Today, the use of eDiscovery, a form of digital investigation, has become common for businesses. During eDiscovery, the team attempts to find evidence in emails, business communications, documents, and other data that is relevant to the case. But why is eDiscovery important? Why don’t companies rely on traditional discovery only?
If you have such doubts in mind, you have come to the right place because, in this article, we will discuss the advantages of eDiscovery to help you understand its importance. We will also discuss the factors you should consider when hiring a vendor for your eDiscovery needs. But first, let’s discuss how eDiscovery works.
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How Does eDiscovery Work?
eDiscovery is a form of investigation, which means it’s a complicated process and can’t be carried out in a single step. The entire process involves several stages and techniques to carry out effectively, and the stages may vary depending on your service provider. The method can also vary depending on the situation, as there is no one-size-fits-all process.
Generally, eDiscovery carried out by most vendors includes nine stages. But in some cases, one or more stages may be excluded or even repeated. Let’s have a look at the nine stages of eDiscovery.
Nine Stages of eDiscovery
1. Information governance (IG)
During the IG stage, the policies, controls, and procedures are described for data collection and management. This stage can help reduce future risks.
Both parties must try to preserve evidence in a legal case. Depending on your business and team size, you may have thousands of files in your database. But what data should you save, and what files should you let go? This is what we decide in the identification phase. The team interviews stakeholders and reviews case facts to determine what data they should preserve for the case.
The important and relevant data that is found during the identification stage is preserved in this stage. The team informs the data owners not to delete or modify it, as it will be required in the later stages and legal proceedings.
In this stage, the team collects the relevant data from different sources. There are many software for collecting data, but the option they choose must follow a defined legal process. The team also has to ensure that the collected data isn’t modified or deleted, as important information, such as file size, creation dates, and audit logs, have to be preserved. The sources for collecting data include mobile devices, emails, and social media conversations.
During the collection stage, the teams must stay careful and follow ethical practices. In some states, like California, attorneys must use ESI consultants to ensure the safe and ethical collection of data.
Generally, the raw collected data isn’t organized, and we can’t present unorganized data to the court. This is where the processing stage shows up. The purpose of this stage is to reduce the amount of data for the team to review and analyze without removing or modifying relevant data. Agencies can also automate this stage using the right software to save time. This stage highly reduces the review time and costs.
In this stage, the team reviews the documents and digital assets. Sometimes, the review is carried out manually; however, agencies usually rely on technology (artificial intelligence) to finish the process quickly.
During this stage, documents subject to client-attorney privilege are identified. The team also removes the data that isn’t relevant to the ongoing investigation. This stage is usually time-consuming and costly but is an important part of the eDiscovery process.
During the analysis stage, the team makes digital assets and documents more organized and suitable to present in court. They also design a presentation layout for the later stages.
After reviewing and analyzing the documents carefully, the team turns them into physical documents. Presentable evidence is produced during this stage.
The evidence the team has produced must be presented at the trial or hearing. This is the final stage of the eDiscovery process.
So, these are the nine eDiscovery stages most companies follow. It’s a complex process, so why do companies rely on it? Why is eDiscovery important to a company? Is it worth the effort? Yes, it is, and there is a reason why businesses hire vendors for their eDiscovery needs. In the following section, we will discuss its benefits to help you understand the eDiscovery importance.
Why Is eDiscovery Important: Key Advantages
1. We live in a world of the internet
In today’s world, most important business communications are carried out online. Also, the important private data of most businesses is stored online. So, in case of internal or external disputes, digital evidence plays a crucial role. This is where eDiscovery comes in and helps businesses fight legal cases.
2. Streamlines document verification process
The quantity of information that needs to be managed can be a big issue, as there are a lot of documents one has to go through in legal cases. Even if the documents are only one or two gigabytes in size, there may be hundreds of files that have nothing to do with the case and are irrelevant.
While verifying all files manually is possible, it requires a lot of effort. This is where eDiscovery tools come in and streamline the document verification process. At the end of the process, you will be left only with the documents with relevance to the case.
Fake documents can bring unwanted delays in a legal case. Fortunately, electronic communications aren’t easy to fake, as one can easily check the time and date of the communications. If someone produces a fake copy, the time embedded in the communication will reveal the truth, and the other party won’t suffer unnecessarily.
4. Modifications are documented
When we talk about physical documents, one can easily make modifications without the other party knowing. Even if such unethical acts get caught later on, they will cause unnecessary delays, which is the last thing any business wants.
Well, things are different when we talk about electronic documents. If one party modifies or deletes a document or communication, the other party will also get to know about it. This way, the communication will be fair and transparent for both parties.
Cyber security is a concern for agencies, as a cyber attack can compromise the authenticity of communications and documents. However, the vendors who use modern technology have software in place to prevent such problems.
5. Data is safe
Imagine losing the physical documents you gathered after days of hard work! Such an issue can definitely push you two steps back and give an unwanted advantage to the other party. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with electronic documents, and people commonly say, “Once you put something online, it stays online forever”. It’s true to an extent, which is an advantage.
