Bridging the Divide between Attorneys and IT Teams: One Privilege Tag at a Time

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Imagine a world where attorneys and their colleagues in IT sit down together and come up with ingenious ways to innovate the eDiscovery process, maximizing efficiencies and cost savings for  their company.

Seems logical, right? So why doesn’t it happen more often?

The reasons are many, but one of the key explanations is that there’s a big logistical firewall between attorneys and IT teams. During a typical review exercise, IT teams are over-burdened by ESI processing and requests for data, and get little feedback from attorneys on the data and documents streaming out to attorney review teams. Attorneys review the documents, produce what’s relevant for trial and then, once the case is over, the data is thrown into a black hole and never seen again. Due to the exigency and common processes of most eDiscovery exercises, there is little coordination between attorneys and IT after the review, and rarely any discussion about how lessons learned from the review may be applied to the next to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

But with Tag Synchronization in O365, that paradigm is changing.

What is Tag Synchronization?   Simply stated:  Tag Synchronization manages the work product that is produced based on how an attorney spends time coding, like when documents are tagged as privileged or a trade secret, for example. The fees that a company spends on these attorneys to do a privilege review can often be the most expensive part of an investigation, and also one of the more risky areas during the eDiscovery process.  One month later, however, during a new investigation, a new set of data is received containing some of the same emails, many of which are still privileged in the context of this new case.   Why can’t we bring that work product back to the source document so it doesn’t get reviewed again and again and again?   Well, now you can.

Office 365 enables the source document to store custom metadata fields, in addition to the standard ones, called Labels.  Labels can be retention policies, sensitive information types, privileged tags or trade secrets, for example.  Some Labels are obviously created at the source, like retention, but other Labels (or tags) are done at the destination review shop by an attorney.  Now we can take that privileged tag from the review center and bring it back to the source document in Office 365 as a Label.   Why is this a cost savings for the company?

Every time a company’s IT team does an export of emails or documents, the Labels carry forward with them.  So when the emails are loaded inside a review tool, the tag already shows that the email has been previously marked privileged, thereby saving the company thousands of dollars on redundant attorney review hours inside the same email.

It is just as if attorneys and IT teams sat down and hashed out the key lessons learned from a review on the mirco-level, applying specific coding to specific documents ahead of the next eDiscovery exercise. This is truly unprecedented capability that will save many organizations a great deal of time and money.

Office 365 eDiscovery isn’t just raising the bar, in this author’s opinion, it IS the bar.

Written by Chris Hurlebaus, CEDS, MCSE, Director, Client Engagement, eTERA Consulting.  Chris can be reached at

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