email ECA and Culling

  • Junk email removal: Some email will always be “junk” that’s not needed for case. If you don’t do a good job culling it, it will be there, clogging up the system and costing you time and money.
  • Merging duplicate email addresses: Venio can merge multiple email addresses into a single profile, so you’re not missing information.
  • Identifying additional custodians: Venio has built-in tools to identify custodians and analyze their relationships. Getting information up front is the key to efficiency and accuracy.
  • Inclusive threading: Venio’s workflow only pushes out the ones you need from that thread, the most inclusive emails. You may only need a few emails that contain all the pertinent information, so why produce them all? By producing only what’s needed upfront, you save a great deal of work downstream.
  • Better de-duplication: Venio’s process eliminates common email pieces, such as signature blocks and disclaimers, as noise, cutting down on the amount of unnecessary data.

Best practices for Document ECA and Culling

  • Junk file removal: Removing system files as well as files with no data or non-user created values frees up a great deal of space and streamlines the process.
  • Decrypt password-protected files: By decrypting password-protected files up front, there’s no need for that to be done when the files are downstream in the review process, where decryption would be much more expensive.
  • Narrow data to relevant date period: There are easy ways to create filters and apply them instantly so you can cull a huge amount of data not needed for the case.
  • Remove trade secrets and other confidential commercial info: The confidential data you can embed as part of dynamic folders makes it easier for the system to automatically eliminate such data from downstream production.
  • Remove customer/CRM data: Again, embedding this data in dynamic folders makes it easy to automate the elimination of downstream.
  • Remove PII/PHI: Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI) is a hot topic these days. Venio has entity extraction to remove this sensitive information available either out of the box or as a build-your-own option, using automated rules that are part of your workflow.

Questions

After the webinar, a number of the attendees asked additional questions about keeping their ECA and culling in-house: 

Should companies never use service providers? Chris Jurkiewicz explained he wasn’t saying that you should never use service providers. In fact, they might have the expertise and sophisticated workflows that your company doesn’t have in-house. What’s important is that there are advantages to keeping your work internal when possible. It increases efficiency and security, then when you turn that data over to your external service provider, you can benefit from that efficiency. 

Do we need tools? Jurkiewicz said companies can use their own internal tools for culling and ECA, but the challenge lies in developing and managing your own scripts and making sure the process runs smoothly. What’s more, ongoing script management can be even more troublesome and expensive. It’s more efficient and cost-effective to rely on tools from an experienced provider. 

Is the existing ECA workflow process really that complicated? As Ankur Agarwal stressed, this is a real process used by many corporations, and it works for many of them. The problem is that it was designed because the available tools were designed to work in a certain way before automation could handle many of these steps. It was developed for the tools, but it wasn’t developed to solve the problem.  It works, but it is a long process, and it’s expensive because you have to pay for the tools and pay for the time. The Venio process was built to eliminate unnecessary steps in the process by shrinking it down, eliminating many steps through automation, and reducing the cost and increasing the accuracy along the way.

How much time can be saved using Venio’s workflow? Companies can save somewhere in the range of 30 to 50 percent. The point is to get the work done by automating as much of the process as possible, which means companies can see similar returns in terms of time and cost. 

Does Venio have the ability to parse cell phone dump or social media returns: Yes. Venio’s workflow includes built-in features to digest data from built-in features to ingest data from Cellebrite for cell phone data. It also makes it possible to ingest data from social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Bloomberg, and Microsoft teams. 

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