Electronic discovery (sometimes known as e-discovery, ediscovery, eDiscovery, or e-Discovery) is the electronic aspect of identifying, collecting and producing electronically stored information (ESI) in response to a request for production in a law suit or investigation. ESI includes, but is not limited to, emails, documents, presentations, databases, voicemail, audio and video files, social media, and web sites.
The processes and technologies around e-discovery are often complex because of the sheer volume of electronic data produced and stored. Additionally, unlike hardcopy evidence, electronic documents are more dynamic and often contain metadata such as time-date stamps, author and recipient information, and file properties. Preserving the original content and metadata for electronically stored information is required in order to eliminate claims of spoliation or tampering with evidence later in the litigation.
After data is identified by the parties on both sides of a matter, potentially relevant documents (including both electronic and hard-copy materials) are placed under a legal hold – meaning they cannot be modified, deleted, erased or otherwise destroyed. Potentially relevant data is collected and then extracted, indexed and placed into a database. At this point, data is analyzed to cull or segregate the clearly non-relevant documents and e-mails. The data is then hosted 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).
For production, sometimes the relevant documents are converted to a static format such as TIFF or PDF, making redaction of privileged and non-relevant information possible. The use of computer assisted review (also known as “C.A.R.” or Technology Assisted Review, “T.A.R.”), predictive coding and other analytic software for e-discovery reduces the number of documents required for review by attorneys, and allows the legal team to prioritize the documents it does review The reduction in the number of documents cuts hours and thus costs. The ultimate goal of eDiscovery is to produce a core volume of evidence for litigation in a defensible manner.
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