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The process of legal eDiscovery involves managing and preparing digital evidence in court. In the digital age, it comes as no surprise that this is one of the hottest emerging areas in the legal industry. As such, it’s something all legal teams need to know.
This post breaks down the legal eDiscovery process. It also shines a light on the production stage, which is a key component in eDiscovery.
Why Do Legal Teams Engage in eDiscovery?
Legal eDiscovery is part of the pretrial discovery process. Before going to trial, the two opposing sides meet and exchange evidence to expedite the proceedings. Discovery also provides a way to request information from the other party. Discovery has to do with tangible evidence while eDiscovery involves digital evidence.
Both discovery and eDiscovery ensure a fast and speedy trial. They prevent one side from blindsiding the other with hidden evidence in court. As a result, this limits objections and keeps courtrooms civil.
What Is ESI?
The term “eDiscovery” only applies to electronically stored information (ESI). For example, eDiscovery accounts for emails, cloud files, databases, text messages, chats, and locally stored information on laptops, computers, and mobile devices.
Part of the reason why legal teams go through eDiscovery is that extracting digital evidence can be costly and complex. It may require help from IT or a third-party vendor, for example. Meeting before a trial gives teams more time to extract ESI in a way that’s safe and reasonable for both parties.
How eDiscovery Works
Legal teams do not have to follow any sort of legal standard for eDiscovery. Law firms and legal departments can form their own strategies. This is a good thing because it provides greater freedom and flexibility when preparing for trial.
Most organizations today follow the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM). In case you’re unfamiliar, the EDRM is a widely used standard for eDiscovery compliance. It contains nine stages with specific guidance for each one.
The following is a step-by-step breakdown of the EDRM, which your company can use when preparing for a trial. These steps do not have to go in any particular order.
1. Information Governance
Information governance is a preliminary step, which the EDRM refers to as “getting your digital house in order.” The purpose of information governance is to form a plan to mitigate risk and limit access during eDiscovery.
Identification involves locating potential ESI sources and determining their scope, breadth, and depth.
Preservation protects ESI from inappropriate manipulation and destruction. This is very important when considering that ESI is ultimately direct evidence during civil and criminal cases.
Collection entails gathering ESI for further examination and sharing during the eDiscovery process.
Processing reduces the overall amount of ESI. During the processing stage, teams may convert ESI into an appropriate form for analysis and review.
Review involves evaluating ESI for relevance and privilege.
Analysis requires exploring ESI. Analysts may look for content and context with the digital evidence, as well as patterns. For example, this may involve looking at the specific time, location, and content of a series of text messages between different users during a civil or criminal proceeding.
Production entails sharing ESI with stakeholders using agreeable delivery mechanisms once it’s ready. We’ll dive into this important step below.
Presentation is usually the last stage of eDiscovery. At this point, a party will display ESI during a trial, hearing, or deposition and make their case.
What Is eDiscovery Production?
Data has to go through many different steps before it becomes shared publicly. Production refers to the process of preparing ESI and turning it into a usable format so that the court can understand it.
Production makes data legible, removes unnecessary components, and also reduces risk. The point of production is to ensure all data conforms to acceptable guidelines. It also helps control costs. By going through production, eDiscovery analysts can prevent bringing unnecessary datasets to trial, eliminating excess work.
The EDRM suggests taking the following steps during the production stage.
1. Confirm Forms of Production
This involves rounding up technical workers and using their advice to ensure the complete production of documents.
2. Data Analysis
Data analysis involves analyzing records and outlining specific production forms.
It’s possible to produce data in the following forms:
- Native: Just as the name suggests, producing files natively involves transmitting files in their native form.
- Near-native: This involves extracting files into a searchable format.
- Paper: In some cases, it makes sense to convert ESI into paper form.
- Image: You may need to convert files into formats like .pdf or .tiff for secure sharing.
3. Identify Production Requirements
At this point, you have to determine the type of data you need to produce, specific to the subject.
4. Prepare Files
Data preparation is necessary before items get sent into production. During this stage, you have to make sure production delivery is in line with the protocol outlined during the meet and confer session.
5. Copy Files to Media
The final stage involves securely copying data and delivering it to stakeholders on media like CDs, DVDs, and hard drives. Teams are increasingly using digital repositories when copying and sharing files.
Best Practices for eDiscovery Production
The production stage is one of the most critical parts of eDiscovery. At this point, you’ll have all the information in front of you for analysis.
Here, it becomes a matter of deciding what data should move forward for sharing and what you should leave out. Keep the following points in mind to maximize eDiscovery production.
Reduce the Size of Your Data
Just because you have an abundance of information doesn’t mean you have to use all of it. Chop down your data where it makes sense in order to save money, reduce time, and strengthen your case.
Work Closely With IT
It’s a good idea to work closely with IT during the production stage and leverage whatever in-house technical expertise you can. Data analysts will be able to merge data across disparate systems with ease and provide strong visualizations for use in court.
Move Quickly and Make Decisions Faster
It’s important to keep your eye on the calendar during production, especially when working with extremely large datasets. Keep in mind that production isn’t meant to take months. The faster you can go through your information and prepare it for use in court, the better off you’ll be.
Taking too long can lead to court sanctions and penalties. It can also frustrate court officials and stakeholders, which is something you always want to avoid.
What Do You Need for eDiscovery Production?
In the past, eDiscovery production was a manual and time-consuming process. It involved identifying multiple systems and endpoints, extracting information, processing it, and preparing it for use in court. This took a considerable amount of time.
Today, all you really need for eDiscovery is a cloud-based platform like Venio Cloud. With this type of solution, you can easily pull data from multiple systems, store it in a centralized database, cull the information, and share it with stakeholders. The process is much faster, more cost-effective, and safer this way. Venio essentially took a process that used to take weeks and turned it into something that can take place in a few hours.
Add it all up, and legal eDiscovery production is a breeze with Venio Cloud. See the platform in action by requesting a free 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.