The Cowen Group’s Spring eDiscovery Breakfast Series continued in Washington, DC yesterday with a very transparent exchange of ideas on how corporations are advancing their eDiscovery practice efforts.

Paul Meyer from Towers Watson, Jason Eakes from Capital One, Sonya Thornton from Sprint, Juliet Hanna from Fannie Mae, and Mike Lackey from Mayer Brown led our breakfast discussion with 25 other corporations, government agencies, and law firms from the D.C. area.

Like our New York breakfast, we focused on what sophisticated corporate eDiscovery leaders are doing and how they are defining and thinking about best practices. In particular, each corporate participant agreed that the time has come to drop the “E” in eDiscovery. I agree and from here on, we will use the term “Discovery.”

Here are some of the other best sound bites and takeaways from our conversation:

Model Practices

Paul Meyer from Towers Watson explained when discussing discovery, we don’t think in terms of best practices, “we think in terms of ‘Model Practices.’” The term “Model Practices” is preferable for several reasons, especially when considering the impact on certain judges.To this, the group added the term “Crutch Practices” for those organizations still caught in the strictly reactive model.

Here is the evolved model practices hierarchy for corporate discovery departments based on maturity, sophistication, and efficiency, born out of our Spring Breakfast conversation:

The industrialization of Sophisticated, Advanced Corporate Discovery Programs

One of my favorite discussion points/takeaways of the DC morning was about the growing trend for industrialization of discovery. As defined by two corporate participants, industrialization is breaking the discovery process down into components that can easily be performed by less expensive, trainable talent. We have heard this mentioned before. What is it, who’s doing it, and how? We will talk more about this in a future post, but its certainly a significant trend among the 225 major corporations that The Cowen Group tracks on a quarterly basis.

Discovery Priorities: Cost Savings, Control, and Defensibility

Most of our corporate participants agreed that while cost savings, cost control, and predictability were important, defensibility was a critical component to a model corporate discovery practice.

What Do Model Corporate Discovery Programs Have in Common?

Here is a quick initial list of seven things a corporate discovery model should include:

  • Strong and invested leadership
  • Established process management & repeatable process
  • The program is nimble; there is a defined plan for exotic data and new cases that don’t fit the established process (the 20%)
  • Scalability
  • The plan is proactive not reactive
  • Success is defined and measurable (i.e. Metrics are established and reviewed)
  • Talent. Talent. Talent.

I would love to add to this list, so please feel free to comment.

Conclusion, Next Steps

We will be further exploring corporate best practices/model practices in Chicago on Thursday, May 15, where our discussion leaders include Hyatt, Baxter, CNA, Aon, Abbott, Abvie, Navistar, Deere, and others.