So, what is e-discovery? Electronic discovery is the digital (versus physical image of printed document) aspect of identifying, collecting and producing electronically stored information (ESI) in your organizations response to a request for production in a law suit or investigation. This includes, but isn’t limited to documents, email, presentations, databases, voicemail, audio and video files and social media.
Wikipedia defines it as:
Electronic discovery (ediscovery) refers to discovery in litigation or government investigations which deals with the exchange of information in electronic format (often referred to as electronically stored information or ESI). These data are subject to local rules and agreed-upon processes, and are often reviewed for privilege and relevance before being turned over to opposing counsel.
The process generally kicks off with a legal case, the attorneys identify the parties involved and then your organizations legal team (eDiscovery team) is contacted with a request for any information related an entity (such as a client) and or individuals. The challenge is then finding the information requested quickly (there are penalties if it’s late and fines if it can’t be provided). After the data is identified by the parties, relevant documents are placed under a legal hold – they cannot be modified, deleted, erased or otherwise destroyed. Relevant data is collected and then extracted, indexed and placed into a database (aka eDiscovery tool). At this point, data is analyzed to cull or segregate the clearly non-relevant documents and e-mails. The data is then stored 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
So how do you ensure your organization is able to comply with the request? It’s a combination of people, process, tools and policy. Let have a deeper look:
- People – people are assigned to roles, clearly understand what they are accountable for and know what process to follow, tools to use and policy they are complying with. Also the ongoing education of staff related to responsibilities.
- Process – the documented steps for eDiscovery activities. Clearly defined ownership, steps and outcomes for success.
- Tools – tools required to find and hold the information in question. Given sheer size of organizations today, the amount of information they generate, format and content silos its important this process is automated.
- Policy – an organizations data policy
For toolsets a recent Gartner study is very insightful – Gartner – Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software. This report is available for download from several vender sites for free.