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The Six-Step eDiscovery Process
The simplest eDiscovery process can be broken down into six distinct steps.
1. Data Collection
2. Data Transfer
3. Data Processing
4. Early Case Assessment
5. Document Review and Exchange (Production)
6. Case Termination
The process of completing an eDiscovery project seems to be one of those ‘need-to-know' situations in that, legal professionals only find out how it works while they themselves are trying to complete one. Now let’s be honest, that is not the nicest position to find yourself in! Wouldn’t it be great if you could find out what the eDiscovery process entails BEFORE having to make important decisions on budget, timeframe, and manpower etc.?
Assuming your answer to the above question was an emphatic YES, you can find the six steps of the eDiscovery process explained below...
The objective here is to use forensic data collection methods to compile all the necessary data, ready to be transferred, without altering the original file metadata. While most collections can be completed remotely, there are some exceptions for handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Preserving the file metadata and making forensic copies etc. is the most important aspect of this step, as any changes to metadata can not only hinder your Early Case Assessment process but in some cases can even lead to sanctions from the court on counts of spoliation! If your client wishes to conduct a self-collection the responsibility to negate data spoliation is theirs. You can find further information on data collection here!
Altlaw has a secure file transfer system that allows you to drag and drop your data into the transfer tool. This step is only necessary if the client is self-collecting any data that needs to be securely transferred to the hosting platform upon which the review is conducted. A note should be made here that if you are using outside tools not available on your hosting platform, e.g. for redaction purposes, transferring files between platforms should be as secure as possible. For more information on a hosting platform that has all the necessary tools built in see our blog post on the Relativity Platform
This is the process of getting your data into the hosting platform and streamlining it. Here all file metadata is extracted, duplicate data is identified, and your data is indexed (this makes it searchable). Your data is also checked against lists of common system files, program files, and non-user generated data files that are extremely unlikely to prove relevant in your case. If these files are identified within your data they are removed. This process is called DeNISTing.
Early Case Assessment:
This is where the fun really begins! The aim of this step is to reduce the number of documents passed through to review by only advancing those documents most likely to be relevant. This allows for the review to be as efficient as possible whilst also minimising the cost as the review is most commonly the biggest cost driver of an eDiscovery project. In order to determine which documents are most likely to be relevant, there are several tools that can be used, for example, Keyword Searching, Concept Clustering, Near-Duplicate Identification and Email Threading. At Altlaw, an experienced project manager will guide you through every step of this process allowing you to benefit from their support and expertise. They will also ensure a clear audit trail of activities is maintained. Interested in learning more about what tools are available to you in your Early Case Assessment? Check out our free Analytics tools eBook!
Document Review and Exchange:
This is the most time consuming and labour-intensive part of the eDiscovery project. It is at this point that your team of reviewers looks over each of your documents to determine the document’s relevance, privilege, and any issue coding. If there is only a small number of documents to be reviewed, a standard manual review is often quicker, easier and cheaper. However, if there is a substantial number of documents to be reviewed, we would suggest the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve efficiency and reduce the man-hours required to complete the review. You can read more about the use of Active Learning in eDiscovery here!
Once you have completed your review it is time to produce your documents. This (most commonly) involves presenting all documents deemed relevant from your review to the opposing counsel and similarly receiving all their relevant documents. Documents can be produced either electronically or as hardcopy, physical documents.
After review and production, the eDiscovery portion of your case is coming to an end and as such there are two routes you can take. You can either have all your documents deleted from the hosting platform, ensuring they cannot be accessed there again, or your documents can be archived. This second option allows you to return to the documents at a later date should you wish/should the case require it.
And there you have it, the six steps of the eDiscovery Process! Of course, in some cases, there may be additional steps required before completion, for example, more complex cases may require secondary reviews or separate relevance and privilege reviews etc. However, irrespective of how complex the case may be, and how many additional steps it may require, these steps are more often than not going to line up with the six set out above. Familiarising yourself with these will ensure you are well prepared and give you a real advantage when tackling projects of your own.
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