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IT Owns E-Discovery

Organizations are realizing technological expertise is just as essential as sharp legal analysis when it comes to e-discovery.

IT groups are getting more e-discovery responsibility according to results from two surveys.

Thirty-five percent of respondents give IT and in-house counsel duel responsibility for creating and enforcing corporate discovery strategies, while the CIO and IT takes full ownership for another 20 percent. That's according to an annual ESI trends report from Kroll OnTrack. Three years ago, e-discovery belonged entirely to in-house counsel says the company, which sells discovery software and consulting services. Kroll surveyed 231 IT and legal professionals in the U.S. You can find the survey here, but registration is required.

Meanwhile, large organizations are bringing more of the e-discovery process in house, according to a new survey from Clearwell and the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). Forty-eight percent of companies surveyed have projects in place to bring e-discovery components inside the organization, and another 36 percent plan to do so in the next 12 months. Clearwell, which sells e-discovery software, surveyed over 100 organizations in the Fortune 2000. A copy of the report is available here (registration also required).

The main driver for bringing more processes in house is to help contain e-discovery costs. The more work that companies can do for themselves, the less they have to outsource to fleets of attorneys and consultants charging hundreds of dollars per hour to find, review and analyze terabytes of e-mail, documents and other files.

According to the survey, organizations are most focused on bringing identification/collection and processing/analysis in house. Those phases of e-discovery demand significant IT involvement. In particular, identification and collection processes and technology touch critical IT systems—including e-mail servers, production databases, disk and tape storage and executive PCs—to gather potentially relevant material. It's simply not feasible for attorneys, whether in house or outside the company, to work with these systems without close cooperation from IT.

IT's involvement in e-discovery is only likely to increase. According to the Clearwell/ESG survey, 78 percent of respondents saw lawsuits and regulatory inquiries rise from 2008 to 2009. As for 2010, 53 percent expect lawsuits and inquires to increase by 20 percent, while 13 percent of respondents expect them to double.

These days, the discovery process is as much as technological as a legal exercise. Organizations that exclude IT from the process risk higher costs for each discovery event and poor outcomes if a matter goes to trial. If your IT and legal departments are still strangers, book a conference room and schedule a meeting now.