Considerations & Sample Questions for Drafting a Custodian Questionnaire

Questionnaire’s are valuable tools when conducting custodian and it team interviews. They help in defining the scope for the collection and discovery to come. In eDiscovery and information governance, implementing data mapping best practices have become engrained into successful data identification, collection, and preservation workflows.

An effective custodian questionnaire acts as a road map of who data should be collected from, which data sources, what to expect, and what to be on the lookout for. The same goes for when you interview the client’s IT team, both are critical yet separate necessary steps in the pre litigation stages that help aid litigation readiness while also providing insight into early case assessment.

In eDiscovery and digital forensics, a custodian is the owner of the specific data in question. Commonly known as data custodians, they can range from being the owner of an email to the person who created and owns a document. With that in mind, each custodian can be the owner of various different types of files and volumes of data. This is where custodian questionnaires come in to play. With a thorough interview with a data custodian, legal teams gain a clearer picture of all the pieces involved.

Typically questionnaires begin broad and then narrow in the focus as questions get more pointed. A common flow could be first asking the custodian if they are aware of any legal holds or if they have received a data preservation letter. From there the interviewer will dig deeper asking which devices the custodian uses, where they commonly store their files, and which online accounts they are most active with. It is important to keep clear documentation throughout the process, from creating the protocols to executing the interviews.

Here are a few common baseline ESI custodian questions that are meant to be tailored to the specific client.

  • Are you aware of the current Legal Hold? 
  • What locations on your work computer do you commonly save data? 
  • What email system do you use, both personal and work?  
  • Do you currently have more than one business device?
  • Do you use any cloud services to store or share documents?  
  • Do you use USB hard drives or thumb drives for business?
  • Are there other people who we should talk to that were involved as well? 

For a full list of custodian and IT interview questions, reach out today and learn how our team can help build a litigation response and data mapping plan for your legal team.