An Essential Guide to a Thorough eDiscovery Workflow

  • Will Pfeifer
  • June 1, 2021

Legal eDiscovery has been around for more than a decade, yet the majority of legal teams still grapple with integrating it into their workflows. Unfortunately, the model is a continual source of confusion. But the truth of the matter is that it’s relatively simple to understand and deploy eDiscovery workflows, especially when you have the right tools in place.  

This is where IT comes in, as a key driver and enabler of eDiscovery. Since eDiscovery is ultimately about data management, it’s up to IT teams to ensure that firms are up to speed with the latest eDiscovery workflows and strategies.  

Keep reading to learn more about how eDiscovery workflow works and how teams can implement them into their operations. 

What Is eDiscovery?

The legal eDiscovery process is a framework for collecting, processing, analyzing, and distributing electronically stored information (ESI) during court cases. It’s an update to the traditional discovery process. In the digital age, eDiscovery helps law firms properly handle the large influx of data they are now dealing with—in Word documents, video files, databases, and connected devices, to name just a few examples.  

The term “eDiscovery” was first introduced in 2006 following amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). In short, the amendments explain how courts should handle and exchange eDiscovery data to ensure efficiency, security, and affordability.  

Who Manages eDiscovery?

The eDiscovery process is a team-wide effort that starts with IT and encompasses eDiscovery specialists and aides, paralegals, associates, and lawyers.  

Legal eDiscovery specialists typically handle the majority of back-end eDiscovery work, preparing data and delivering it to lawyers who step in and advise while building cases and presenting data in court. Unfortunately, firms often have lawyers handling back-end eDiscovery work, which pulls them away from court cases and creates stress. 

EDRM: A Conceptual Model for eDiscovery 

The eDiscovery process may come across as very rigid when you first learn about it. But it turns out that it’s actually very flexible. The amendments to the FRCP merely require law firms to have eDiscovery workflows in place. However, law firms and legal departments can form their own workflows based on their own preferences and needs. 

Law firms should look at the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) as a conceptual framework for an eDiscovery workflow. EDRM offers a nine-step process that companies can use as a reference when building eDiscovery frameworks.  

The EDRM recommends using its model as an iterative process, repeating steps numerous times as necessary and zeroing in on specific processes to generate precise results. It’s also possible to go back to earlier steps in the EDRM as more data emerges.  

Breaking Down the eDiscovery Workflow

The following workflow centers on the nine-step EDRM process that teams can use as a reference when building their own eDiscovery frameworks. 

1. Information Governance 

The first step suggests that legal teams should get their electronic house in order. To do this, they need to form a system to mitigate risk and expenses from the initial creation of ESI through final disposition.  

In other words, it’s important to have a clear process to avoid confusion and prevent costly errors. When the procedures are written out, it’s much easier to ensure everyone stays on the same page. 

2. Identification 

The second step involves locating potential sources of ESI and understanding the scope of each one.  

For example, in a corporate setting, this could require investigating where employee data lives across multiple cloud systems and databases. Or, a law firm may ask a client about the mobile devices, email systems, and apps they use.  

3. Preservation 

Preservation is all about protecting ESI from destruction and alteration. After all, ESI is evidence, and evidence needs to be carefully handled before it’s used in a court setting. 

4. Collection

Collection has to do with gathering ESI for use in the eDiscovery process. At this point, legal teams should have a framework in place and an understanding of what they’re looking for. This stage is about executing and procuring ESI. 

5. Processing

Most of the time, legal teams wind up with far more ESI than they need during a case. The processing stage involves evaluating and culling data for relevance purposes. 

6. Review 

After data gets culled or converted into necessary forms for review and analysis, it then needs to get evaluated for relevance. If something isn’t relevant to the matter at hand, it shouldn’t occupy your time. 

7. Analysis

The analysis stage requires further evaluation, this time for content and context. During analysis, legal teams look for key patterns and specific points. 

8. Production

Production involves delivering ESI to stakeholders using appropriate delivery mechanisms. This stage requires care to avoid errors or mistakes. 

9. Presentation 

The final presentation stage requires displaying ESI before audiences. This may occur during depositions, hearings, and trials.  

Best Practices for eDiscovery Management

Here are a few things to keep in mind about eDiscovery.  

The EDRM Model Is Just a Suggestion

Remember, the EDRM model is not an official framework. It’s one widely accepted model that legal professionals can use to build eDiscovery workflows. But every team is different. So, teams should build on the EDRM as needed to achieve optimal results. 

The eDiscovery Process Moves Quickly

Legal teams often have tight court deadlines for responding to ESI requests and procuring information. It’s critical to have a system in place for accessing information and distributing it in a timely manner. Missing eDiscovery deadlines can lead to court sanctions and heavy fines.  

Data Security Is Critical for Success 

Legal teams need to have strong information access management and security policies in place throughout the eDiscovery process. Legal data is extremely valuable, so teams need advanced cybersecurity solutions. In fact, failure to protect ESI can result in costly data breaches. 

How to Implement an eDiscovery Workflow

At this point, you’re probably thinking this all sounds great. But you might be wondering how to move forward with eDiscovery. 

The EDRM model provides a great reference point for handling eDiscovery, but it’s almost too open-ended. Oftentimes, legal teams wind up piecing together eDiscovery workflows around the EDRM model but struggle to understand if they’re using the right system and if they are in compliance with FRCP guidelines.  

One of the best ways to streamline eDiscovery is to implement a cloud-based platform that offers end-to-end eDiscovery support. The great part about using a cloud eDiscovery provider is that it eliminates having to invest in disparate systems and technologies. Everything can take place over a single, centralized platform that lives in the cloud and gets hosted and managed by a third-party vendor.  

Going the hosted route saves money and labor. And it also enables IT workers to easily deploy the solution to workers regardless of their location. It’s possible to instantly access a cloud eDiscovery platform on-site or working from a remote office

Venio’s Approach to eDiscovery 

Venio Systems is a leading cloud eDiscovery provider, offering true eDiscovery management over a highly secure and user-friendly platform. The eDiscovery solution also saves time, allowing legal teams to more strategically allocate resources and respond to litigation challenges.  

Venio also offers eDiscovery certification, which teams can use to master the platform and get up and running very quickly. This certification course, combined with Venio’s rapid deployment model, helps teams roll out cutting-edge eDiscovery workflows in a matter of days—as opposed to weeks or months.  

To get started, request a demo today.  

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.