In a world increasingly dominated by digital information, discovery related to legal matters or investigations can test any organization’s business processes, and many companies have struggled mightily to identify, preserve, and collect data in an organized and defensible manner. In response to these challenges, ediscovery professionals George Socha Jr. and Tom Gelbmann established the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) in 2005.
What is the EDRM?
The EDRM is a framework that guides the discovery of digital data. Socha and Gelbmann developed the system to improve ediscovery standards, as no structure outlining the process had existed before 2005. The EDRM is now well known and widely used by many legal teams to select ediscovery tools, determine the skillsets necessary to operate them, and design the documentation to guide their ediscovery processes.
However, the intent of the EDRM is not to tell ediscovery professionals exactly how to do their jobs. According to the EDRM Model, “The EDRM diagram represents a conceptual view of the ediscovery process, not a literal, linear, or waterfall model. One may engage in some, but not all of the steps outlined in the diagram, or one may elect to carry out the steps in a different order than shown here.”
The EDRM Process
The EDRM is composed of a series of nine stages, or recommended steps, to be followed by those managing electronically stored information (ESI). These steps include:
- Information management. Employ data governance processes to reduce risk and expense in the event of a discovery request for ESI.
- Identification. Uncover sources of information to determine what the data is and how to manage it.
- Preservation. Use measures like retention and deletion schedules to ensure the proper storage of potentially relevant ESI.
- Collection. Assemble relevant information for ediscovery use.
- Processing. Filter out relevant ESI to prepare it for review and analysis.
- Review. Determine the relevance of the data.
- Analysis. Assess the ESI for content, context, topics, and critical patterns.
- Production. Provide the ESI to requesting parties.
- Presentation. Present the data at depositions, hearings, and trials as admissible evidence to elicit additional information, prove existing facts, or convince a jury.
The first four stages — information management, identification, preservation, and collection — are generally referred to as the left-hand side of the EDRM, where information technology professionals are highly involved. The remaining five stages are collectively known as the right-hand side of the EDRM. These stages involve the legal team’s review and processing of the data, conducted either manually or with the help of ediscovery software.
The EDRM and Ediscovery Software
According to enterprise risk consultant Deloitte, companies are increasingly looking to transform global ediscovery “from an island of activity into an integrated, end-to-end business process,” through the use of ediscovery software and the EDRM:
An integrated, end-to-end discovery operating model is [one] key element. So is an evolved EDRM that incorporates data collection and processing into an organization’s broader data management processes. Such an approach front-loads those activities, so data is categorized, stored, and eventually disposed of in a structured, legally defensible way. This approach provides a solid framework for managing an organization’s eDiscovery processes even as the world around it rapidly changes.
An “evolved” EDRM model injects decision-making into the information management process, indexes data at the time of its creation, catalogs it, and associates data with its metadata so that it can be collected and processed into an ediscovery “business-as-usual” model, according to Deloitte.
Ediscovery software provides the tools to allow legal teams to process, review, tag, and produce ESI. These platforms perform several essential functions, such as:
- Allowing ediscovery teams to create a comprehensive and defensible process.
- Streamlining the process to reduce overall ediscovery costs significantly.
- Enabling a quick and efficient response to investigations and ediscovery requests.
The same ediscovery tools that help IT support legal teams can also help with data retention and management. What was previously a time-consuming process of combing through thousands of documents by hand has been vastly improved with the introduction of AI-powered ediscovery software. Cloud-based ediscovery solutions provide the additional advantage of uploading, reviewing, and producing documents online – minus the delays, costs, and frustration associated with manual review or legacy software.
To learn more about how Everlaw transforms the way legal teams navigate the EDRM and the ediscovery landscape, request a demo today.