During a legal proceeding, a lot of factors are outside your control. That being the case, it’s important to exert control over as many things as you can.
Due to the critical role it plays in legal proceedings, eDiscovery is one of the most important things you can influence. As such, forming a robust eDiscovery strategy is essential for any legal team that is serious about optimizing results.
Let’s take a closer look at why eDiscovery is important and some eDiscovery best practices to ensure optimal legal outcomes.
What Is eDiscovery?
Electronic discovery (eDiscovery) is the process of identifying, collecting, analyzing, and preparing digital information for use in legal proceedings—like criminal investigations, civil cases, and legal audits.
The eDiscovery process commences after a meet and confer session where two sides attempt to resolve the issue at hand. After the meet and confer ends, both parties can officially request access to electronic records, and eDiscovery lasts until the trial begins.
It’s important to remember that both sides have the right to refuse information during eDiscovery. However, in some cases, a judge can force a party to concede and provide information they’d prefer to withhold.
Why eDiscovery Is Important
At first glance, eDiscovery may seem like a routine back-end procedure that requires minimal attention. But it serves a critical role in a modern legal setting due to the rising volume of digital information in existence. Emails, text messages, audio and video files, and blogs can all count as evidence in court and therefore require proper discovery, extraction, preservation, and presentation.
With that in mind, here are some of the top reasons why eDiscovery is important.
Requesting and exchanging information before going to court helps ensure a speedy and cost-effective trial. It prevents delays during the trial and helps avoid slowdowns.
eDiscovery also prevents legal teams from blindsiding each other with information during court. Exchanging information in advance ensures that only relevant and useful information makes it into the trial and that neither team is caught off guard.
Provide Equal Opportunity to Request Data
Another benefit to eDiscovery is that it gives both sides equal opportunity to request data and see what evidence the other party has. Obtaining information in advance helps legal teams form the most effective prosecution and defense strategies.
How eDiscovery Works
Specific eDiscovery steps and processes tend to vary across different firms. But in general, most teams tend to rely on the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), a widely used industry framework for eDiscovery.
Here’s a quick overview of the multistep eDiscovery process, according to the EDRM model.
1. Information Governance
Information governance involves organizing data and preparing it for use in eDiscovery.
Identification is all about locating and documenting potential sources of information.
Preservation ensures that information stays safe and intact for presentation as evidence.
Collection involves gathering information for use in eDiscovery.
Processing is for reducing how much data you have and also converting it to forms that are easier to analyze, if necessary.
Reviewing entails evaluating data for relevance in court.
Analysis involves evaluating data for context and content and for discovering trends and patterns.
Production is for delivering data to stakeholders securely and efficiently.
Presentation refers to displaying data before stakeholders and legal teams.
eDiscovery Best Practices to Improve Legal Outcomes
As you can see, eDiscovery is a critical part of the legal process. It’s also fast-moving and complex when managing large data volumes and working with multiple clients.
Failure to comply with eDiscovery can lead to a host of negative consequences—including court fines, penalties, court losses, and unhappy clients. What’s more, eDiscovery errors can extend court cases and drive up the time and cost of resolution.
As such, it helps to refine your eDiscovery approach and form a comprehensive strategy. Here are a few important best practices to keep in mind to ensure the best possible eDiscovery outcomes.
1. Identify Stakeholders
eDiscovery isn’t something that one person can do alone. It takes a team effort and typically involves clients, employees, third-party agencies, and other individuals. Large and complex investigations and audits can require a significant amount of communication and coordination.
As such, it’s a good idea to assign a project leader and identify all stakeholders in the eDiscovery process. Once you have a list of stakeholders, submitting requests, issuing orders, and obtaining relevant information becomes much easier.
eDiscovery moves very quickly, and deadlines can certainly sneak up on you. For example, FRCP Rule 34 states that parties have to respond in writing within 30 days after their serving date, or within 30 days after the parties’ first Rule 26(f) conference if the request falls under Rule26 (d)(2).
With this in mind, it helps to have a real-time communication platform to submit requests, coordinate schedules, and issue updates. Communication is a key part of eDiscovery. It’s also essential for avoiding setbacks and keeping workflows moving forward.
3. Formulate a Plan
At the end of the day, eDiscovery is a project with a beginning and end. As such, it’s a good idea to approach eDiscovery from a project management perspective. For example, you need to assess how long it will take, the human resources it will involve, and the potential risks. It’s also necessary to outline project goals and communicate them with stakeholders.
By taking the time to form a plan at the beginning, you can eliminate potential confusion and missteps along the way. It can also help secure necessary resources in advance to achieve optimal results.
4. Manage Costs
The eDiscovery process can be very expensive, especially when extracting large volumes of data from multiple sources.
Make sure to form a budget early on and stick to it as closely as possible. Obviously, it may be necessary to adjust the budget as you move forward. But by having a general understanding upfront, you can allocate the required capital ahead of time and avoid running into financial constraints.
5. Embrace Professional Development
The eDiscovery field is a relatively new part of law, and one that is constantly changing with new best practices and standards. As such, it’s a good idea to embrace professional development and look for eDiscovery training and certification courses that can aid in your learning.
6. Review and Iterate Over Time
Your firm’s eDiscovery process will change over time as new requirements arise and clients change. With this in mind, you’ll want to periodically review your eDiscovery process and make sure your team is on the same page.
7. Use Purpose-Built Software
It helps to use a purpose-built eDiscovery platform to streamline the process from end to end. Most eDiscovery teams are now using software to centralize eDiscovery and also enhance security. A robust discovery platform saves time and lowers eDiscovery management costs.
Improve Legal Outcomes with Venio’s eDiscovery Solutions
Venio Systems offers an industry-leading eDiscovery platform that guarantees faster and more accurate results for legal teams. Our platform eliminates eDiscovery pain points and also helps teams move more efficiently through the information-sharing process.
By using our purpose-built eDiscovery software, legal professionals can spend less time combing through databases and extracting data and more time reviewing cases and forming strategies.
Check out Venio Systems by requesting a free demo today.
About the Author
Justin Reynolds, Akshita Singhal & Lianna Vaughan
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. This post was reviewed and published by Akshita and Lianna, the in-house team of Venio.