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Court battles are often won and lost during a process called discovery, long before they reach trial.
Keep reading to learn all about what this important process is, what it entails, and how legal teams are using digital tools to track and manage the process end to end.
What Is Discovery?
Legal discovery is a formal process of exchanging information before a trial begins. The purpose of discovery is for both parties to share data with each other so they are all aware of the other side’s evidence and witnesses. This allows the other team to prepare its case and form the most effective response.
Discovery is important because it saves time in court and prevents teams from getting blindsided with evidence that they weren’t prepared to answer. This reduces objections, resulting in a more efficient and optimal trial for everyone involved. It also gives defense teams more time to prepare their statements.
At the same time, discovery allows teams to cross-examine evidence and request information so they can form more effective responses during a hearing or trial.
Common Types of Legal Discovery
Generally speaking, there are three methods for conducting discovery.
A subpoena is a legal demand to produce physical or electronic evidence for inspection. This may include paper documents, books, audio, video, or data such as text messages or emails.
A deposition is an oral statement from a victim or witness. In addition, the defendant may request interrogatories, which are responses to depositions.
The purpose of a deposition is to have the individual recount specific facts. During a trial, attorneys then cross-examine the person to see if their statement matches the deposition. The point is to see if the victim or witness is lying. If appropriate, the legal team might use discrepancies that arise during a deposition to discredit the individual. In some cases, the legal team might even accuse the person of lying outright — which could lead to perjury charges — and question their character or ability to recount what actually happened.
In some cases, the plaintiff or defendant may require the opposing side to submit to a physical examination.
This may arise following a personal injury case, when a person claims injuries or suffering resulted from the incident. For example, if someone was in a car accident and is claiming their neck is injured, the individual might be ordered by the court to see a specialist who can confirm the condition.
Track Discovery Documents and Manage the Process
The legal discovery process can be lengthy and challenging, especially with large and complex cases where a lot of information is available, such as phone records, doctor’s visits, billing statements, videos, and financial statements.
As such, it’s imperative that legal teams remain highly organized and use the right tools to request, collect, manage, analyze, protect, store, and share information.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the various tools that legal discovery teams rely on.
One of the most common ways to manage discovery information is by tracking spreadsheets, using programs such as Excel or Google Sheets. For examples of how to use spreadsheets to create a discovery log, check out this PDF on using Excel as a litigation tool.
- Very affordable, as they are available through Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace platforms that many teams are already using
- Easy to learn and update with software support coming from the vendor
- Can be exported for data visualization and sharing to allow for rapid analysis
- Prone to data-entry errors due to the manual effort involved in maintaining them
- Not always efficient due to errors or a lack of expertise with the program
Database Management Systems
Legal teams often use databases when ingesting large volumes of data from IT endpoints, end users, or customers. Examples include MongoDB and Redis.
- Useful at scale, which is important in today’s age of big data
- Excellent for long-term data storage
- Also can help with processing and analyzing large datasets rapidly
- Difficult to manage and deploy
- Requires database experts who can be expensive and hard to find
- Expensive due to cloud data storage costs
Cloud Storage Platforms
Another method is the cloud, which plays a big role in the legal discovery process today. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure are the three most popular cloud platforms, and legal teams are increasingly using these services.
- Avoid capital expenditure for massive cost savings on computing equipment
- Fast and efficient computing infrastructure
- World-class security features like information access management (IAM), encryption, and threat monitoring
- Rapid scalability to keep pace with any legal team’s needs
- Hidden cost and complexity can create higher-than-expected invoices
- Potential security issues from misconfigurations
- Can require a learning curve for IT
Paper Management Systems
Despite the fact that the legal industry is going through digital transformation, a surprising number of companies are still using paper management systems. After all, paper is still widely used, so legal teams need to be able to collect, manage, and store it securely. But it’s certainly not the most effective approach.
- Avoids cybersecurity threats
- Not subject to system downtime like software is
- Requires sharing via mail, which can get expensive and time-consuming
- Strong physical security is required
- Paper may eventually need to get stored or recycled
A growing number of legal teams are now using purpose-built cloud eDiscovery systems to manage electronically stored information (ESI) in court. These platforms help legal teams remain in compliance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) requirements for the handling of ESI.
By using a dedicated cloud eDiscovery platform, teams can ensure they have a system for properly collecting, processing, analyzing, protecting, and sharing ESI for use in court.
- More secure than spreadsheets and third-party cloud systems
- Centralized ESI management through the cloud
- Highly resilient
- Easy to deploy for immediate productivity
- Platform quality can vary from vendor to vendor
- Can get expensive for many teams
- Requires storing data off-site in third-party environments
Move Beyond Spreadsheets With Venio Systems
Spreadsheets are useful for some discovery processes, such as tracking physical discovery data and managing workflows. However, when it comes to ESI, spreadsheets are not at all efficient.
First and foremost, spreadsheets create extra back-end management — especially when you have a lot of them. Sheets have to get created manually, and employees need to enter data line-by-line. This takes a considerable amount of time and effort, and employees often make mistakes. Data-entry errors are very common with spreadsheets, which can lead to costly mistakes when compiling reports and sharing evidence in court.
In addition, spreadsheets are prone to manipulation and destruction, leading to data integrity issues. They also lack storage components, meaning legal teams need to use them in conjunction with third-party storage systems.
Legal teams are highly encouraged to move beyond spreadsheets for ESI management and turn to cloud-based platforms like VenioOne from Venio Systems.
What Is VenioOne?
VenioOne streamlines all aspects of eDiscovery, providing a one-stop shop from data collection all the way through deposition or trial. By using VenioOne, legal teams can avoid having to build or manage any back-end databases or spreadsheets—which is especially important from a productivity point of view. The platform provides a highly advanced and agile eDiscovery framework, along with enhanced security and data governance.
With VenioOne, legal teams can save time and money, freeing personnel to focus more resources on reviewing and analyzing data and building court cases instead of doing back-end gruntwork.
Request a Venio Systems Demo – an eDiscovery Solution can save costs and bring more value to enterprise organizations.
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.