“Litigation” is a scary word. It makes The Exorcist seem like one of the cheesier episodes of Barney and Friends. However, things get much scarier when parties don't follow appropriate legal processes — including proper implementation of legal holds. This ensures relevant data is preserved at the outset of a matter, and Google Vault legal holds are becoming increasingly popular for handling part of this procedure.
The Google Vault API preserves data from the platform’s services (e.g. Google Drive, Gmail) and simplifies search, retrieval, export, production, release, and removal of legal holds. However, it does not come without some major challenges. These include problems ranging from data retention and search complexity to difficulty collaborating and preserving data from other platforms.
Fortunately, there are ways to take your Google Vault holds to the next level. More importantly, there are resources available that might make the service unnecessary for your holds process.
What Are Legal Holds in Google Vault?
We’re going to discuss many of the problems with the Google Vault discovery process. However, we’re not saying that the service isn’t powerful. So please, don’t tell the CEO we’re badmouthing them — lest we need to conduct our own legal hold!
One of the chief benefits of the service is that it’s cloud-based, so your work can be done from anywhere.
They also offer advanced search capabilities (not too shocking for the world’s top search engine), so locating the information that needs to be preserved is fairly simple. The company also has a competitive pricing structure relative to many of its competitors and uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze data and identify patterns.
However, you’ll only be able to take advantage of these features if you know how to properly utilize the service.
Placing Legal Holds In Google Vault: Step By Step
We’re now to everyone’s favorite part of the program: how to create and issue a Google Vault legal hold. Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Enable Google Vault: An organization first needs to subscribe to the service and enable it. This usually falls to the Google Workspace Administrator.
- Create a matter: A matter refers to a specific investigation or legal case. This is the container where data related to the legal issue is organized and managed.
- Placing a hold: Organizations can place a litigation hold and define their scope based on users, organizational units, and groups. Once the scope is defined, the hold is in place.
- Monitor and manage: This isn't a one-and-done process. You need to regularly monitor the legal hold to ensure its compliance and effectiveness.
- Release the hold: Google Vault makes it easy to release a hold within specific matters when it’s no longer needed.
By following these steps, organizations can retain, search, and manage data all within the Google environment. From a single Google Workspace legal hold to a widespread hold encompassing all the services you use — from Hangouts and Meet to Drive and Voice — you’re covered.
However, you might not be as covered as you think.
The Primary Challenges of Using Google Vault's Legal Holds
We’ve already mentioned that Google Vault is only appropriate for Google services. This is a deal-breaker for many organizations already. After all, who uses only Google for business purposes? Unfortunately, the main challenges of legal holds in Google Vault go even deeper than this.
Here are the two issues that frequently cause organizations to utilize more specialized tools:
1. Challenges With Preserving Data in Multiple Formats
Some of the biggest issues users encounter with Google Vault relate to preserving data in multiple formats.
For one, the data stored can be in the format of spreadsheets, presentations, documents, emails, and more. It can sometimes be problematic to store all this data in its original format. Metadata preservation, file conversion and compatibility, format-specific data retention policies, and access can also present challenges.
Also, you'll need a different system to notify custodians about your hold and track their acceptance since legal holds in Google Vault only involve data preservation.
2. Challenges With Tracking Compliance and Ensuring Data Security
Google Vault also creates challenges related to compliance tracking and data security. There are minimal capabilities to prevent data exfiltration, and maintaining proper user access controls can be a complex process.
And with a lack of in-depth monitoring tools, it can be near impossible to ensure a Google legal hold is compliant with current regulations. This is particularly true regarding local and statewide rules.
Overcoming These Challenges
Unfortunately, users will find difficulty overcoming these challenges within Google Vault. This is why so many legal professionals find themselves utilizing specialized litigation hold software like Logikcull, where issuing a legal hold while preserving in place any relevant Google data can happen in seconds and with no risks.
Mastering Legal Holds In Google Vault
First, creating clear and specific hold notices requires that you define the matter, provide instructions, describe the scope, and specify data sources. Also, you can use comprehensive data mapping, standardized preservation processes, compatible file formats, and focus on metadata preservation as strategies for preserving data in varying formats on the platform.
Finally, it's important to give special attention to tracking compliance and ensuring data security. Failing at this task can result in legal penalties, sanctions, adverse court rulings, and the loss of defensibility. That's why you must give special attention to implementing strong access controls, monitoring user activity, taking advantage of encryption tools, and constantly monitoring compliance and reporting.
Alternatives to Using Google for Legal Holds
At some point, most eDiscovery professionals have utilized email and spreadsheets for sending and tracking holds. That’s right: we’ve all been in the muck of it. Google Vault is certainly an improvement over that, but there’s no denying the platform’s limitations.
Fortunately, there are specialized legal hold solutions that offer a solid alternative to overcome many of Google Vault’s shortcomings. Here are just a few of the features that tools like Logikcull offer to help organizations manage legal holds:
- Instant holds: You just have to choose a template, select custodians, and preserve your data in place. BAM, it’s done.
- Preserve in place: Issue hold notices and preserve custodian data right from the same place.
- Quick acceptance: Notifications are sent via email and Slack, and automated reminders are sent with the frequency you select.
- Discovery: It takes a single click to convert a hold into a discovery matter.
- Automation: Schedule reminders and put tracking on auto-pilot throughout the life of the matter.
- Tracking: An intuitive dashboard allows you to view and understand the status of each legal hold in your organization.
Of course, anyone can throw a ton of cool-sounding features at you, but you should companies that have the receipts to back it up. As an example, Logikcull helped Plaid get 100% compliance within 36 hours by sharing hold notices via Slack. Similarly, Th corporate paralegal at Gordon Food Service even bragged about how Logikcull removed her need to track five separate spreadsheets at once.
Legal holds are crucial for preserving data in legal and regulatory matters. They prevent evidence spoliation and aid compliance with legal obligations. They also help organizations build defensible positions.
However, using Google Vault for legal holds can be quite challenging. Managing data in multiple formats within Google Vault requires careful preservation strategies — and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
When it comes to legal holds, finding powerfully simple technology that can automate both data preservation and the hold notice, reminders, and tracking is key for a secure and streamlined process.