Prioritize Fact-Finding in Your Litigation and Discovery Strategy
A good discovery strategy goes beyond complying with production obligations.
When preparing for discovery matters, law firms and legal corporate departments most often focus on developing a compliant and cost-effective responsive review capability with the appropriate expert personnel, technology, and workflows. After all, once in place, a tested responsive review capability can provide legal counsel the cost predictability, security, and control needed to focus on legal strategy early on in large litigation matters.
Yet, while it is necessary to develop a reliable in-house or managed responsive review capability for document-intensive litigation, being ready for the demands of modern day discovery extends beyond complying with production obligations. Most notably, the work of fact-finding often continues well after production, and introduces its own unique complexities and opportunities requiring special tactical attention.
Responsive review and finding key documents require different workflows.
There is a substantive difference between identifying what is responsive for production versus honing in on the key information that ultimately decides a case or investigation. While responsive review focuses on compliance with negotiated and documented requests for production, targeted fact-finding focuses on legal hypothesis-testing and story development in an actively changing and open-ended context.
As such, the mix of skills, technologies, and workflows required for responsive review does not necessarily extend beyond the production phase. Honing in on key documents and dispositive information buried in large data sets requires tactical agility and adaptation that efficient responsive review approaches limit by design in order to achieve production compliance at scale.
Targeted fact-finding requires an iterative process and an expert team.
A common need shared across fact-finding case teams is quick identification of key documents to help develop a robust and coherent fact-based narrative. Rather than casting a broad net to look for similarities among documents as you would do in a responsive review, fact-finding teams require an ability to sleuth through large data sets in order to identify key players, reveal hidden connections between them, and establish an overall picture and timeline of what happened.
More specifically, rather than leveraging linear review workflows—even those optimized by technology-assisted review (TAR)—targeted fact-finding is best supported by iterative workflows in which attorneys and discovery experts deeply familiar with the case conduct tailored interrogations of the data to find the information that will best help with developing the case team’s understanding of the matter.
Broaden the notion of discovery for better preparedness.
Limiting discovery preparedness to achieving scalable responsive review gives short-shrift to developing a capacity for targeted fact-finding. Broadening the notion of discovery preparedness to include fact-finding means reassessing your discovery capabilities beyond production-oriented questions, such as what number of documents will require eyes-on review or what level of accuracy can be achieved. It makes sense to make more qualitative, legal expert-based assessments such as: Have we been able to uncover the full extent of the relevant fact pattern? How confident are we that we have connected the dots regarding who acted improperly and who had knowledge of it?
To answer these sorts of questions, senior members of the litigation team need to be actively informed at a granular level regarding fact-finding approaches and outcomes. A robust and effective fact-finding function can provide a critical advantage in not only witness and trial preparation, but also in early case assessment, internal investigations, and government subpoenas, increasingly important discovery contexts to consider in light of increased regulatory, shareholder, and public scrutiny of corporate fraud and wrong-doing.
For more on fact-finding, see: eDiscovery for Investigations: Different Goal, Different Approach.