Merchant & Gould appreciates today’s emerging technology and embraces electronic discovery (e-discovery.) M&G seeks to minimize costs by setting up corporate systems to address e discovery and educate our employees to stay on the cutting edge of technology. We pride ourselves on providing value to our clients by assisting them with doing the same at no cost. Some examples what we provide are:
- Advising the client on creating and maintaining systems for backup and destruction of email, voicemail, text messaging, personal computers and email, and use of social media sites
- Creating and maintaining litigation hold policies
- Educating employees about these systems and policies
- Educating employees about responding to requests for electronic discovery and devising search parameters
- Establishing relationships with vendors on a contractual basis to provide for discounted services
M&G has extensive experience in the management of retention, harvesting and production of electronic documents in discovery or due diligence. Our protocols for electronic discovery allow for budgeting and staging of electronic discovery. An exemplary protocol includes:
- Establish Litigation hold and set up conference with other side as soon as possible
- Identify files, file types (e.g., Word, pdf), file naming convention, and subdirectories
- Identify people involved in generating or storing such documents
- Identify where stored-flash drives, network, laptops, pdas, backup drives
- Decide on limitation strategy-dates, key word, file type
- Create plan for duplication of files
- Review plan with client and estimate costs
- Duplicate files and store in convenient form
- Document chain of custody
- Determine security necessary
- Maintain litigation hold
Once a case is initiated, implementing project management in conjunction with opposing counsel is essential in keeping e discovery cost effective and efficient. At the outset, an agreement needs to be made with respect to format, native file issues, source code, protective orders, escrow accounts and online review. Also, the budget for e discovery, based on the assessment protocol provided above, needs to be set.
M&G litigation paralegals are well versed in electronic discovery and work with outside vendors to manage costs utilizing various techniques including searches, filters, de-duplication and near duplication software. The needs of each case are carefully considered for the best approach for the case and for the client, utilizing client resources as appropriate to the situation. The litigation team will work with client representatives to identify where ESI resides and devise a plan for efficient harvesting. For clients with limited in house IT support, M&G’s preferred vendor utilizes PinPoint Labs software designed to efficiently collect specific directories and files without altering metadata.
Documents are generally collected and reviewed in native format, and metadata is entered into database fields to assist proficient review and source tracking. Summation Enterprises has near-native technology that quickly opens all types of documents for fast review. In certain cases, M&G may contract with a vendor to assist in reviewing documents in order to save costs. Use of near duplication software dramatically cuts review time, both when reviewing documents for production and documents produced by another party. Documents to be produced are carefully checked for privilege prior to production utilizing search techniques. Identification number and confidential stamp endorsements are done electronically.
Maintaining security of client’s sensitive data is imperative. M&G utilizes a secure web based version of Summation Enterprise so that expert witnesses, co-counsel or others with restricted rights to access documents by case, may do so remotely. This will further save costs. M&G maintains the databases of produced documents in Summation throughout the case for quick reference when preparing for depositions and for trial. M&G does not charge its client additional fees, such as hosting fees.
M&G has up-to-date electronic communication software for email and for sending documents. We utilize Microsoft products as well so our documents will be compatible with those of BCI. For larger files, we can utilize Dropbox as necessary.
Merchant & Gould has developed its own proprietary litigation management technology, ELUMIS®. This system provides an intuitive solution for integrating all material related to a lawsuit through a web-based interface, giving our clients instant access to current information on litigation matters including pleadings, discovery and correspondence. We can also regularly provide clients with the entire case by CDROM, organized in a user-friendly format, eliminating the need for the client to maintain its own filing system.
All remote offices backup directly to disk, this is done nightly with full backups running on Monday evening and incremental backups every night following. For our Denver office they have a secondary copy that goes to tape and sent to the Minneapolis Office overnight to us and then sent to Iron Mountain. Additionally every office has an additional backup that is run daily that backs up the data over the WAN directly to disk in our Minneapolis office. These backups also go to tape and are sent to Iron Mountain.
In the event where an Ethical Wall is needed to segment off individuals from electronic documents, this is done at the file system security level, our Case Management system, Prolaw, and our Document Management System, Interwoven. We have the ability to deny access at the Client or Matter level.
Security is handled through a multi-tiered model with checks done at the network, directory and in some instances at the application level. Firewalls, virus checkers, and content filters control inbound and outbound connections. Restrictions to server resources are controlled via Active Directory authentication / authorization. Specific applications (finance, HR, case management, etc.) have additional user level control beyond those already mentioned. Events are logged and periodically checked for anomalies and investigated further when they appear.
General maintenance guidelines
Our organization is arranged as such that IT personnel are located at the corporate office in Minneapolis. Vendors are under contract to provide support for our regional offices. As a general rule of thumb, hardware for the regional offices is purchased with onsite vendor support for the life of the hardware whereas in Minneapolis, support may or may not be purchased with onsite coverage—it depends on the criticality of the hardware. With full-time personnel in Minneapolis we can deliver faster repair times by stocking “spare” hardware and swapping that out in case of failure.
The IT department is broken into three areas: Network, Communications and Applications; Operations; and Technical Support. Each area fills a role in the overall support of the Firm and is staffed by highly competent individuals with half of the staff having worked for the Firm for more than five years. Roles are cross-trained so as to be to operate smoothly if one individual is unavailable.