The creation, storage and processing of electronically stored information is a painstaking procedure requiring perseverance, precision and hard work. E-Discovery is a process ladened with risk, and one false step can put the concerned enterprise or organization on the wrong side of the law. When a company faces litigation, its attorneys receive a large amount of electronic data from the client as well as opposing parties. Hence, understanding the ins and outs of the e-discovery process becomes essential for the attorneys as it helps them not only to find relevant electronically stored information easily but also to put up a strong defense in court.
Lifecycle of the e-Discovery Process
E-Discovery is a multi-stage process involving the identification, collection, processing, and analysis of relevant electronically stored information. The following are the important stages in the e-discovery process:
1. Data Retention
The e-discovery process starts with the implementation of a data retention policy. An effective data retention policy is critical for any enterprise or organization in order to come up with the best possible defense in the case of litigation or a corporate investigation. Failing this, they must face huge expenses in the form of extra costs for retrieving the right documents from unorganized data and, in some cases, penalties under regulatory laws for non-compliance. Hence, not only does the enterprise need to implement a solid retention policy, but they should update it regularly to make it as flawless as possible.
When a sequence of events implies a possible litigation, it is necessary to start the process of identifying all relevant documents and information immediately. This enables attorneys to be on their front foot when litigation support software actually commences.
In the preservation stage, attorneys start collecting and preserving all important documents and information in all relevant formats, though care is always taken to preserve relevant documents in their native formats. As a result, huge chunks of data are collected. During this stage, opposing counsels often meet to decide upon the kinds of methodologies to be implemented for preserving documents and the kinds of documents and information that are considered relevant. But whatever the approach, it is necessary to ensure that the documents are collected in a fair manner.
During this stage, the collected data is processed, reviewed, and analyzed. First, the data is changed to a suitable format, then reviewed to reduce the size of the data set and also isolate the more relevant data. Finally, the relevant data is analyzed in order to be used appropriately for litigation.
This is the final stage in which the trial begins and both parties present electronic evidence discovery before the court in support of their arguments.
Electronic Discovery is a complex process that behaves differently in different cases. Sometimes the entire process can seem straightforward and simple, while at other times it is extremely complicated. Hence, understanding the basics of e-discovery can go a long way toward getting a grasp on the entire e-discovery process.