On May 31, 2011, Crain’s Detroit Business (by Chad Halcom) reported that a prominent Detroit law firm and its Vice-Chairman had settled litigation involving various employment law claims filed by a former executive assistant.
I previously reported on this employment discrimination litigation and also discussed the lessons to be learned from the law firm’s alleged mishandling of its electronic discovery obligations. In sum, the alleged e-discovery mismanagement centered on the law firm’s failure to properly implement a “litigation hold” for the preservation of discoverable information, e.g., emails and digital information.
According to Crain’s Detroit Business, details of the settlement were not disclosed. The circumstances leading up to the settlement were also not provided, including whether the allegations of the e-discovery misconduct played any role in the parties reaching a settlement.
But whether it did or not isn’t significant. Instead, it illustrates that it is far better to create your own litigation strategy than to have external forces dictate your choices. This is especially true in employment discrimination claims where employers will often want to direct attention to the plaintiff’s employment deficiencies and the nondiscriminatory reasons for why an adverse employment decision was made in the first place.
Failing, however, to take the initiative to properly address e-discovery issues at the front end of the litigation (or sooner if there is a reason to anticipate litigation) often results in e-discovery issues becoming a distraction from the merits, or lack thereof, of the actual litigation.
Here is some practical insight for properly addressing e-discovery issues prospectively rather than reactively.