eDiscovery Basics – 20 Years Later

eDiscovery Basics – 20 Years Later

Dealing with relevant communication in email is hard, at least it was. Email became the catalyst for developing technology, tools, and workflows to deal with documents and data that were no longer just on paper but were increasingly stored on computers, laptops, backup tapes, and other media. Many of you already know what eDiscovery is, but in this blog post, we’ve decided to go back to the basics and give a quick synopsis of eDiscovery.

Electronic Discovery, commonly referred to as eDiscovery, is the process of identifying, collecting, and analyzing electronically stored information (ESI) in legal proceedings. In an attempt to define and create structure around data collection, processing, and analysis, Tom Gelbmann and George Socha created the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) in 2005. This model has become an industry standard for formalizing and standardizing the eDiscovery process. In today’s digital age, a significant amount of information is created and stored electronically, ranging from emails and documents to databases and multimedia files. eDiscovery processes are essential for legal professionals to efficiently manage and review this electronic information during litigation, investigations, or for regulatory compliance.

The critical steps in the eDiscovery process include:

  1. Identification: Determine the sources of potentially relevant ESI, including emails, documents, databases, and other digital files. Identification involves understanding where and how electronic information is stored within an organization.
  2. Preservation: Once potentially relevant ESI is identified, legal teams must take steps to ensure its preservation. A legal hold may be implemented on data to prevent the alteration, deletion, or loss of critical electronic evidence.
  3. Collection: Gather the preserved ESI in a forensically sound manner. Gathering relevant legal information may involve working with IT professionals to extract data from servers, computers, mobile devices, and other electronic storage locations.
  4. Processing: Organize and filter collected data to reduce its volume and make it more manageable for review. This may include tasks such as data deduplication, file format standardization, and text extraction.
  5. Review: Lawyers and legal professionals review the processed data to identify relevant information, analyze its context, and determine its importance to the case. In high-volume projects, administrators and project managers may employ advanced analytics and technology-assisted review (TAR) to expedite the review process.
  6. Analysis: Evaluate the collected information in the context of the legal case. This involves assessing the electronic evidence’s relevance, reliability, and importance.
  7. Production: Produce the relevant ESI for use in legal proceedings. This involves presenting the electronic evidence in a format that complies with legal requirements and can be easily understood by all parties involved.
  8. Presentation: Present the collected and reviewed ESI during legal proceedings, whether in court or during negotiations. The electronic evidence may be used to support legal arguments, refute claims, or establish facts.

eDiscovery is governed by various legal rules and standards, and failure to comply with these rules can result in severe consequences, including legal sanctions. The increasing volume and complexity of electronically stored information, including new multimedia sources and the use of mobile devices, make eDiscovery a crucial component of modern legal practice. Legal professionals often leverage specialized eDiscovery software and services to streamline and enhance the efficiency of the eDiscovery process.

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