What Is Ediscovery Software and Why Do You Need It?
The ediscovery process can be difficult to manage, especially if your team still uses the time-consuming manual methods of the past. Modern ediscovery software helps mitigate the challenges associated with manual ediscovery by offering tools that streamline efficiency and ensure accuracy.
Here, we’ll cover what the ediscovery process entails, who can benefit from ediscovery software, and how to choose the right ediscovery solution.
What Is Ediscovery?
Ediscovery, short for “electronic discovery,” is the electronic aspect of collecting, reviewing, and sharing electronically stored information (ESI) during the legal discovery process, internal investigations, and regulatory and subpoena responses. It’s an essential part of today’s litigation process, as legal work has shifted almost entirely to the digital space.
In the past, this was simply called the discovery phase of litigation, and it required that the involved parties share physical records, information, and evidence relevant to a case. Today, paper records have largely been replaced by electronic documents — emails, chat messages, and the like — as the primary source of potentially relevant information. Discovery is now largely focused on ESI to better align with the current digital storage of records and evidence.
In addition to emails and instant messaging chats, ESI can include electronic documents, accounting databases, social media profiles, websites, A/V files, and any other electronic information that might be related to a case.
What Is Ediscovery Software?
Ediscovery software is a solution that automates the discovery process, helping legal teams save both money and time. It enables teams to upload, review, and produce documents to streamline discovery.
Because of the strict protocols that legal professionals must follow during discovery, it’s crucial that they choose the right tool so they can:
Ensure they meet state and federal requirements.
Eliminate unnecessary or excessive ediscovery costs.
Save the time spent on manual, low-value, and repetitive tasks.
Reduce the risk of data spoliation and potential sanctions.
Properly conduct legal work for clients, who benefit from the technical capabilities of their counsel.
Ediscovery software like Everlaw allows legal professionals to meet their discovery requirements in a way that is collaborative, intuitive, and efficient.
The Ediscovery Process
Ediscovery has evolved substantially since its inception, sparking the addition of ediscovery-specific rules in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) in 2006. These rules are intended to make the sharing of relevant information as seamless, fair, and timely as possible. They require legal professionals to be fully prepared to exchange ESI effectively. It’s important for businesses to understand these rules, too, as failure to do so can result in higher legal fees, unideal litigation results, and time-consuming digging for necessary information — which can negatively impact operations.
The ediscovery process follows a conceptualized framework, known as the ediscovery reference model (EDRM).
The EDRM framework provides a nine-stage general outline of ediscovery processes in the order each should be performed:
Information governance, which builds the foundation for how data is managed, from initial creation through destruction.
Identification of any potentially relevant ESI.
Preservation of relevant ESI, which protects it for later use in the ediscovery process.
Collection of preserved ESI, which is then consolidated into a repository that’s both protected and easily accessible by appropriate parties.
Data processing, wherein the volume of ESI is reduced, repetitive or duplicative data is pared down, and data is converted into a suitable format for review and analysis.
Review of information for responsiveness, relevance, and privilege.
Analysis for the identification of patterns, context, and key concepts.
Production of data, which is the process of sharing information with the requesting party.
Presentation of the information in depositions or court.
How to Choose the Right Ediscovery Software
As you evaluate your ediscovery software options, it’s important to first consider the different approaches to ediscovery and types of software, each offering its own capabilities and benefits:
Manual/Adobe. Despite advancements in technology, some legal professionals still use manual methods for the ediscovery process. They collect ESI from their clients and then review and organize each piece individually, using programs (like Adobe Acrobat) and spreadsheets (like Excel). This is an extremely time-consuming, error-prone process, as it doesn’t enable legal teams to quickly search through multiple files at once or organize information by metadata (e.g., date, time, creator, and recipient). It also makes it difficult for review teams to identify duplicate information or irrelevant files (like spam emails).
Vendors. Other legal professionals rely on third-party legal service providers to process, prepare, and produce ESI. Some vendors may take on collection, review, and analytics, too. These third-party service providers generally have deep technological experience, but that expertise typically comes with a hefty price tag.
On-premises software. In an effort to reduce the costs spent on vendor services, some legal teams adopt on-premises software to handle the discovery process. This was most common when ediscovery first emerged. While this enables teams to shift to an in-house process, an on-prem ediscovery system usually requires a costly investment in software, hardware, and an internal IT team for support. It also takes a significant amount of time to get up and running, is difficult and expensive to maintain, and makes the client billback process more complicated. Some legacy on-prem solutions are currently being sunset, meaning they will no longer be sold or supported.
Cloud-based software. Modern legal teams have realized the benefits of adopting cloud-based ediscovery software solutions. These systems make the process more efficient, are faster to deploy, and are more predictably priced than legacy on-prem systems. They’re also simple to use, easily scalable, and automate many steps — like data ingestion, indexing, and preliminary quality control. Cloud-based systems save legal teams precious time and support a more efficient, effective ediscovery process.
