Responding to written discovery can be overwhelming. In most cases defense attorneys send the bulk of written discovery early on in a lawsuit. This discovery generally includes Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, Requests for Admission, and Demands to Produce. Due to the size and expansive scope of this discovery one can become overwhelmed by it and tend to put it off until the last minute. Of course putting it off leads to stress, resulting in either poorly drafted last-minute responses (leading to defense motions to compel), or asking defense counsel for an extension of time to respond (which means asking for a favor.)
A better option is to establish a workflow for responding to discovery before it is ever received. Then, once your workflow is in place, it is triggered and implemented when discovery is received.
The essential components of an effective workflow for responding to discovery includes the following:
Obtaining completed answers to likely Form Interrogatories from your client before you receive Form Interrogatories. I usually go over the Form Interrogatories with my client before I file the lawsuit, or shortly thereafter. In any event, I do it well before a defense attorney sends discovery.
Once I complete the likely responses I simply save them in my file to include in future formal responses I will need to provide once Form Interrogatories are actually received.
Obtaining all documents (and things) in your client’s possession pertaining to the lawsuit before the lawsuit is filed (or shortly thereafter). This is important. Don’t think you can get all these documents once you receive the Document Demand from opposing counsel. Get every document from your client, including privileged documents, before the lawsuit is filed.
Once I have these documents, I scan them into my case management system under a file named “Documents”. I then break these documents down into natural categories, i.e., Communications, Special Damages, Medical Records, Medical Billing, FDA, Bank Account Info, Attorney-Client Communications, Photographs, 911 Transcripts, 911 Phone Calls, etc.
Obtaining the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all individuals and entities that have (or may have) documents pertaining to the lawsuit before it is filed (or shortly thereafter). This is important. If your client does not have actual possession of responsive documents after making a good-faith effort to find them, then the Discovery Act requires your client to identify any individuals or entities that may have these documents.
I enter all names, addresses, and phone numbers of these individuals and entities into my case management system indicating that they may have documents pertaining to my client’s case. It always surprises me how long this list of names gets when you actually think about all individuals and entities that may have documents pertaining to your client’s case.
A list of likely objections to improper discovery requests. I’ve built this list up over time and find it very useful to review as I respond to each discovery request. I keep theses objections in a handy application, which I use when responding to discovery.
Simply stated, respond in 48 hours or less.
And that’s it! You now have a feasible workflow for responding to discovery. In my next blog post I will introduce an application that significantly reduces the time it takes to respond to discovery—thus ensuring you make your 48-hour deadline.