Federal Rule 26, the Meet and Confer rule, requires the parties in a litigation to meet at an early time to discuss the information they have and what they will share. The parties must meet “at least 21 days before a scheduling conference order is due under Rule 16”, which states that the “judge must issue the scheduling order, within the earlier of 120 days after any defendant has been served with the complaint, or 90 days after any defendant has appeared.”
Organizations are finding the best way to deal with the issue of potential litigation is to plan ahead, before the need even arises, by preparing a data map. A data map is simply a guide for legal and IT to the location of data within the whole company and important information about that data. This information includes the business units, processes and technology responsible for maintaining the data, as well as, retention periods for that data.
By having a clear and concise knowledge of what storage devices exist and what type of information is stored where, you will have a more effective and efficient e-discovery process. Rule 26 also has a requirement which states that litigating parties are to disclose either a copy or a “description by category and location” of responsive electronically stored information.
The data map is an essential component of planning any litigation, because it identifies all the locations within a corporation where data may be stored. All other pertinent information should be included in the data map. In-house counsel can reference the data map whenever they need to.
Being proactive in regards to your e-discovery data map is an excellent way to stay ahead of the game and prepared in the event you will be required to present your e-discovery in an upcoming litigation, if one arises. However, you will need to maintain your data map and keep it updated so that it is ready when you need it. Otherwise, your pre-planning has just been a waste of time.
Ensuring that your data map stays accurate is vital to the relevance and its long term viability. You should establish a data map administrator to perform edits and control and appropriate chain of custody between them and a cross functional team comprised of business, IT and legal. Data map updates should normally be done on an annual basis, but also when there are significant organizational events, changes to compliance and regulatory changes.