A litigation hold, also known as a legal hold, is the process in which an organization involved in litigation advises its personnel of information that may need to be preserved for potential investigation. Here, the Maryland data forensics specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics explain the legal hold as an important step of the e-discovery process.

What is E-Discovery?

Electronic discovery, or e-discovery, is the process of uncovering, analyzing and producing  electronically-stored information (ESI) that could be used in a court of law. During the discovery process, both the plaintiff and the defendant have the opportunity to gain awareness of what evidence could be presented against them in court, and the discovery process contains various methods including depositions and interrogatories.

What is the Role of Legal Hold in the E-Discovery Process?

Legal hold is the process in which an organization involved in a lawsuit informs their personnel, or legal hold recipients, via a written notification constructed by the organization’s legal team, that information is required to be collected and preserved for litigation. This safeguards potentially useful information until the case concludes.

Unlike the more technical aspects of the e-discovery process, legal hold extends beyond the scope of court and impacts the staff members of companies involved in litigation, as well as anyone else with involvement. Personnel are notified to save both ESI and paperwork that may prove to be potential evidence, as discovery could be both physical or electronic documentation.

Why are Legal Holds Important?

The legal hold process is often considered the first step in risk control when entering litigation and an important component to have as defense against deletion or alteration of evidence that could prove potentially relevant in court, also known as spoliation. It is important that legal hold notifications be sent out as soon as litigation is anticipated, as a legal hold will need to be distributed to anyone in an organization who might have potentially useful ESI. While there are no specific requirements that must be outlined in a legal hold notification, it is advisable for your notification to be as detailed as possible and clearly outline specific physical documentation and ESI that needs to be preserved, as well as the legal necessity of doing so, in order to encourage compliance and efficiency by personnel.

What are Some Legal Hold Challenges and Best Practices?

The legal hold process can be complicated, especially for larger corporations with hundreds of employees who are expected to cooperate during the entire duration of the legal hold process of discovery. Additionally, large companies can often face multiple legal cases at once, further complicating the legal hold process for its employees.

In order to ensure efficiency, organization and compliance throughout the legal hold process, there are some best practices that should be employed by those who may potentially face legal hold. The legal hold process should begin as early as possible, as soon as an organization anticipates they will be involved in litigation. Some examples of events that could initiate a legal hold include if someone sustains an injury on company property, if the organization receives notification threatening a lawsuit or if the organization receives a complaint for initiating litigation, among other legal processes. The importance of the legal hold process should also be stressed to employees, as failure to save the necessary ESI and physical documentation could lead to serious legal repercussions.

Speak to a Data Forensics Specialist at Atlantic Data Forensics About Legal Hold

Legal holds affect everyone involved in your organization, not just those involved in the intricacies of a lawsuit. Since the legal hold process can be complex, and requires effective communication and cooperation by everyone involved, is it essential to seek the help of a data forensics professional, such as the data forensics specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics, if you find your organization involved in a lawsuit or potential lawsuit. For more information on how the Maryland e-discovery specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics can help you navigate the complexities of legal hold, contact us today.