Before making an investment, make sure the platform you choose offers the following critical capabilities:
Streamlined Legal Holds
Streamlining the legal hold process is essential, but error-prone manual methods and fragmented software can result in data spoliation, noncompliance, and overall organizational risk. Look for a tool that automates the process of issuing holds, sending alerts and reminders, monitoring compliance, and tracking progress.
Rapid Data Ingestion
Waiting for physical media to get delivered or for data to upload and process means wasting valuable time. Instead, leverage a solution that allows users to drag and drop data into a unified platform, or upload it directly from popular cloud storage providers.
Emerging Data Types
Because new communication apps are constantly being developed and launched — and massive amounts of data are moved into the cloud — it can be difficult for legal teams to understand how to process everything. Relevant data sources are ever-changing, and legal professionals need tools that help them locate, protect, and extract information properly.
ESI might include data from collaboration tools like Slack, Google Chat, and Teams, as well as A/V sources like Zoom. Make sure the ediscovery software you choose enables your legal team to create fully searchable transcripts from A/V files; add timestamped, searchable notes throughout the review process; process individual and group chats; and easily review different data types. This saves time, reduces costs, and provides much-needed transparency for relevant data.
Disparate systems can lead to data silos, workflow bottlenecks, and other process inefficiencies. Choose a tool that easily integrates with third-party systems (like HR platforms) to speed up operations and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
The Everlaw Application Programming Interface (API), for example, allows integration with your existing applications and makes it easy to upload data from sources like Microsoft Office 365, so your team will never miss a beat.
Overall, your ediscovery software should have features that help expedite the discovery process while also ensuring it is completed correctly. This is particularly important as the amount of ESI increases and more legal outcomes hinge on the inclusion or exclusion of electronic files.
Early Case Assessment
Early case assessment (ECA) provides a high-level overview of ESI that’s potentially relevant to litigation. To overcome the excessive spending and time-consuming nature of traditional ECA, invest in a unified platform that streamlines the process and eliminates the cost of third-party data processing and ingestion.
Intuitive Data Analytics
Software that provides intuitive data analyses can help your team remain as organized as possible throughout the discovery process. These tools examine the text within a set of documents, determine which documents are related, and group them together in clusters for more efficient review. They help legal teams filter and sort through documents for faster decision-making.
Collaboration is a key part of ediscovery. Legal professionals must work together to build compelling narratives, organize arguments, and prepare for depositions and trials. But manual searching methods and disjointed tools threaten a team’s ability to collaborate. And with the increase in remote work, legal professionals need a reliable way to collaborate and litigate from anywhere.
Look for software that pulls everything together in one unified, cloud-based platform. Everlaw’s Storybuilder platform, for example, fosters seamless collaboration, organizes timelines and documents, and digitizes depositions. Real-time chat helps team members work efficiently and complete any follow-up work all in one place. Synchronous review and annotation allow your team to see and make changes in real time. Teams can also share folders and documents with secure links that have specific permission settings that only a cloud-based solution can offer.
For too long, legal professionals used word processing tools for legal writing and accepted the time-consuming, inefficient process as status quo. But in today’s legal world, if your ediscovery software doesn’t offer tools specifically built for the post-review process, you should keep looking.
Ediscovery software should offer the following post-review capabilities:
Smart auto linking. Imagine having important documents and deposition testimony instantly available, just by providing a few keystrokes of a Bates number or a phrase from a document in your motion filing. Legal writing tools inside robust ediscovery platforms make this a reality.
Creating timelines. One of the most frustrating aspects of legal writing is keeping all the right documents in a chronologically organized timeline. When writing a motion, lawyers want to present a clear, factual, and cogent narrative with all the relevant information in one place.
Built-in collaboration. The law is inherently collaborative — multiple people should be able to edit and link in a document simultaneously. If you can’t edit questions on the fly during a deposition or collaborate across geographical and time zone constraints, you aren’t getting the most out of your ediscovery tool.
Document review is often complex, so make sure the ediscovery software you implement has the following capabilities to make the process more efficient:
Intuitive search features. Your search interface should be user-friendly, with visual elements that make it easy to build queries and tools that generate real-time results.
Organized document coding. The ability to code and tag documents is vital for remaining organized throughout the ediscovery process. Find a tool that lets you easily flip through documents to apply a rating or code, then add those documents to relevant binders for quick access.
Simplified redactions. In the past, using on-premises software often meant that once a mistake was made, it was too late to fix. In contrast, those errors can be fixed in the cloud. However, there are still considerations to keep in mind when choosing software that accelerates and simplifies the process of redacting documents. If you apply redactions incorrectly, they can lead to holes in the case or, worse, public leaks of privileged information. With the right software, though, you can ensure efficiency and accuracy with tools for batch redaction, easy text selection, metadata redaction, and more.
