Litigation and legal holds are an occasional event at medium-size companies, but a fact of life for major corporations. While on the surface the goal seems simple — preserve, protect and collect relevant data and notify all stakeholders and custodians either during pending litigation or investigation — in reality there are many opportunities for foul-ups.

Consider the numerous cautionary tales in recent court cases, from Prudential being fined $1 million for destroying documents to Philip Morris suffering a $2.7 million fine for erasing e-mail. The risks of spoliation are very real and the penalties painful and it’s no longer enough to issue a hold on a wing and a prayer. Unless a company can prove it has done its due diligence in holding documents pending litigation or investigation, and that its efforts have been consistent and meet accepted standards, it can find itself in hot legal water.