In today’s increasingly digital world, the need to gather, review and present relevant electronically stored data for legal matters has never been greater.

With locations all around the world, food manufacturers and processors may encounter difficulty when it comes to finding, preserving, collecting, reviewing and processing relevant data for litigation. And, when this e-discovery process is treated in a reactionary manner – a sudden call to action like a fire drill – it leads to unnecessary and increased chaos, business disruption and risk. By establishing a standard e-discovery plan, however, companies can avoid these headaches and minimize the risk, all while reducing interruptions and costs.

Here are three steps to create an effective e-discovery process:

  1. Standardize your approach.

To standardize any process, it’s important that there is a clear and detailed guide for individuals to follow. For example, your e-discovery plan should address things like how and where data is stored within the organization and what procedures to follow when e-discovery is needed. Outline who your e-discovery team is, including any outside counsel, so there is an understanding of who will do what, such as handling legal holds, collecting targeted data or overseeing review. By detailing every step and each possible scenario, you eliminate any guesswork that can arise when handling data for litigation.

The plan should also allow for flexibility, as no two cases are ever exactly the same. E-discovery projects can vary widely depending on size and complexity, so it’s wise to determine things ahead of time, like how much your team can take on itself and what the threshold may be to call in an outside vendor.

Establishing clear guidelines for all phases of the e-discovery process will help your team lower costs, control your data and expedite the legal process.

  1. Streamline the process with comprehensive platforms.

Whether you decide to handle the e-discovery process in-house or through an outside vendor, it’s best practice to use as few platforms as possible. When data is collected to one platform, then downloaded and uploaded to another for processing, then downloaded and uploaded to another for document review, etc., it requires more time and personnel to manage the data and increases risk.

Research to find the best 1-2 comprehensive platforms for your needs. For example, one platform may help manage legal holds, data preservation, targeted collections and data culling, and then it may allow you to easily move the data directly into a document review platform for in-depth searching, tagging and production.

Additionally, look for solutions that include a data repository, which will allow you to re-use work product and leverage legal spend across matters – not to mention it will also greatly simplify your data security.

  1. Determine when it makes sense to use TAR – and when it doesn’t.

Technology assisted review (TAR) – the process of electronically classifying documents based on input from expert reviewers – can be a tremendous asset in the e-discovery process. It reduces the amount of human review needed, which significantly decreases the amount of time, cost and effort required to review data.

While TAR works great for many types of data, it doesn’t make sense for every e-discovery project. For example, the technology is not as effective on spreadsheets and files with multiple formulas or graphs. In fact, using TAR on these types of data can make the review process more difficult and less accurate.

Make sure your review team or vendor understands the types of data that will need to be reviewed for the project at hand, so they can determine whether or not it makes sense to use TAR.

Don’t wait for litigation to arise to get a handle on your data. By following the steps outlined above, your organization can follow a predictable and repeatable approach, thus reducing risk, stress and inefficiencies.