Flexible productions. Last-minute production modifications, secure file sharing, and the creation of exhibit lists can all cause delays at the end of the litigation process — especially if you have to move information from one platform to another. Cloud-based platforms like Everlaw allow for flexible productions and secure file sharing, and automatically create exhibit lists in real time. This simplifies the whole process, eliminates potential errors, and leads to faster issue resolution.
Predictive coding. Large volumes of data can cause duplicative or similar documents. This can lead to inconsistent coding decisions, which increase costs and slow down the review process. Robust technology like Everlaw streamlines this process, with proprietary predictive coding technology that learns from existing coding decisions and then automates tasks that previously required human intervention.
Who Needs Ediscovery Software?
Typically, it is legal professionals who use ediscovery software, as they need sufficient tools for managing a variety of civil and criminal cases. But the benefits of using ediscovery software also extend beyond traditional use cases like litigation. These solutions are also essential to other entities, including corporations and state, federal, and local governments.
Ediscovery Software for Law Firms
Everlaw is an advanced cloud-based ediscovery platform for litigators, corporate counsel, and government attorneys. The collaborative platform allows legal teams to discover, illuminate, and act on information to better drive internal investigations and positively impact the outcome of litigation. Everlaw’s ediscovery solution is scalable for firms of all sizes — from small boutique law firms to Am Law 200 firms.
See how the law firm of Bienert Katzman leverages ediscovery software to power through document dumps and outpace the opposition.
Everlaw for Boutique Law Firms
Law firms of all sizes involved in litigation need systems in place to deal with the discovery process — but they also need to be selective to ensure that their choice actually offers value. Clients of boutique law firms expect the same value as clients of larger firms. Eventually, courts will also expect the basic technological capabilities that ediscovery software provides.
Everlaw can help boutique law firms improve margins and gain a competitive advantage. The powerful, user-friendly solution streamlines processes for ediscovery while providing predictable pricing, free training, and cost-reducing support.
Everlaw for Am Law 200 Firms
Larger law firms must manage a variety of challenges, including vast amounts of data, multiple production formats, and complicated legal work. They face complex litigation in practice areas such as construction, securities, and class action, which can involve large volumes of diverse data types. Am Law 200 firms often have to contend with complex organizational and team structures throughout the discovery process as well. Furthermore, large corporations are typical clients of big law firms, and they may have some reticence around cloud-based ediscovery due to concerns about data privacy.
Everlaw helps teams overcome these obstacles and simplifies the discovery process with tools that are:
Capable of securely managing large volumes and varieties of data.
Trusted by the Department of Justice and 91 of the Am Law 200 firms.
Grounded in well-established migration practices, with support for firms transitioning from on-premises legacy systems to the cloud.
FedRAMP-certified, which builds trust and ensures that digital evidence at the federal level remains protected.
Learn how Barnes and Thornburg is empowering its trial teams and transforming its approach to ediscovery.
Some Am Law 200 firms don’t bill customers for their ediscovery costs, instead absorbing the costs as overhead. For those that do bill for these costs, there are four main cost-recovery models to consider:
Pass-through models. In the pass-through model (which is currently the most popular in the industry), a law firm “passes through” any costs incurred through ediscovery to the client for each case or transaction, without marking any of them up. They usually charge clients for project-management support or the coordination of third-party services. Many law firms choose this model because it offers transparency to clients.
Bundled-cost models. In this model, the law firm will typically use an external vendor for a SaaS or on-premises ediscovery solution. They’ll then bill clients for these services through a markup of the hosting charges they’ve paid (per gigabyte of data).
Adjusted-cost models. The adjusted-cost model is similar to bundled-cost models, in which law firms charge clients for the data hosting and technology costs they’ve incurred from third-party vendors. Here, the firm purchases ediscovery services at a wholesale price from outside vendors, then charges the client at a retail rate.
Profit-center models. Any of the previously discussed models can be adapted to a profit-center model by law firms that have a deep understanding of their costs and workflows and efficiently manage the ediscovery process. Cloud-based ediscovery platforms can help legal firms transition to this model, since they enable them to better project costs, identify potential process improvements, and implement more efficient workflows.
Regardless of which model a firm chooses, it’s critical to provide full transparency so the firm can recoup these fees while still offering clients cost-effective, efficient legal representation. Transitioning to a cloud-based ediscovery platform like Everlaw can help, as it provides complete visibility, fast uploads, and accurate searching — so clients always know they’re getting tangible value for what they’re paying.
It’s important to note that, while the right tool can help, ethical and sustainable cost recovery requires firms to keep three key imperatives in mind:
Full transparency with clients.
The ability to charge clients fees that are reasonable within the broader marketplace.
