Electronic discovery is a challenging process for even the most experienced law firms and corporations, but the challenges faced by government agencies may be even more daunting. A 2017 Deloitte survey reveals that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of attorneys, paralegals, records managers and IT professionals within the federal government feel their agency is “not at all effective” in dealing with the challenges of e-discovery today, and the same percentage of survey respondents say they are “not at all” confident that, if challenged, their agency could demonstrate that their ESI is “accurate, accessible, complete and trustworthy.”
What makes conducting e-discovery with confidence so difficult for agency personnel? For one thing, public sector legal matters often involve multiple parties and cross-agency collaboration, which makes the inherently complicated discovery process even more complex. Agencies also tend to be large, hierarchical, and less flexible and nimble than their private sector counterparts, and they often lack a dedicated person or team to coordinate discovery-related communications and workflows.
Compounding these structural issues is the fact that public sector organizations are also more likely than businesses to use aging technology infrastructure that is poorly equipped to deal with rapidly increasing data volumes and diverse data types, and they tend to rely on a patchwork of locally installed software solutions and manual processes to fulfill discovery requests. This fragmented approach to technology has implications for each of the major discovery challenges faced by agencies today.
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