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Subpoenas arrive constantly, and law departments have to deal with them

Every company receives subpoenas for information, often because of a law suit between parties unrelated to the company one of which wants documents. Commonly, also, there are employment-related subpoenas. Large companies can be subpoenaed other than regarding employees several times a month. Employment subpoenas for large companies can reach 20 per month.

In terms of law department management, someone, and often someone in the law department, must find the right documents and the right custodian (See my post of Aug. 26, 2008: responsibility for the corporate data map.). Every subpoena typically has lawyer review and has a paralegal who attends to much of the administrative tracking and processing (See my post of Oct. 1, 2006: integration of matter management system and corporate service-of-process system.).

There also might be hold orders set in place for every subpoena. The hold order means the custodian may not delete any of the requested documents (See my post of Feb. 6, 2007: PSS Systems for litigation hold management; March 19, 2006: nuts and bolts of hold requests; April 27, 2008: initiative at Kraft Foods Global ; post of Feb. 5, 2007: Atlas ERM and data on document retention and destruction; Oct. 23, 2005: who is ultimately responsible for discovery; and Sept. 21, 2005: many iterations of legal documents.).

Every now and then a law department objects to a subpoena. As a third party, it is not required to give everything, and often the other side to the litigation or the subpoenaed company will move to quash. One department I have consulted to has a standard objection letter regarding such objections as confidentiality – which is handled by a protective order – and overly burdensome. Only for a handful of subpoenas a year do they do something significant; if so, they use a small, specialized firm that knows a lot about the process.

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