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The 5 Steps to eDiscovery

ediscoveryThe discovery period is one of the most important parts of litigation. During this time, any relevant information, data or records is shared by and with each party involved in the case. As the use of electronics has increased widely, eDiscovery has become a critical part of this period in the litigation process.

You’ll often hear the term ESI, or electronically stored information, used in conjunction with eDiscovery. There is an important distinction between the two. ESI encompasses all the information and data that could be obtained through one’s computer, phone, tablet or other electronic device.

eDiscovery, on the other hand, is the process of identifying, collecting and producing that electronically stored information. Today, eDiscovery is making its way into litigation of all types and sizes because of the amount of ESI we now produce on a daily basis.

Because the information gathered through eDiscovery could potentially be used as evidence in the dispute, a well-defined process must be followed. Below you’ll find the 5 key steps and a detailed explanation of what happens at each stage in the process.

From Identification to Presentation

  1. Identification: Of course, before any collection or analysis can take place, the ESI must be identified. During this time, parameters are put in place to identify who has pieces of ESI in their possession. ESI can be obtained through a variety of sources, from audio files to websites. Thus, it is often necessary to limit the scope to a period of time or topic.
  1. Preservation and Collection: To collect the identified ESI, the information will need to be placed in a legal hold, isolated and stored. This information may include both electronic and hard-copy documents. Steps are taken to prevent the data from being destroyed or spoiled in some way. During this time, the ESI can not be modified, altered or deleted. The final result must be made legally defensible.

In the collection process, data is gathered and then extracted and indexed for database placement.

  1. Processing, Review and Analysis: During this third step, native files are reviewed through a document review platform and converted when deemed necessary. All of the ESI must be processed to reduce waste and duplication. This process allows for identification of the most important and relevant ESI.
  1. Production: At this stage, documents are prepared for use in court and exchanged between the appropriate counsels. Documents may require conversion to a static format (e.g. TIFF, PDF). To cull the number of documents to review, computer-assisted review is used. This process allows for prioritization of documents by the legal teams.
  1. Presentation: Finally, the ESI will be displayed and presented before all parties involved. This process is done to prepare for more investigation or persuade the pertinent parties. In cases that have been settled, this step may not be necessary.

The Prudential Associates Approach

In 2006, eDiscovery amendments made to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure expanded the admission of eDiscovery in litigation. It’s critical that 5 steps outlined above are followed to the letter to ensure that the ESI is legally defensible.

These steps are not ones that can be followed easily by an inexperienced private investigator. The use of the proper software and ability to act as an expert witness are crucial. Having someone who can verify the legitimacy and legal obtainment of these items is also important.

As you might imagine, the use of eDiscovery in litigations continues to rise. Likewise, the amount of digital data we produce a day only increases with our reliance on electronic devices to conduct our lives. This large quantity of data has the potential to result in an inefficient, costly eDiscovery process. For this reason, you need a personalized, thorough approach.

At Prudential Associates, we know the importance of an accurate, customized method to eDiscovery. To provide this service to our clients, we use a combination of in-house developed programs for the execution of highly-specialized tasks and the latest eDiscovery platforms.

This approach allows us to deliver professional and high-quality results for cases of all sizes and complexities.

Our computer forensics team offers the following litigation and eDiscovery services:

  • Evidence collection and analysis
  • Subjective document review
  • Early Case Assessment (ECA)
  • Web-based matter hosting (i.e. secure, web-based review of cases).

To learn more about our eDiscovery services, contact Prudential Associates today.