eDiscovery is, to say the least, a mess. Endless spreadsheets, legal hold requests, reminder emails, and data culling make for a laborious and disorganized process. To attempt to bring some cohesion and order to the process, the EDRM was created in 2005 by George Socha and Tom Gelbmann, in the hopes of formalizing and standardizing the eDiscovery process.
Rather than provide a prescriptive procedure for conducting eDiscovery, the EDRM—which stands for Electronic Discovery Reference Model—provides a conceptual layout of the entire process, and its 9 stages are meant to serve solely as a guide. The stages may be conducted in various orders and repeated in an iterative process, and are laid out below:
While the EDRM has helped bring consistency and process to eDiscovery, over the 15+ years since it was conceived, it has also resulted in significant friction, with multiple tools and steps (and middlemen) specialized for each step of the Model, but few resources that can help legal teams tackle eDiscovery in a unified fashion. Today, it serves as a useful starting point, and as a reference point along the way, its complexity and extensive use of resources greatly limit its usefulness.
Even with the EDRM’s guidance, legal professionals still find themselves spending incredible amounts of time and money throughout their eDiscovery process. Powerfully simple eDiscovery software is now available to simplify the process and greatly reduce the various associated costs and frustrations—we will further discuss this software later on in the article.
First, let’s take a closer look at the EDRM itself.
Since the EDRM is more of a guide than a mandatory procedure, it is helpful to fully understand what each step consists of so that you can make decisions as to how to proceed with your eDiscovery. You may decide to switch up the order, and you will likely have to repeat some of these stages several times. Here is a better explanation of the 9 stages:
This step involves comprehensively managing the collection and storage of electronically stored information (ESI). Sources of potentially relevant ESI must be located, and their breadth, depth, and scope must be determined.
In a sea of ESI needing to be preserved in the case of litigation, it can be difficult to know which information will ultimately be relevant to the case. Identifying involves carrying out reviews and interviews which will help identify which ESI is likely to be relevant to and important in the case.
Once the potentially-relevant ESI has been identified, it is a top priority to ensure that this information is preserved for litigation. If this is not done in a timely manner, it gives organizations a chance to spoliate—to tamper with or destroy- evidence. A common method of ensuring preservation and preventing spoliation is to place a legal hold on all relevant ESI.
In this stage, the legal team is now tasked with the actual collection of the ESI. This is where a lot of personnel hours and money are spent: not only must every shred of digital evidence be collected from all its various sources, it must be collected and presented in a way that will be defensible and allow it to be used in litigation.
Collecting usually leads directly to processing, which concerns the preparation of evidence for attorney review. Processing involves “cleaning up” ESI by deleting irrelevant ESI, deduping files, OCRing images, indexing text, and the like. Similar to collection, processing can take a great deal of time and money—particularly if you have a vendor nickel-and-diming you every step of the way.
Review is one of the most important steps: where legal teams pore over the ESI and determine how each piece of evidence is relevant to the litigation at hand. This crucial process can get pricey—review often requires a massive amount of attorney hours, which translates to over $42 billion being spent in the US annually on hourly legal fees.
This step involves carefully analyzing each piece of ESI for its relevance and usefulness to the litigation at hand. Both the content and context of ESI is evaluated and legal teams look for key people, topics, patterns, and discussion within the data.
Now that the relevant ESI has been collected and identified as part of a team’s legal strategy, it has to be produced and delivered in an appropriate and defensible manner. The ESI’s authenticity must be made evident.
This is the stage in which the produced ESI is presented to an audience during the legal proceedings to serve as evidence. This evidence is then used to help validate an argument, to elicit further information, and/or to persuade an audience. Digital formats for presentation are becoming increasingly popular over the traditional presentation of physical materials.
As the 9 stages above show, the EDRM is a fractured process filled with inefficiencies and vulnerabilities.
Each stage of the EDRM often involves different technology, different services, and sometimes even different teams, which needlessly increases the complexity, cost, and risk of the eDiscovery process.
Even with the guidance provided by the EDRM’s framework, thousands of hours of work—and the corresponding legal fees—are still required. Pair that resource-intensive process with eDiscovery vendors and service providers who offer little to no transparency on their costs, and you soon see why discovery has become the most expensive part of litigation.
From a security standpoint, the traditional EDRM process is also riddled with weak spots: each time sensitive information is transferred, there is a potential for ESI to be accidentally or intentionally compromised or stolen. And in today’s world, where ESI can be found in countless additional places than simply email servers or individual computers, data are ripe for a cyber criminal’s picking.
Take this incredibly disorganized and laborious process, add in the burdensome financial demands, and top it off with a level of security that contains information about as well as cheesecloth can hold water, and you have a strikingly broken and inefficient system.
The good news is that a fractured approach to the EDRM is no longer necessary, and we can now conduct eDiscovery without all the traditional associated friction which slows the process down and needlessly complicates it.
Cloud-based eDiscovery software now provides a simple, transparent, and fast solution to the inefficiencies and risks of traditional EDRM discovery. Such software is designed specifically to relieve legal teams of the sheer workload and complexity which is traditionally involved with eDiscovery by consolidating every step of the process into one digital platform.
Today, you can issue a legal hold, upload data, automate processing, and begin review all in a matter of minutes, and with just a few clicks. Cloud-to-cloud integrations allow you to collect data directly from its source, while tools like Logikcull’s InstantShare make producing documents lightning-fast and incredibly secure.
Today’s best eDiscovery software increases security, reduces workload, slashes costs, and simplifies ESI culling. It provides a secure, centralized location for storing all necessary ESI, protecting it from cybersecurity threats and reducing opportunities for leaks and breaches. And it helps you move quickly and easily between stages, and the technology available addresses your needs throughout the entire eDiscovery process.
With the right eDiscovery software, what used to be disorganized and frustratingly-complex has now been simplified into a streamlined digital platform, paving the way for a future of eDiscovery without the friction.