By Brad Harris: Automated Data Preservation to be the Norm for Legal Departments by 2015

17 Sep 2014 5:15 PM | Chere Estrin (Administrator)

The 2014 Legal Hold and Data Preservation Benchmark Survey, the largest survey conducted in the area of electronic discovery, identifies several key findings that show a significant shift toward more automation in litigation holds resulting in higher confidence levels in the data preservation process. Based on survey findings, Zapproved predicts that the majority of all legal data preservation will be automated by 2015.

Results demonstrate how the move to automating data preservation yields significant benefits, including confidence in their processes. The evolving trend is that legal hold processes are becoming more mature. From last year to this, those using automated systems jumped from 34 percent to 44 percent, reporting benefits not only in efficiency and process maturity, but also in their confidence to defend their preservation practices, which is required more often in today’s legal climate.

The extensive survey provides insight on the current attitudes, risks and pain points associated with the obligation to preserve data. Building on the inaugural 2013 study, over 536 professionals dealing directly with litigation hold management participated.

Key Findings

One key dimension of the study was comparing those respondents that currently use manual legal hold processes with those who have automated systems in place.

  • ·         From last year to this, those using automated systems jumped from 34 percent to 44 percent.
  • ·         Those using manual processes are more than three times as likely to be ‘very unsatisfied’, and more than five times more likely to lack confidence in their process.
  • ·         Eighty percent of automated users consider their processes are better than most as compared to less than half of the manual users.

Another aspect of the study solicited input on best practices and preservation effectiveness.

  • ·         While two-thirds train their employees on legal holds, only 46 percent felt that employees understand their preservation obligation, suggesting that more training is necessary.
  • ·         Three out of four preservation managers believe that employees will follow through on their preservation obligations.
  • ·         From 2013 to 2014, the number of participants that have defended practices moved from 21 percent to 31 percent.
  • ·         Respondents indicating that preservation was an undue burden dropped from 15 percent to 12.9 percent.
  • ·         Respondents said automating hold processes improves performance by 22 percent in the nine key categories considered integral to demonstrating an adequate hold process.

The survey also showed a significant jump in the number of hours spent per month.

  • ·         This year 56 percent spend more than 5 hours per month on legal holds up from 52 percent.
  • ·         Those users deemed “power-preservers” (issuing six or more holds a month) increased from less than 15 percent to nearly 20 percent with this year’s survey.
  • ·         A majority of the organizations now issue legal holds in most of their matters.

An interesting trend emerged this year regarding outside counsel.

  • ·         The 2014 response shows only 3 percent rely on outside counsel, which is half the portion indicated in 2013; suggesting that preservation is handled almost entirely in-house now.

Regarding collections of electronically stored information (ESI), the survey queried organizational preferences in the various collections methods including: “collect to preserve”, “preserve in place”, or both methods.

  • ·         Most organizations (49 percent) use both methods, but “preserve in place” is preferred by a 3-to-1 margin when a single method is employed.

What Next?

This survey offers a benchmark of practices by industry peers and topics to consider when evaluating an organization’s legal hold and data preservation processes.  

  • ·         Conduct an audit of current preservation processes and measure effectiveness to ensure processes meet current legal standards.
  • ·         Prepare to defend preservation practices and demonstrate that the process is consistent with a detailed audit trail.
  • ·         Focus on employee training and continually developing a culture of compliance in order to improve preservation practices and confidently demonstrate good faith in meeting requirements.
  • ·         Continuous education of best practices from leading experts and peers is necessary for keeping up with standards in this fast-moving area of the law.


The survey, conducted from May 5, 2014 to June 30, 2014, used an online questionnaire conducted by The Steinberg Group LLC. The survey sample, of 536, only included individuals that affirmatively acknowledged that they are responsible for managing litigation hold processes.

When looking at titles, the sample was distributed as follows:

·         37.0 percent of participants were attorneys, with 17.2 percent self-identifying as GC/AGC

·         42.6 percent were litigation support or paralegals

·         Remaining 20.3 percent were non-legal staff responsible for administering legal holds, such as records managers and IT professionals

Download the full survey here:

About the Author

Brad Harris is the Vice President of Legal Products at Zapproved, Inc. He has more than 30 years of experience in the high technology and enterprise software sectors, including assisting Fortune 1000 companies enhance their e-discovery preparedness through technology and process improvement.

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