The concept of the ediscovery process can be distilled into one simple diagram, the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM). Though the practice of ediscovery will vary (certain steps may be repeated, others bypassed), the essential consensus workflow of ediscovery is represented here. The EDRM was developed by Tom Gelbmann and George Socha in 2005 to provide a model for how electronically stored information (ESI) is handled within the legal process.
How the EDRM Works
Information Management – The initial step in ediscovery is to develop a comprehensive top down strategy and series of processes for handling all ESI in order to mitigate risk and manage expenses. Information management strategies should include a detailed mapping of data sources, transmission, storage and disposal. Your ediscovery practice will stem from this architecture. Identification – The first step of managing ESI is to locate all potential sources. Track the scope and volume of each relevant ESI source. Efficient and sensible identification reduces time and cost by eliminating irrelevant data for review. Preservation – The preservation phase is designed to prevent data corruption, alteration or loss. The inability to properly protect ESI may result in costly spoliation sanctions in court. Collection – Collection is the act of gathering all pertinent data to the case. The goal is to collect the ESI in a defensible, documented manner. Processing – Following preservation and collection, the next step is to reduce the volume of data. Typical ways to reduce ESI include filters such as date range, keywords, file extension type and metadata tag IDs. The data can then be converted to standardized forms to facilitate review and analysis. Review – Once processed, ESI is then examined for relevance, with data deemed irrelevant removed from consideration. Analysis – This phase involves counsel examining the content and context of the data. Production – Once the data is reviewed and analyzed, it may need to be transmitted in a variety of formats. This phase involves preparing and delivering the data properly. Presentation – Finally, the relevant ESI will need to be presented to an audience (jury, judge, other lawyers) for a particular goal (validation, support, persuasion). This phase involves preparing and contextualizing the data for the necessary audiences.