Kiersted / Systems

Electronic Discovery Challenges With SharePoint

Corporate legal departments and the law firms who serve them are facing complicated electronic discovery challenges presented by the increasing use of Microsoft SharePoint.


Houston, TX -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/18/2010 -- The application is changing the way enterprises manage data by bringing greater collaboration and smoother workflow to processes. SharePoint’s search and integration with other Microsoft Office applications means faster access to information. But dealing with the side effects can be tricky, particularly during the collection and review phases of the e-discovery process.

The primary challenge is to make sure nothing is lost that could be relevant in litigation. This includes metadata, such as an email’s subject line, dates sent and received, who received it, and more. For documents, metadata would include the author, title and date when it was last accessed. The metadata must be collected and preserved so the review team can use assessment tools and search capabilities to determine its relevance. SharePoint further exacerbates the issue because it contains a wealth of metadata beyond what is typically stored in Office documents.

Although information is searchable based on keywords, most collection tools in the market today focus on document libraries within a SharePoint site. These tools help determine how much content might be responsive, but they are not fully capable of forensic collection. Rather than exporting data from document libraries, a sound collection methodology uses back-up techniques to preserve and capture the content of specific sites within a SharePoint network or system. This approach offers the added benefit of avoiding any disruption to the client’s use of the SharePoint application during normal business operations.

After collecting electronically stored information (ESI), attorneys evaluate the data to determine what is relevant and privileged prior to producing such information to opposing counsel or the court. Accuracy is essential in avoiding court sanctions, and legal teams face the huge challenge of making sure that all items are properly reviewed. Complicating the situation is SharePoint’s web page interface that encourages the use of new content types such as wikis and blogs that can easily lose their meaning when isolated portions are taken out of context. During a traditional document review, a blog entry and subsequent replies would be treated separately, but new technology can help reviewers see all the items in context to understand how they relate to each other.

Another difficulty is that emails in SharePoint are more likely to include a link to a document rather than the actual attached document. Reviewers must be able to follow links and experience the embedded files in their actual context to make the right decision.

Additional challenges surround SharePoint’s ability to maintain multiple versions of documents. In a typical scenario, someone creates a document and someone else creates a new version and then the originator revises it. Capturing only the most recent version could prove dangerous if previous ones are crucial in understanding potential relevance.

Besides capturing and preserving information in a forensically defensible way, the right methods help contain the spiraling cost of electronic discovery particularly during the review phase. The first step in cost containment is to avoid over-collecting. According to George Kiersted, president of the consulting firm Kiersted / Systems LP, “Considering the massive size of some SharePoint sites, it is best to identify specific sites rather than backing up the entire network. Then cull the data down to a relatively small review set by using search terms and various techniques to look for duplicates and relevance in order to reduce the body of material in a defensible way.“

Technology can also provide solid workflow processes to enable reviewers to efficiently plough through a huge amount of material in a very small amount of time. This helps avoid coding inconsistencies, incorrect privilege calls and other errors issues that force legal teams to make changes when a deadline is approaching.

Selecting the right technology is critical. An optimum solution expedites the transition from forensic collection and analysis to review and production so electronic discovery teams can quickly move on to the next phase of their project. Kiersted emphasizes, “SharePoint data is just one of several different kinds of information that need to be rendered in a sensible way so reviewers can understand the meaning in context without jumping through hoops.”

In addition to compliance and efficiency benefits, the right tools offer legal teams new ways to analyze ESI, perform early case assessment, and make better decisions about how to proceed. For more information about a sophisticated SharePoint approach to native file review, please contact Kiersted / Systems, LP at or 1-866-543-7789.