More than one in ten Americans check their email as soon as they wake up in the morning. If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you have a similar routine. These electronic communications play a significant role in our lives. In fact, email discovery has become an integral aspect of the legal and corporate worlds. What many people don’t realize is just how far the technology to handle email discovery has come — and how much further it will undoubtedly go.
When email technology first hit the scene, these messages could take hours to send. You also didn’t have the option to send images and other content, and both security and integration were subpar at best. However, where we started with this technology is less important than where we’ve come. After all, this isn’t a history lesson. There are some key facts you should know, though, about the present and future of email in legal discovery.
The MVP of ESI: Why Emails Are the Backbone of Discovery
Electronically stored information (ESI) has established itself as a hallmark of evidentiary standards. After all, you rarely see people sending physical letters back and forth. In the legal and corporate worlds, email is king when it comes to communication. By proxy, it’s one of the most important types of ESI out there. So if your firm or company gets subpoenaed for information, you can bet email will likely be involved.
These electronic communications provide a record of transactions, conversations, and decisions. They're typically considered admissible in court, and they can prove invaluable to supporting a party's position. In many cases, they may be the only evidence establishing what truly happened.
Unfortunately, the collection, processing, and review of this data type can be tricky. Collecting data could include much more than a basic eDiscovery email search. In fact, it often involves searching backup tapes, email servers, and other electronically stored information. It could even be necessary to search individual devices. Securing relevant information could also require securing metadata, attachments, and response threads.
If this sounds like a lot that’s because it really is. It’s why so many eDiscovery professionals utilize an email discovery tool to get the job done. However, there are still important things you should know, even if you’ve got a program doing most of the work for you. This can help you avoid potentially costly mistakes — and perhaps even dodge a reprimand by employers or court sanctions. Because who needs those?
Email Discovery Done Right: Best Practices for Managing Emails in Discovery
Defensible collection strategies are essential because they ensure that ESI is collected in a manner that's reliable, accurate, and legally sound. Not only does this preserve evidentiary integrity and meet compliance requirements, but it’s also cost-effective and improves security. Of course, you can’t simply print out a ton of messages. In fact, you’d be surprised at just how many trees would have to lose their lives to print out all the data contained in these messages.
That’s because the metadata in emails must also be preserved. Along with maintaining a chain of custody, preserving metadata ensures that electronic evidence can be traced back to its source. These processes also maintain the integrity of evidence, which is important for admissibility, proving authenticity, and demonstrating defensible email discovery tactics. Fortunately, email discovery tools can assist in this endeavor.
Modern eDiscovery software can achieve many feats. If you’ve ever attempted an eDiscovery email search without such tools, kudos to you for staying in the field and not pulling your hair out. Manually doing the tasks that a program can accomplish — such as prioritizing email review, categorizing messages, reducing false positives, and increasing consistency — simply isn’t something you should be spending time on.
All of these capabilities can expedite email review and reduce costs by minimizing necessary manpower and potential mistakes. However, effective review is still the responsibility of human eDiscovery pros. It’s not a machine that will face the consequences of failing to identify relevant content, utilize a consistent redaction process, protect metadata, and hide privileged information. That’s why you need proven tools on your side.
How Email Discovery Tools Help Tackle the Email Overload
Over 333 billion emails get sent every day around the world. You certainly will never have to work with that type of volume, but it's a good representation of the daunting endeavor email discovery has become. A single custodian could have tens of thousands of emails — and just one case could involve hundreds or even thousands of custodians.
Combine this with unstructured data, duplicate content, multiple email platforms, and the need to maintain data privacy. Let’s be honest here: you’ve got your work cut out for you. However, that’s where eDiscovery software like Logikcull can provide significant benefits. Consider just a few of the advantages our platform and other discovery solutions offer to assist with email discovery:
Preserve Massive Amounts of Data
We’ve gone over a lot throughout this guide, but if there’s one thing that deserves repeating, it’s the fact that email discovery involves a significant amount of data. Unfortunately, storing this much data during the eDiscovery process can be costly.
That isn’t the case with Logikcull Preserve. With this tool, you can save unlimited amounts of unprocessed data without increasing your data storage needs.
Emails are challenging to review when they're messy and unstructured. However, Logikcull sorts them out by sender, domain, dates, and type of content so you can quickly hone in on the most important communications within your data set.
An email discovery tool must be able to easily identify privileged information. Without this capability, your firm or company could easily find itself on the wrong side of judicial sanctions. You can bet that’s never going to look good on a resume.
Fortunately, Logikcull can automatically detect personally identifiable information (PII), privileged documents, or any email containing a specific keyword. Even better, the platform can perform bulk redactions across an entire document or global redactions across entire document selections and projects.
The Next Frontier: Predictions for the Future of Email in Discovery
Email has certainly come a long way over the years. Unlike their flesh-based human counterparts, technologies like this actually continue to improve over the decades. We’re still seeing this today. For instance, encrypted messaging reduces the risk of unauthorized access or interception of emails. More and more providers have begun to offer end-to-end encryption as standard — thus helping to protect the security and privacy of sensitive and confidential information.
Another significant evolution in email is the availability of chatbots. These computer programs utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate real conversations with human users. They are often used for customer support or service tasks, but with the continued growth of tools like ChatGPT, there’s no telling where this technology will take us next. Both chatbots and encryption are already making significant waves in the world of email discovery, and technology will continue to change things in the years to come.
For instance, artificial intelligence and machine learning have already found their way into email discovery. You'll soon be able to make use of AI for tasks such as email categorization, threading, prioritization, clustering, and redaction. However, big changes are often accompanied by big shifts in regulations and legal requirements.
The simple fact is that privacy regulations will likely impact email discovery — including the use of AI and machine learning — well into the future. New regulations similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will no doubt have a significant impact on email discovery. This will likely unfold as there is an increased focus on data privacy, enhanced data subject rights, increased penalties for non-compliance, and enhanced transparency and accountability.
The proliferation of new technologies and continued dependence on electronic communication demand an in-depth understanding of email discovery and the overall eDiscovery process. Chat tools like Teams and Slack will also continue to grow as an alternative to email interactions. This means you’ll have to focus on maintaining regulatory compliance with new ESI sources while continuing to effectively manage email in the discovery process.
Massive amounts of data, untold numbers of custodians, hidden metadata, cross-platform communication, and countless other hurdles stand in the way of effective manual management. To meet these and any future challenges you need superior and AI-powered eDiscovery software by your side.