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Implementing a litigation hold with FileHold

A litigation hold can go by many names such as legal hold, preservation order, document hold or hold order, but the meaning is essentially the same. There is a pending lawsuit, or a lawsuit can be anticipated on a specific subject matter, and any documents that may be relevant to the matter must be preserved.

Typically, FileHold locks your data in place making it easy to preserve and secure but the system should be configured in a way that supports your litigation hold process. In most systems documents are rarely deleted until the end of their configured lifecycle, but administrators can delete them as needed. When their configured lifecycle ends, documents are automatically deleted. For both cases, the litigation hold requires that all delete actions are suspended.

If you would like some help preparing your system configuration for your litigation hold process, schedule some time with our training team at [email protected].

Preventing document deletion

Since the most important part of the litigation hold is preservation of the documents, we need a method that will block manual or automated document deletion; even by administrators. FileHold workflow is an ideal tool for helping to manage a litigation hold. When a document is added as a main or supporting document in a workflow, it cannot be deleted. This satisfies the most basic requirement of the hold.

The litigation hold process

FileHold does not force you into one single definition of how a litigation hold must be processed in the document management system. This example shows one possible method, but it could be expanded, reduced, or changed all together to suit the needs of each organization.

Generally, the litigation hold process will start with a litigation hold notice. The source of this notice will vary by organization, but likely publishers include your corporate law department, the risk management team, ombudsperson, complaint investigation group, etc. The notice itself could be an email, a letter or memo or even verbal. Of course, those first three are easy to store in FileHold, but there is even a way to record the last one.

In our example, we are going to create a document schema called “Litigation hold”. This schema will be used to contain the notice and be the kernel for initiating the workflow. If the notice is contained in a file, simply add it to the system and assign the Litigation hold schema.

Litigation hold schema dialog

You may want this schema to contain basic information about the hold like the effective dates, perhaps some ad hoc notes, the notice originator, etc. Metadata can be used to contain all these details. Making it easy to search for and review the hold. If the request is verbal, it may be the only source of hold details. For verbal requests, just add an offline document. You can add a notice file later as a new version if needed.

Litigation hold offline document

The litigation hold workflow

As mentioned earlier, the key to preserving documents is assigning them to a workflow. So, the next step in our process is to create a workflow template call “Litigation hold” and assign it to the Litigation hold schema. Since this schema’s whole purpose is to be used with this workflow, we can automatically start it as soon as the document is added.

Litigation hold workflow example

The workflow itself can be very simple. It only needs one review or approval activity. If your process includes the possibility for revision of the litigation notice, make sure you enable the allow check-out feature. Assign appropriate participants who will be responsible for discovery of the documents that match the notice. If this is not a fixed group, you can create this workflow with an ad hoc or automatically routed participant list.

With the workflow underway, users can start adding the documents that must be preserved. These documents should be added as “supporting documents”. Supporting documents do not have their properties affected by the outcome of the workflow such as reviewed or approved. They also can be added as supporting to more than one workflow. This is important as it is not uncommon for documents to be subject to more than one litigation notice. If there are two notices affecting one document, when one notice is no longer active the second notice will still prevent the document from being deleted.

Add supporting documents to litigation hold workflow

Supporting documents can continue to be added to the workflow as long as the matter remains open. When final notification is received to confirm the matter is resolved, the workflow can be completed and all the supporting documents will be released from the hold returning them to their normal lifecycle. The workflow can even be started with the notifier participating in an activity to effectively incorporate both the final notification and complete the workflow.

Litigation hold task example

Useful links

Setting up events for document lifecycle

Creating workflow templates

Offline documents

Add supporting documents to existing workflow

Automatic workflow routing

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