Thought Leader Interview with Michael Sarlo of HaystackID: eDiscovery Trends and Best Practices

Time for another thought leader interview on eDiscovery Today!  My latest interview was with an expert in cross-border matters and EU data privacy concerns, who’s also a certified and highly credentialed forensic examiner!

As Partner and Senior Executive Vice President of eDiscovery and Digital Forensics at HaystackID, Michael Sarlo facilitates all operations related to electronic discovery, digital forensics, and litigation strategy both in the US and abroad while working on highly complex forensic and eDiscovery projects. Michael is fluent in a wide variety of digital forensic early case assessment, eDiscovery processing, and hosting technologies, in addition to the IT infrastructure associated with deploying and administering such tools. He’s also a very frequent speaker on digital forensic best practices, GDPR issues, ESI treatment methodologies, and cost containment strategies for working with massive volumes of data. Additionally, Michael is an expert witness and holds certifications in a variety of areas to include, but not limited to, Cellebrite, EnCase, BlackLight.  He’s also a Relativity Certified Administrator.

Mike, as VP of eDiscovery and Digital Forensics at HaystackID, I’m sure you’ve seen some changes regarding how eDiscovery is conducted since the pandemic began. What are your observations regarding those changes and the working environments that so many of us have been thrust into?

As an eDiscovery service provider, we’ve been lucky to be particularly resilient as it relates to adapting our business to our clients’ needs as they shift to more of a remote office environment, and what we’ve noticed that we were already very used to working remotely. As an eDiscovery vendor who’s been “in the weeds” as a project manager and operations person, we’ve already adapted to managing a large workload through remote work. But, we’ve noticed that many of our clients have struggled a lot with issues associated with their infrastructure, such as their capabilities to log in remotely, receiving a hard drive remotely, and even getting a production out.  In the past, the litigation support role has been required to be in the office three days a week at a minimum, and often five days a week, and firms are usually asked to have an open door at all times. That has been the culture of being a support staff in law firms, so remote work has caused major changes there.  Certainly, individuals are looking to show more value than ever, so I’ve noticed that the hours have become longer. We’re doing more work in a single day, and often even starting new matters and having early scoping discussions with both our corporate clients and their outside counsel late at night, where those types of calls would normally happen during the day. So, the general workday has increased in length, as have the quantity of execution points that need to be handled in a single day.

However, I do think it is balancing a bit now, and people have adapted to working from home. Improvements with the technology have helped with that. Before, there were general infrastructure issues and issues with video conferencing and conducting screen shares, but that’s improved a lot, so that our clients can work from home in a more collaborative manner.  From an eDiscovery standpoint, for us, it’s all about challenges such as getting physical data in and out of the data center, so we always have an eye towards continuing to streamlining that process for client engagements through careful planning.

Yes, it certainly has been interesting how the work/life balance has changed, especially, or accelerated during the pandemic. So, how else do you think that the pandemic will ultimately impact the legal profession and the eDiscovery industry, and what do you think the landscape in our industry looks like 12 months from now?

I think that remote work is here to stay for some time, but I also think that people will eventually want to go back into the office and see their colleagues and have a space where they can work. From a process standpoint, digital forensics, where I spend a lot of my time in working on investigations, has become more challenging. There are more complex data collection and review challenges with new data types to handle that we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic, as we’ve shifted to more web-based collaboration tools. Data from collaboration apps like Slack is now commonplace, as is data from cell phones, which wasn’t the case as recently as five years ago. Standard practice has changed over the past four or five years and, now, this data is potentially relevant in every single case.

We’ve been very successful at HaystackID in offering a secure remote workforce to our end clients, whether they are corporations or law firms.  We were already a leader in secure remote review and, at least for large scale matters, we were able to work with IT departments to be able to conduct remote eDiscovery effectively. If you’re in an investigation, you often need to be able to collect data and process it and review it all on the same day — especially when you’ve got a regulator breathing down your neck – in many cases, that type of scale and capacity can only be offered with a true integration between a vendor like HaystackID and a corporation into their enterprise. Now, there’s a need to deploy those integrations for much smaller scale projects, so that we can maintain social distancing.  There are certain efficiencies to that, but there are deficiencies as well, in that your custodians are in more diverse locations with many different schedules, so scheduling is more burdensome. You’re trying to get more data on a custodian by custodian basis, and some data repositories aren’t great for remote collection, such as Android phones and tablets, or feature phone chipsets.

So, we’ve had to balance on-site collections (where we pick up, sanitize and return in any of our labs across the country) against more of these remote collection workflows. In addition, because of so much remote work, organizations are moving away from legacy archive systems into next-gen archive systems, which are more cloud-based. They’re monitoring and saving a lot of data types that used to be more ephemeral in nature, so we’ve seen better compliance with better data retention. That leads to bigger data volumes, forcing people to streamline some processes, and become more agile in others and HaystackID is trying to lead innovation in those processes in many different domains right now.

We’re just getting started!  Part Two of my interview with Michael Sarlo will be published on Friday.

So, what do you think?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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