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Organizations today are collecting more data than ever. Yet, due to a confluence of factors, most aren’t maximizing it. In fact, 63% of employees struggle with gathering data insights within their necessary timeframes.
This issue is especially prevalent among corporate legal departments and law firms. Legal teams often have to manage large volumes of electronically stored information (ESI), like emails, documents, databases, website data, and text messages. Unfortunately, legal teams typically lack the resources to compile, process, and deploy data quickly during the eDiscovery process.
This post explores legal eDiscovery, what it is, and why it’s critical to have a framework in place for processing and managing ESI.
What Is eDiscovery?
Very simply, eDiscovery is the process of collecting, storing, securing, managing, and presenting ESI.
The legal landscape has changed significantly over the last two decades. Not only have new tools and technologies come to market, but rapid advancements in digitalization, mobile devices, and cloud computing have also resulted in an explosion of ESI. And looking forward, it appears as though ESI will continue proliferating in the coming years.
During litigation, legal teams must ultimately produce relevant ESI to the court. This follows the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), a set of laws that governs district court policy and has strict protocols about how legal teams handle ESI in court.
What Is eDiscovery Used For?
The eDiscovery process is similar to legal discovery, which begins before teams go to court. In both cases, opposing legal teams meet before the trial to share their digital evidence and request information from each other.
The main difference between eDiscovery and discovery is that the former deals primarily with ESI, while the latter includes tangible objects (e.g., paper forms and documents and other physical assets). The two procedures are closely intertwined and remain a critical part of the pretrial process.
Through eDiscovery and discovery exchanges, teams improve the likelihood of having a fast, efficient, and fair trial. This, in turn, ensures justice prevails.
Discovering information ahead of time makes sure that the defense team understands the opposing team’s evidence. It also gives legal teams time to form a comprehensive defense in court. This system ultimately prevents teams from getting blindsided by evidence in court, thereby reducing objections and delays.
What Are the Types of eDiscovery?
When it boils down to it, there are several ways to approach eDiscovery. Protocols and formats can vary significantly across different companies, law firms, and industries.
With this in mind, here are a few common examples of eDiscovery that legal professionals should know about.
1. Patents and Intellectual Property Claims
Patent and intellectual property investigations are very common. Whenever two or more parties butt heads over infringement claims, things can heat up. This type of litigation may require producing images, diagrams, digital copy, audio, and video to prove who’s the rightful owner.
2. Business Investigations
Businesses often have to produce documents during internal and external investigations. This may include communications records, billing and transaction histories, and travel records, to name just a few examples.
Business investigations often require producing enormous data sets. This is especially true for large-scale class-action lawsuits involving thousands of customers and millions of records over several months or years.
3. Medical Cases
Healthcare providers often have to produce ESI when defending against malpractice or fraud claims. This might include insurance documentation, invoices, and digital communications.
4. Civil Suits
Legal teams often request electronic information during civil suits like accidents, assault and battery cases, and abuse cases. For example, opposing teams may request cell phone records, medical bills, private messages like emails or instant messages, photographs, and videos.
How eDiscovery works
There is no single standard for eDiscovery. Organizations can develop their own eDiscovery workflows and best practices without having to worry about meeting specific regulatory requirements.
That said, most companies rely on the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) for guidance. In case you’re unfamiliar, the EDRM is a conceptual framework for end-to-end eDiscovery.
The EDRM breaks down eDiscovery into several stages. These include information governance, identification, data preservation, collection, review, analysis, production, and presentation during hearings, trials, and depositions.
Most companies use the EDRM as a foundation and build their own custom model accordingly. As they begin devising their strategies, companies have the option to include some or all of the EDRM suggestions.
What Is eDiscovery Processing?
One key step in the EDRM is processing. From a high level, the EDRM defines processing as performing actions on ESI to allow for metadata preservation, normalization of format, itemization, and data reduction.
The EDRM points to a few different goals during the eDiscovery processing stage. For example, primary goals may include analyzing data at the item level, recording metadata at the item level as it existed before processing, and selecting appropriate items to move forward to review.
The selection process is a critical part of review, as legal teams often need to cull data before using it as evidence in court. Part of processing involves determining what information has to get shared and what should be omitted and preserved.
The typical workflow for ESI processing includes:
- Assessing data
- Preparing data
- Selecting and normalizing data
- Validating output
- Preparing output and export
Top eDiscovery Processing Challenges
The processing stage can produce a variety of challenges for legal teams. These can slow down eDiscovery and lead to missed deadlines.
As such, professionals should be aware of the following issues when engaging in eDiscovery processing.
Great care must be taken when analyzing and modifying data sets. This is particularly important when culling data. Legal teams should always have a system in place for backing up and restoring data.
Destroying or incorrectly formatting data can potentially lead to court sanctions, penalties, or even stricter punishments.
Data processing can take a very long time, especially when working with extremely large data sets containing millions of records. This can drag out the eDiscovery process and prevent teams from responding to eDiscovery requests in a timely manner.
Slow processing is also problematic when working on multiple projects simultaneously. It’s critical to have a system in place that can process multiple records at the same time to maximize efficiency.
Once data reaches the final stages of processing and analysis, teams need to export it to external stakeholders.
Using third-party file transfer systems can lead to security risks and data leaks. Legal teams should therefore have secure file transfer mechanisms in place for exchanging data throughout the eDiscovery process, thereby limiting access and exposure.
Automating eDiscovery Processing With Venio
In the past, eDiscovery was a mostly manual process. It was expensive, time-consuming, and risky. But now, the process is much easier, thanks to cutting-edge eDiscovery software.
For example, many eDiscovery professionals are now leveraging cloud-based platforms like Venio Cloud when handling ESI. Venio Cloud offers end-to-end eDiscovery management, enabling teams to handle everything from a highly secure and efficient cloud platform.
Venio also offers eDiscovery training and certification. Going through the comprehensive Venio training course is a great way to learn the platform and get up to speed with the latest eDiscovery industry best practices and procedures.
At the end of the day, eDiscovery is just one part of the legal process, and teams need to treat it as such. Legal teams that spend too much time on eDiscovery risk falling behind, missing deadlines, and underperforming in court.
On the flipside, eDiscovery is far less resource-intensive and more effective when you leverage a purpose-built platform like Venio Cloud.
Start your eDiscovery transformation by requesting a Venio Cloud 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.