How to Prepare for a Legal Hold: 5-Minute Guide [+ Templates]

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Note: This 5-minute guide to preparing for the legal hold process is a part of our larger Legal Hold Playbook. You can download the full guide here

Before the legal hold: The triggering event

The need to initiate a legal hold arises when possible legal or regulatory action is anticipated – or a demand or letter complaint has been received. 

Concerns that constitute a triggering event are different for each company. These may include:

Anticipated litigation

  • External events triggering shareholder suits
  • External events triggering class action lawsuits
  • External events triggering individual civil or criminal suits

Regulatory action

  • Internal events
  • Employee termination
  • Investigations

Once a triggering event has taken place, you’ll likely receive a request from counsel to issue a legal hold and preserve data. 

Developing, documenting, and following a plan for preservation compliance will ensure that you mitigate the risk of spoliation.

Preparing for a legal hold

Legal holds are extremely important, as the failure to properly initiate legal holds can result in negative inferences and hefty sanctions. 

Before you begin blocking and tackling a legal hold, it’s critical you understand:

  • Who your stakeholders are in each department
  • What data you have
  • Where that data lives (i.e., in which applications)
  • The roles and responsibilities for each legal team member. 

This guide will walk you through each of these items so you’re set up for success. 

1. Identifying legal hold stakeholders by department 

Your stakeholders are the individuals who either:

  • play an active role in the legal hold workflow, or 
  • need to be notified at every step. 

These individuals tend to be gatekeepers of information, IT assets, and/or data that will be needed to ensure compliance with legal hold. 

Some examples include: 

  • General Counsel/Legal
  • Head of IT
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  • Chief Data Security Officer (CDO)
  • Human Resources
  • Chief Sales Officer
  • CRO
  • CFO

Bonus: Use our free downloadable worksheet to organize your legal hold stakeholders.

2. Identifying data sources 

One of the requirements of legal hold is preserving data. In today’s working world, the sheer number of data sources that can be subject to legal hold only continues to proliferate. 

Related: How to Collect Slack Data for Ediscovery and Hold 💡

Here are some questions to consider:  

  • What data sources do you have?  
  • Where does your data sit?  
  • Who is the gatekeeper of that information? (Meaning, if you needed to ask a question about  the data or talk to someone regarding its preservation and collection, who would you need to  speak to?)

💡Pro tip: When evaluating your potential data sources, be as broad as possible. You’ll want to brainstorm with your IT department to ensure that your playbook encompasses all possible data locations.  

Here are some higher-level examples. (Note: Any data a particular employee touches could  potentially be required to be held.)

Email applications

  • Outlook
  • Gmail

Cloud storage applications

  • Dropbox
  • Box
  • OneDrive
  • Google Drive
  • SharePoint

Productivity applications

  • Microsoft 365
  • Google Workspace
  • Asana
  • Trello

Collaboration applications

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Chat
  • Slack
  • Discord
  • Mattermost

Meeting software

  • Skype
  • Zoom
  • Fuze
  • Google Meet
  • Microsoft Teams

Network drives

  • Private drives
  • Shared drives

Cloud backup & storage solutions

  • Code42
  • Isilon
  • NetApp

Additionally, you must consider physical infrastructure, including: 

  • Company-issued computers 
  • Company-issued cellphones 
  • Shared file systems and drives 

Your organization may also employ enterprise technology management applications to oversee physical infrastructure and hardware as well, such as:

  • Oomnitza
  • Teqtivity

Bonus: Use our free downloadable worksheet to organize relevant information sources at your company that may be subject to legal hold.

3. Identifying legal hold team members 

Legal hold can be a complicated process. Make sure you know all the members of your legal hold team and what their core responsibilities are. This will help you to determine an internal chain of command, starting with the owner of the legal hold process. 

💡Pro tip: Develop a protocol for keeping your stakeholder, data, and legal team information up to date. Ideally, these should be re-examined at least quarterly, but determine what cadence  works best for your company, and stick with it. 

Bonus: Use our free downloadable worksheet to organize relevant information sources at your company that may be subject to legal hold.

Make legal holds easy with DISCO

Tired of manually updating spreadsheets of legal hold stakeholders and information sources? DISCO’s got you covered.

DISCO Hold is an easy-to-use enterprise legal hold platform that automates the manual work necessary to comply with preservation requirements – empowering legal teams to preserve data, notify custodians, track holds with a defensible audit trail, and collect data, all from a single interface.

Check out our full Legal Hold Playbook – or request a demo to see how DISCO can make your hold process fast and simple.

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