In the legal world, the discovery process refers to the period in which litigators gather evidence, locate and identify all relevant information, and begin to build a case. In the past, this often required unpacking and sifting through countless boxes of physical documents, a process that frequently proved expensive and time-consuming for even the most qualified legal teams.
In the digital age, much of the documentation relevant to any case has become electronically stored information (ESI). Ediscovery refers to how a legal team organizes, shares, and reviews that information during the discovery phase. Any electronic documents which can be labeled as ESI, such as accounting databases, emails, instant messaging exchanges, as well as audio and video (A/V) files, including voicemails and recorded telephone conversations, will be managed in the context of ediscovery.
Technology and Ediscovery
Ediscovery is made possible by the use of sophisticated and intuitive technology. Because of the high volumes at which ESI is stored within any organization, the technology behind ediscovery software is necessarily complex. By utilizing reliable cloud-based ediscovery software to store and organize important information, litigators can access and interact with their data from one familiar location.
Additionally, an effective ediscovery platform will automate certain complicated tasks in the discovery process, such as extracting relevant metadata from an overcrowded pool of information. This allows legal teams to focus their time and attention on analysis and case building, as well as saving money in the process.
If the software is truly efficient, there are ediscovery solutions to any number of legal problems and initiatives. Conducting an internal investigation into a large enterprise, for example, can be a messy and time-consuming project without the assistance of the necessary technology. Whether searching for relevant keywords in a trove of corporate emails to prove wrongdoing or locating regulation compliance documents needed to settle a dispute, ediscovery tools can be applied to streamline these processes.
Security in the World of Ediscovery
One of the most popular applications of legal ediscovery software relates to the growing interest in data privacy among both individuals and organizations. As requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) continue to crop up, corporations, governments, and legal firms need more reliable ways of locating specific (and often sensitive) information in order to comply with such requests. Without intuitive and capable ediscovery platforms in place across organizations, the backlogs of FOIA cases would likely continue to grow to the point of being unmanageable, often resulting in expensive compliance violations and loss of trust.
Ediscovery software also has certain creative applications when it comes to a legal team’s ability to build a compelling case. By eliminating the need to manually organize ESI to put together a timeline or sort out data by relevance, the automation performed by ediscovery tools allows legal teams to quickly identify relevant evidence and build a compelling narrative.
Who Can Benefit From Ediscovery?
As ediscovery technology continues to evolve, so too does the manner in which legal teams leverage it. For example, more evidence comes from digital sources, and as a result, more discoverable data is being created (e.g., the increased use of video conferencing tools is leading to more evidence that is in an A/V format). Despite the commonalities between legal teams across different industries, how they use ediscovery may differ.
It is already true that most legal firms would fall behind without an effective ediscovery platform in place. In addition to streamlining nearly all aspects of the discovery process and providing an advantage in case building, legal ediscovery software is often critical to the security of both the firm and client’s private information. However, smaller law firms may need a solution that allows them to maximize their impact and lower costs as efficiently as possible.
Corporate Legal Teams
The need for this technology is, of course, not exclusive to standard legal firms. Many companies have internal legal teams that would benefit from the same advantages and protections, and corporate ediscovery software exists to provide such benefits. Ediscovery makes internal human resources investigations run more smoothly, charts an easier path to alleviating compliance concerns, and simplifies analytical tasks across the board — all while helping to manage costs.
Government entities are also beginning to prioritize ediscovery in order to keep up with growing data management requirements driven by technology. Government ediscovery software is in high and increasing demand at all institutional levels, whether state, local, or federal. Cloud-based software is particularly attractive to institutions that can no longer maintain outdated filing systems and who can’t afford to misplace information as FOIA requests become more frequent. An appropriate ediscovery platform will free up space, time, and resources for government entities so they can better serve their constituents.
Last Thoughts on Ediscovery
Ultimately, ediscovery and the use of ediscovery software have already become an integral part of the litigation process in nearly all respects. For this reason, there are many platforms and services available, and it can be difficult for an organization to determine which software would best suit their particular needs.
In fact, it would be fair to say that in a given case, the legal team using the best ediscovery software could have a significant advantage at trial. It is therefore critically important for legal teams to identify what they would specifically like the technology to accomplish and how they can acquire and employ it in a way that is both favorable and cost-effective in the long term.
To learn more about the basics of ediscovery and how ediscovery works with Everlaw, check out more information here.