What is eDiscovery?
The processes and technologies around e-discovery are often complex because of the sheer volume of electronic data produced and stored. Additionally, unlike hardcopy evidence, electronic documents are more dynamic and often contain metadata such as time-date stamps, author and recipient information, and file properties. Preserving the original content and metadata for electronically stored information is required in order to eliminate claims of spoliation or tampering with evidence later in the litigation.
After data is identified by the parties on both sides of a matter, potentially relevant documents (including both electronic and hard-copy materials) are placed under a legal hold – meaning they cannot be modified, deleted, erased or otherwise destroyed. Potentially relevant data is collected and then extracted, indexed and placed into a database. At this point, data is analyzed to cull or segregate the clearly non-relevant documents and e-mails. The data is then hosted in a secure environment and made accessible to reviewers who code the documents for their relevance to the legal matter (contract attorneys and paralegals are often used for this phase of the document review).
For production, sometimes the relevant documents are converted to a static format such as TIFF or PDF, making redaction of privileged and non-relevant information possible. The use of computer assisted review (also known as “C.A.R.” or Technology Assisted Review, “T.A.R.”), predictive coding and other analytic software for e-discovery reduces the number of documents required for review by attorneys, and allows the legal team to prioritize the documents it does review The reduction in the number of documents cuts hours and subsequently costs. The ultimate goal of e-Discovery is to produce a core volume of evidence for litigation in a defensible manner.
From identification and legal hold through review and production, without the right tools, electronic discovery can be a complex, expensive and challenging process. But exactly what is e-Discovery? What’s the process? What electronic information is “discoverable”? Here’s a brief overview:
- Records Management: An effective records management program is a complicated, time–consuming task that requires a multi–faceted team of professionals committed to fully understanding the business and the types of records created by the company.
- Identification: Determine the scope, breadth and depth of electronically stored information that might be pursued during discovery.
- Preservation: Protect electronic data from destruction or alterations.
- Collection: Gather electronic information from various sources.
- Processing: Setting aside files that are duplicates or that are not going to be relevant. Convert electronically stored information to a more effective and efficient review format.
- Review: Evaluate collected information for relevance and privilege; related activities include redaction.
- Analysis: Evaluate electronic discovery materials to determine relevant summary information before detailed review is conducted to help with important early decisions and to improve productivity. Analysis is performed throughout the remainder of the process as new information is uncovered and issues of the case evolve.
- Production: Deliver information to various recipients and in various forms of media (CD, DVD, tape, hard drive, portable device, paper, other).
- Presentation: Consider early and often how to most effectively present the electronically stored information at depositions, hearings and trial.
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