Make the last step a breeze with our Litigation Hold Release Notice Template.
What is a Litigation Hold Release Notice?
A Litigation Hold Release Notice (or Legal Hold Release Notice) is a document sent to individuals on litigation hold when their responsibility to maintain evidence in the form of documents, ESI, and other data is no longer required to support the issuing organization’s legal preservation obligations.
Why do I need a Litigation Hold Release Notice?
Holding data for longer than needed can lead to unnecessary costs and avoidable risks down the road. If your employees are holding data beyond your document retention obligations and policies, that hoarding of old (and usually useless) data will only increase your storage, backup, security and other costs. It also can lead to potential liabilities arising from data that the organization had no obligation to maintain.
For example, say a custodian has documents going back 10 years because they were on a legal hold which actually ended years before but was never formally released. If a new legal matter arises that implicates that data, the extra years-worth of data that would otherwise have been destroyed pursuant to the organization’s data retention policies will only end up complicating and increasing costs. You can’t just ignore that data because it “should have” been destroyed; if it’s still there, the obligation attaches regardless, and you’ll have to deal with it. This results in wasted time and costs that could have been avoided entirely.
While storage costs continue to decline, maintaining old, outdated data still can have significant costs not just in legal discovery, but in daily business operations. Whether it’s the cost of storage, backup, or worse – a data breach involving data that could have been destroyed long ago – there can be real cost savings outside of legal costs that support a proactive approach to releasing legal holds when the obligation ends.
Am I legally required to send a Legal Hold Release Notice?
No, but it is good practice for several reasons:
- A well-developed Legal Hold Release process will also involve critical internal teams, like your Information Technology team, so that they can release any internal system holds that may be in place. Legal holds can be especially disruptive to enterprise systems, so making sure your IT team is in the loop on legal hold releases can eliminate significant IT bottlenecks and enable a return to more standard workflow and policy practices.
- It’s good to let the custodian know that their obligation has ended and that they no longer need to preserve data pursuant to the original legal hold notice. It gives the custodian one less thing to worry about and lets them re-channel that energy to their main responsibilities and workflows.
- It’s simply good data hygiene. You don’t want a lot of “ghost” obligations lurking around your organization if those obligations, in fact, have ceased. Such ghosts only beget unforeseen costs and issues.
Who receives a Litigation Hold Release Notice?
The litigation hold release notice goes to anyone who was previously issued a litigation hold notice but is no longer required to preserve their data. In addition to the custodians themselves, the release notice also might go to the IT person who integrates the legal hold with org systems such as O365, People Soft, Google Vault, or others. The hold needs to go to the right people so that the right data is released from hold.
When you send a release notice to the custodian or others (like your IT team), you should also remind them (both the custodian and others) if the custodian is still subject to any other legal holds. For example, in M365, the legal hold function is binary – it’s either on or off – and not subjective to the content. So if a custodian is on multiple legal holds, be careful that releasing them from one does not give them (or others) the understanding that they have been released from all holds. In short, your IT team cannot turn off the legal hold feature in M365 if a custodian is released from one hold but still subject to other holds.
Whose responsibility is it to send out the Litigation Hold Release Notice?
This depends on your organization’s policies. For small or medium sized companies, release notices may come from your GC or others on your Legal team. For larger companies especially, we highly recommend including a section on legal hold release notices in an eDiscovery Playbook.
When does a Litigation Hold Release Notice go out?
Typically, the Litigation Hold Release Notice gets sent when the legal matter has come to a final conclusion, such as when the parties have agreed to a final and complete settlement, or when all appeals have been exhausted and no further legal actions are available to the parties.
Sometimes a legal hold release notice send is appropriate even if the case is not yet settled. It’s not uncommon for organizations to cast an overly wide net when issuing legal holds initially. If someone answers a custodian questionnaire and it’s immediately clear they have no related documents or involvement in the matter, then it’s time to “trust but verify” and potentially release them from the hold.
What content should a Litigation Hold Release Notice include?
Litigation hold release notices usually are fairly simple—a few sentences or a paragraph at most. In general, less information is better; you want the instructions to be clear and easy to follow for custodians. Your legal hold release notice should contain all the information outlined in our downloadable template, including:
- Name of the matter
- Whose records (names of custodians) don’t need to be preserved anymore
- Reason that the hold is released
- Whether the matter itself has concluded
- Any other matters for which the custodian remains on legal hold
What about exiting employees on Legal Hold?
Just because an employee exits, the organization’s obligations don’t end. Make sure that your exiting employee process considers legal holds so that data is preserved, and equipment and accounts are not repurposed without preservation steps being taken. Then, consider whether a new person must be placed on legal hold as a new custodian resulting from that exit process. This may be a new employee that replaces the exiting employee or an existing employee who assumes the exiting employee’s role. For more tips on this, please refer to our Exiting Employee Checklist: The Legal Hold Edition.
Closure is key—for your custodians, your data, and your wallet.
The Litigation Hold Release Notice is the simplest yet most obscure notice in our template collection (which includes Litigation Hold Notice, Litigation Hold Acknowledgement, Custodian Questionnaire, and Litigation Hold Reminder). The release notice is something that most organizations either ignore or don’t think about at all. But why risk falling prey to the added costs of storing TBs of data you don’t need anymore?
Whether you are managing your litigation hold manually or with automated software, BIA can help your organization navigate all the necessary steps—from the triggering legal event to hitting Send on the Litigation Hold Release Notice. We invite you to reach out today.
Ready to quit hoarding?
Fill out the form below to receive our Litigation Hold Release Notice in your inbox, so you can release your custodians from legal hold and avoid the cost and liability of storing useless data that can come back to haunt you later.