e-Discovery, also known as electronic discovery, refers to the initial phase of litigation in which relevant electronically stored information (ESI) is identified, collected, and shared by both parties. Under ABA Model Rule 1.1, it’s now the attorney’s duty to provide complete and sufficient representation to their clients; meaning IT departments are not the only ones responsible for electronic discovery. Due to this, the e-Discovery process begins as soon as litigation is foreseeable and comes to a close only when a case has come to a resolution. ESI includes everything from Microsoft Word documents to emails to accounting databases.
The process goes something like this: with the help of software like Computer Assisted Review (CAR) or Technology Assisted Review (TAR), pertinent data is picked out and placed on legal hold; the accumulated data is appraised, and lawyers may challenge what was gathered or request another search with negotiated parameters; once all parties are satisfied, the complete sets of data are extricated, analyzed once again, and converted into a format viable in court. Digitization is the future of information, and the documents of the courtroom are no exception. Therefore, the quality of e-Discovery in your law firm is a definitive factor in keeping a competitive edge in the industry and for your clients.
Why Is It So Important?
The rate of e-Discovery requests has been on a steady rise the past few years and there is nothing to suggest that trend will be interrupted. e-Discovery leaves its footprint on a variety of processes, from the archival of ESI, storage system management, to the development of corporate policy. e-Discovery is essential to understand so it can be properly accounted for, according to the auxiliary elements it influences.
Modern document discovery is e-Discovery -- all evidence is created, collected, and produced in electronic form. Social media is omnipresent, creating caches of hyper-specific data that never existed before. The “Internet of Things” has integrated technology ever so intimately into our lives; inanimate objects like cars, watches, and speakers are connected to the Internet, enabling them to record, collect, send, and receive massive amounts of data blueprinting our lives. That being said, there have been myriad reports of law firm data breaches in the press over the past decade -- concentrating the private information of multiple clients, law firms are an attractive prospect for hackers. Sensitive data that is no longer viable or relevant is a squatting liability, and data that has been deleted can’t be breached.
Knowing how to safely and securely navigate the digital landscape of e-Discovery is more important now than ever; it is essential for litigators that are intent on maintaining a competitive edge and compliance with amended court rules. Certainly, it is not a magic trick; it is a science in of itself that must be studied and learned. Lawyers must understand how data is stored, how it can be searched and reviewed, and the manners in which the technology works to hone in on the most essential details. e-Discovery is the most efficient and secure avenue towards arming clients with the information, data points, and higher knowledge necessary to win cases and settle lawsuits.
How e-Discovery Will Benefit You
With the proper implementation of e-Discovery, your law firm will be able to safely manage and access discovered digital data with ease. Proper implementation of e-Discovery requires high standards of data management so that you can ensure your client’s info is safe and accessible. Because of the large load of digital data involved in court cases, it’s imperative you have a system in place like e-Discovery to sift through the data, and in the case of a high-quality e-Discovery, organize the data in a presentable way. The abilities of e-Discovery in 2019 is consequential to the success of your law firm. You can provide your clientele with better service by streamlining unnecessary time consumers with e-Discovery.
This can be done through EDRM, Electronic Discovery Reference Model. Despite the potential organizational framework that the EDRM supplies, the sheer volume of data that firms have to root up and contend with can be a challenge in of itself; firms that are overwhelmed with their storage should consider adopting defensive data deletion to make the task more manageable, as well as eliminating the risk that comes with holding onto superfluous information.
Another piece of innovation that will help the e-Discovery efforts in your firm benefit you more is AI, Artificial Intelligence. Eventually, AI will take over all parts of EDRM- from the review stage to streamlining the procedure closer to its origin. It is not such a distant reality. Introduced in 2014, and modeled after IBM’s Watson system, ROSS Intelligence was promoted as the first “digital attorney.” It is a legal research service that uses natural language processing to interpret and answer legal questions with expertise, something like a robot secretary, a tool that could be an enormous help with the identification of data during the e-Discovery process. e-Discovery assisted by AI is a definitive sign of progress, and therefore a secure investment in your future. In addition, AI could prove invaluable in the collection and preservation of data by way of techniques such as email threading and near-deduping, approaches that save time for human review teams by amassing negligently variant or related electronic information.
e-Discovery: An Integral Part of Your Firm
e-Discovery has cemented itself as a mandatory tenet of law practice. Technology has become universally accessible; an electronic record of every pertinent relationship, transaction, location, and communication is available somewhere in the cloud.
It is the responsibility of paralegals to ensure they have the means to identify, collect, store, secure, and analyze apposite data. Law firms deal with extremely sensitive information that pose extreme consequences in the case of theft. But the technology that has made this sum of data available is evolving to make the task of managing it more manageable. The future does not consist of armies of robot lawyers representing your clients in court. Instead, it is the efficient, organized, and dynamic environment you can only dream of for now.