If you accidentally delete communications or the other party does that in an unethical manner, its traces will still be there. With the help of an expert, these traces can be brought together to produce enough evidence for legal proceedings.
6. Strategic planning
When we talk about traditional discovery, the biggest challenge is deciding where to start. But in the case of eDiscovery, everything is sorted, and strategic planning is carried out. Agencies follow the different stages of eDiscovery, as we mentioned above, and they always know what needs to be done next. Since the system is streamlined, the chances of errors are reduced, and the process goes smoothly and efficiently.
7. Access everything remotely
To collect and verify physical documents, one has to visit the location and do everything manually. But in the case of eDiscovery tools, one can access everything remotely without having to visit the location, which is an added benefit. It saves time, effort, and cost.
8. Faster processing
eDiscovery can help you save time, as it ensures faster processing. Communications can be carried out electronically, and there is no need to send hard copies back and forth.
It also helps you save the time you would otherwise spend on printing and collecting documents. So, if you ever need data for legal proceedings, eDiscovery can help you avoid unwanted delays, which is a much bigger benefit than you realize.
9. Privacy protection
Protecting private, confidential, and sensitive information is very important, and eDiscovery tools can help achieve this goal. Hiding such information visually isn’t enough in the case of electronic documents, as the other party can use many tools to read it.
eDiscovery tools protect sensitive data beyond the purely visual aspect and ensure that the firm complies with privacy laws.
So, these are the benefits of eDiscovery. Now that you know how important is eDiscovery, you must be interested in hiring a vendor to meet your needs. But it’s important to choose the right service provider, as the wrong vendor can do more harm than good.
So, how to choose the perfect vendor for your eDiscovery needs? In the following section, we will discuss the important factors you should consider while making a decision.
How to Choose the Right eDiscovery Service Provider?
1. Access your requirements
Before looking for service providers and comparing different options, you should invest some time and hold a meeting with your team to access your requirements. You will be able to find the most suitable vendor only if you know what you need. So, ask the following questions to your team before starting the research part:
- What type of data do we primarily have to deal with (emails, social media posts, audio content, etc.)?
- What challenges/issues do we need the service provider to address (speed, data security, etc.)?
- For how long are we looking to partner with the vendor?
- What data volume do we need the vendor to manage?
- What is our budget?
2. Experience and expertise
When you hire a service provider, you want them to be an extension of your team and not a liability. So, it’s important to choose a vendor who has experience in the field and is capable of doing more than your existing team.
They should be aware of the latest trends and know what modern challenges are. They should also know how to do the job in time with minimal cost and effort.
Hiring a vendor who has worked with companies similar to yours can be a good idea, as they will bring a wealth of experience to the table. You can always ask for a reference before signing a contract with them and get an idea about how they carry out given tasks.
Putting in some effort and finding a flaw before hiring them is better than dealing with missed deadlines later on.
3. Technology and scalability
Technology evolves with time, and companies also need to evolve to keep up with the pace. New software and modern technology make jobs much easier than before, and the vendor you choose should also use the latest technology to save you time, money, and effort. They make the process more efficient while reducing room for error.
Your vendor should also have access to all the software and technology to meet each of your requirements. Otherwise, you may have to work with multiple vendors simultaneously, which won’t be a cost-effective option. So, the best option is to get a demo of the software/technology driver they use before signing the contract.
If your business is growing at a rapid pace, the volume of your data will also grow quickly. So, scalability should also be on your priority list. The vendor you choose should be able to scale to meet your needs when required.
No vendor will serve you for free, so it’s important to consider your budget when making a decision. There is no point in overspending, but if a vendor offers value for money, going a little over your budget won’t hurt you in the long run.
5. Professionalism and communication
What if the agency doesn’t respond to your queries when you need them the most? It would be frustrating, right? To avoid such issues, make sure to work with a company that understands the value of professionalism and is easy to get in touch with.
The team should also keep you in touch with the project. Moreover, they should be able to meet tight deadlines when needed. A delay from their end can prove costly in crunch moments.
6. Request a trial run
You should never shy away from requesting a trial run. Many vendors offer a trial run before signing a long-term deal with a company, and you shouldn’t miss out on such offers.
A trial run will help you analyze how the company operates. It will also help you determine whether you need a service provider or you are better off with your in-house team.
You can also request trial runs from different vendors and compare their work ethics and expertise. It will help you pick the most-suited option. However, if the vendor you like the most based on your research doesn’t offer a trial run, you can choose them too.
So, these are the things you should consider when hiring a vendor for your eDiscovery needs. The right vendor will keep you covered in every situation, and you will have a hassle-free experience.
So why is eDiscovery important? If you have read this article carefully, you will know the answer, as we have discussed its benefits in detail. We also discussed the elements of the eDiscovery process to help you get a better idea of how everything works.
eDiscovery is important for every business, so you should hire a service provider and set up a solid strategy in advance for the best results.
eDiscovery, for sure, is important for your business, but it’s equally important to choose the right vendor. So, you should consider the factors we have discussed above to avoid issues in crunch moments.