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On your mark, get set, Zoom: Starting off right in collaboration app e-discovery

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Zoom, and other video conferencing and collaboration apps, have become ubiquitous in today’s new workplace. A side effect of this is that legal counsel are seeing, first-hand, the information generated in these platforms and its relevancyto their e-discovery matters. But extracting information from applications such as Zoom, and loading it into formats that work within review platforms, can be a difficult and nuanced undertaking.

While methods for dealing with e-discovery in Slack and other messaging platforms are becoming incrementally more effective, video conferencing adds another layer of complexity. Organizations that use Zoom may have chat, video recordings, transcripts and other individual aspects of meetings, all created and stored independent of each other, perpetuating within a single platform.

While inherently challenging, and uncharted territory for most legal teams, Zoom data actually brings a tremendous opportunity to enrich e-discovery. A robust source of information—and now the primary means of communication for many organizations and teams—Zoom can actually lead to more dynamic e-discovery. Once teams establish a standard for how to collect, process and analyze data from these tools, it’s possible to begin bridging gaps in information to better understand the context and facts of a case.

Below are a list of considerations lawyers can start exploring to get a handle on the role of collaboration tools and Zoom in their broader e-discovery landscape. These will help teams get off to the right start and more easily tap into emerging apps as they come into scope in legal matters.

  • Establish what’s relevant from an evidentiary standpoint. If chat conversations between certain individuals are the target, there may not be a reason to strategize around or collect video recordings. It’s important for counsel to remember that in platforms such as Zoom and Teams, participants do not need to initiate a video meeting in order to engage over chat.
  • Know what version of the application is being used. All of the leading collaboration platforms have a range of plans, (e.g., enterprise or free) and each plan offers distinct governance and export capabilities. The version in use will affect the level of control legal and IT have over how the application is used, whether users can record transcripts or video and how data is preserved and accessed. In some cases, chat and recordings are stored in a central location, but basic versions may store files locally on the user’s machine. All of these variables will impact e-discovery decisions, so knowing the basics ahead of time can prevent a lot of headaches. 
  • Understand how permissions and settings limitations will impact collection. Collecting from Zoom is very nuanced. As mentioned above, it encompasses chat messages, transcripts, video and voice recordings. All of these functions come with varied permissions and settings for how data is generated, stored and may be accessed. Often, video and transcripts are saved on a central repository to which IT has access. Conversely, private chat messages are typically stored locally, and not available without gaining access to a user’s device and/or account. It’s important to for counsel to be thinking in these terms, and working with outside experts to implement methodologies that address challenges and stay abreast of the ever-evolving nuances.
  • Consider workarounds. For example, when collecting from an application such as Zoom, it is sometimes easier for counsel to target transcripts before focusing in on video recordings. In most instances, when a recording is initiated in Zoom, the system also generates a transcript of that recording. Looking at hours of video footage to find a piece of evidence can be a huge burden. But if transcripts are available, that may be an easier format to load into a review platform for keyword and other searches.
  • Be proactive. As part of bracing for e-discovery hurdles around collaboration tools, counsel should begin thinking about these applications in a broader information governance and data preservation context.

In recent conversations with my colleagues, in-house legal teams and outside counsel, it’s become clear there is growing recognition that collaboration tools are now pertinent sources of information for litigation and investigations. This trend will continue as Zoom adoption grows and new applications proliferate. While it’s true that this shifting data landscape comes with a new set of challenges, it also brings opportunity. When legal teams can get a handle on e-discovery workflows for emerging data sources, they can begin to enrich their understanding of a case and allow the data to speak for itself.

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