Assurance that there is precedence in the industry for the approach used.
Ediscovery Software for In-House Legal Teams or Corporate Legal Departments
Legal professionals in the corporate space face hurdles of their own. Litigation support staff are often frustrated by massive amounts of data from unidentified sources, resource and bandwidth constraints, disjointed toolsets, and limited budgets. Attorneys struggle to create repeatable, defensible ediscovery processes, ensure compliance, and overcome issues with collaboration and visibility.
Corporations need ediscovery software to better control business data, reduce legal spend, and make the litigation process more efficient and actionable. Everlaw’s software helps legal departments meet deadlines in an efficient, cost-effective manner. Especially during a time when there is an increased need for remote work, ediscovery software can make it easier to collaborate in the cloud while reducing the time it takes to manage and review data, since the software seamlessly integrates with external data sources.
Everlaw can also be used for internal investigations, as it empowers collaboration, automates manual work, and offers a contextual review of multiple data formats — even remotely. Organizations rely on cloud-based ediscovery solutions to connect the remote workforce and conduct internal investigations from anywhere, thanks to the solution’s ability to:
Easily upload data and set up reviews.
Quickly cull, search, and review data.
Empower remote collaboration between on-site teams, remote teams, and outside counsel.
Provide enterprise-grade security for data protection and privacy.
Craft cohesive reports that are easily accessible.
Everlaw’s powerful ediscovery solution enables investigative teams to manage internal investigations with ease while saving time and money.
Ediscovery Software for Federal Agencies
Legal professionals working in federal agencies often lack personnel resources, deal with vetting requirements that provide extensive security, and face budgeting issues. What’s more, they don’t always have access to adequate documentation and must prioritize constrictive regulatory policies.
At the federal level, ediscovery software can eliminate the need for managing storage and servers via multiple disparate on-premises tools. An integrated cloud-based platform like Everlaw helps agencies work collaboratively, from processing through post-review. It also helps agencies meet stringent US government security requirements. Everlaw’s move to Amazon Web Services made it one of the first cloud-native ediscovery solutions to do so. The simple, intuitive tool enhances collaboration and speed while also maintaining the integrity of sensitive government data.
Everlaw is one of the first cloud-native software solutions to become FedRAMP-certified. FedRAMP is the government-wide Federal Risk and Authorization Program that standardizes the framework for vendor software security assessments, authorization, and monitoring. It’s fundamental for government agencies looking to adopt cloud-based services for their ediscovery needs.
Ediscovery Software for State and Local Governments
As data sizes grow and workloads become even more demanding, state and local entities need predictable pricing, tools for document discovery, and automated workflows to enable them to serve in the public’s interest.
Everlaw’s ediscovery software helps state and local government agencies accelerate review, improve cross-team or multistate collaboration, and manage and control costs with complete transparency. When responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, for example, agencies can use Everlaw to automate the otherwise time-intensive and complex process of redactions, reduce backlogs, and ensure the security of sensitive data.
Everlaw’s software also enables government agencies to collaborate when responding to public records requests, with an easily accessible, secure environment — regardless of location. For agencies conducting regulatory investigations, Everlaw’s tools can help them quickly collect data and gain deep insights, uncover key patterns during review, and collaborate on a single platform for increased efficiency.
See how the San Francisco District Attorney's Office is protecting sensitive data during litigation and investigations.
Ediscovery for Journalists
Journalists need tools that help them quickly uncover facts, work with other team members in real time, and seamlessly weave together information to create compelling stories. Everlaw’s software provides them with technology that speeds up their journalistic investigations — regardless of the document types they’re digging into — no matter where they are.
Why Clients Choose Everlaw for Ediscovery
Everlaw’s cloud-based ediscovery platform helps legal teams improve collaboration, increase visibility, and automate previously time-consuming tasks. It features tools for data preservation, streamlined legal holds, rapid data ingestion, third-party integration, and more — all of which enhance the efficiency and quality of legal work. Everlaw’s ediscovery software offers valuable benefits for users, including:
Speed of innovation. Rapid product innovation requires unique industry advancements and frequent updates. Everlaw is a responsive platform that updates every four weeks to offer a powerful, intuitive experience that just keeps getting better.
A customer-first approach. Everlaw always puts customers first, with unmatched service and support at no extra cost. With a proven 30-day onboarding plan, education and training opportunities, and personalized technical support, your team can ensure ongoing success with Everlaw.
Transparent pricing. While other solutions providers require locked-in contracts, add-on fees, and mysterious charges, Everlaw offers complete transparency. The cost structure is predictable and all-inclusive, so you’re never left wondering what you’re actually paying for.
Reliability. Everlaw has a history of building reliable software that’s there when you need it. Since 2014, Everlaw’s average annual uptime has exceeded 99.9%, including scheduled maintenance windows.