Can eDiscovery Really Be Done Within Microsoft Office 365? Help Us Find Out.


I’m working with Don Swanson, president of Five Star Legal  to find out just how many firms out there are actually using Office 365 for eDiscovery. To that end, Don and I have come up with the O365 Challenge, a successor to the  2009  EDna Challenge posed by eDiscovery expert Craig D. Ball  and my 2011 follow up to that, the Ernie Challenge.

The twist for this new hypothetical challenge is that, like EDna and Ernie, the matter in question still has a budget restriction but all relevant data now resides within Microsoft Office 365.  We really want to know if Office 365’s eDiscovery capabilities are for real? Can litigants achieve the goals outlined in EDna and Ernie within Office 365? Can big case eDiscovery processes be handled within Office 365 on a small budget?

Why Microsoft Office 365?  Most people know O365 as a software-as-a-service offering of email, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications. Office 365 and the Microsoft Cloud are used by most of the Fortune 500, as well as federal, state and local governments and educational institutions.

Like other cloud services, the Office 365 servers and applications are managed and maintained by Microsoft. And while Office 365 subscribers cannot access the physical machines where their data resides, Microsoft has introduced eDiscovery capabilities, which are built-in to the service and purport to handle key functions, including identification, preservation, analysis and collection.


A multi-national company is facing commercial litigation from a former supplier. The company believes the lawsuit is frivolous yet realizes there is at least $400,000 of potential financial exposure and the likelihood of significant legal expenditures. The business employs 750 and last year the company moved all email and SharePoint content to Microsoft Office 365.

The company general counsel has identified 10 employees who are likely to have data relevant to the lawsuit. Although she has retained outside counsel to handle the litigation, the general counsel is determined to control costs by dealing with initial eDiscovery aspects internally. To that end, she is familiarizing herself with the Electronic Discovery Reference Model™ and is meeting with the company information technology team to explore Office 365’s eDiscovery features.


The general counsel asks: Within the company’s Office 365 E3 licenses, which processes can be performed in-house to help control costs while meeting legal obligations?

The general counsel identifies several goals:

  1. Avoid purchase of additional software or hardware.
  2. Preserve potentially relevant email, including metadata.
  3. Analyze content using advanced search including keyword, date range and Boolean.
  4. Establish a defensible and cost-efficient workflow.

We have built a survey which asks about eDiscovery capabilities in Office 365, including:

  • Information Governance.
  • Identification.
  • Preservation.
  • Collection.
  • Processing.
  • Review.
  • Analysis.
  • Production.
  • Presentation.

The survey can be found at Survey responses submitted before Oct. 15, 2018, will be included in the white paper detailing the Microsoft Office 365 Challenge findings which Don and I will publish later in Q4.

So please take a few minutes and answer the survey. Or, if you prefer, just send your comments directly to Don or myself and we’ll be sure to include them in the final report.

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