Traditional tools like spreadsheets, particularly Microsoft Excel, have long been standard in legal operations. Despite more advanced technological alternatives available today, a recent Wall Street Journal article, ‘Sorry AI, Old-School Spreadsheets Are Still King,’ illustrates why these tools remain prevalent. It emphasizes the deep trust and widespread use of spreadsheets across industries for data management and analysis tasks.

However, in this digital transformation era, spreadsheets’ shortcomings become particularly evident when it comes to managing complex legal holds. Such reliance can severely hinder the effectiveness, speed, and accuracy needed in increasingly digital legal environments. Below, we outline four key reasons that demonstrate why spreadsheets fall short in effectively managing legal holds, emphasizing the urgent need for more advanced and tailored technological solutions in contemporary legal settings.

Four Key Reasons That Demonstrate Why Spreadsheets Fall Short

Four Key Reasons That Demonstrate Why Spreadsheets Fall Short

1. Error-Prone Nature

When managing legal holds with spreadsheets, data becomes fragmented across multiple, disconnected files, and the process often needs more integration with current employee directories. This results in manually sending emails and tracking responses, increasing the risk of sending notices to outdated email addresses. Such manual processes can lead to significant delays in consolidating crucial data and undermine legal holds’ defensibility, making it difficult to track and verify compliance accurately. This scattered approach complicates data management and slows responsiveness, which is essential for effective legal holds.

2. Defensibility

The use of spreadsheets in managing legal holds can significantly undermine their defensibility. This manual method must have the rigorous controls that specialized legal hold software offers, making it susceptible to human errors such as misentries or accidental deletions of crucial data. Michael Bradshaw, CIO at Kyndryl, highlights a pertinent issue: ‘ The culture of spreadsheets means you’re not focused on the outcomes. You’re focused on everyone defending their versions of the data.’ (Bradshaw, 2024). This defensive posture inherent in spreadsheet management is further complicated by collaborative platforms like Microsoft 365 Excel and Google Sheets, which, despite their capabilities for simultaneous multi-user access, often lead to process errors due to the absence of comprehensive audit logs. This situation results in a need for more clarity over who made changes and when, thus exacerbating the difficulties in maintaining a clear, defensible audit trail essential in legal proceedings. Moreover, spreadsheets still heavily rely on email to track notices sent to custodians, an approach prone to errors and inefficiencies. In contrast, tools like Casepoint’s legal hold solutions consolidate tracking and management within a single system, offering robust audit trails and ensuring a consistent and unified approach to data management, thereby significantly enhancing the defensibility and reliability of managing such sensitive and critical legal processes.

3. Inadequate Security

The inherent security weaknesses of spreadsheets, such as their lack of robust access controls and susceptibility to breaches, significantly undermine the security of legal holds. Spreadsheets typically lack the built-in secure features necessary to protect sensitive legal and business data, exposing them to more significant risks. This vulnerability is especially critical when handling confidential holds, where unauthorized access to data can have severe legal and reputational consequences. Therefore, relying on spreadsheets for such sensitive tasks can jeopardize the integrity and confidentiality of the entire legal hold process.

4. Scalability Issues

Spreadsheets, while useful for small-scale data management, significantly need help with scalability when managing growing amounts of data and meeting increasingly complex legal requirements. As organizations expand and data becomes more intricate, the limitations of spreadsheets become apparent. They lack the capabilities for in-place preservations and automation, which are crucial for efficient legal operations in an AI-driven environment. This deficiency highlights the inefficiency of spreadsheets in scaling effectively, making them less viable for handling the demands of modern legal data management and preservation.


Despite their longstanding utility, spreadsheets’ continued reliance on managing legal holds can severely hinder the efficiency, accuracy, security, and scalability required in today’s fast-paced and digitally driven legal environments. Spreadsheets, traditionally favored for their simplicity and broad accessibility, increasingly fall short of addressing the complex demands of modern legal operations. They need the robust integration, sophisticated security features, and dynamic scalability of specialized legal hold software.

To effectively navigate contemporary legal challenges, there is a clear and pressing need to transition to legal hold solutions designed specifically for these purposes. These tools offer superior data management capabilities, ensuring that legal professionals can maintain compliance, manage risks more effectively, and uphold the integrity of sensitive information throughout legal proceedings. Adopting advanced legal technologies is not just an improvement; it’s necessary for legal departments aiming to stay ahead in the legal landscape.

Equip your team with tools designed for maximum efficiency, security, and scalability to meet modern legal demands. Learn more and see the difference here.

Casepoint Legal Hold

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