The Electronic Discovery Reference Model is a comprehensive approach to digital data for legal purposes. The stages of EDRM are the industry-standard method of navigating the discovery period of cases involving digital files, commonly called eDiscovery. There are nine basic stages, but they represent an overall approach to eDiscovery rather than a rigid step-by-step process. Stages can shuffle in and out of order, and you can expedite many stages with the help of innovative new technology.
- The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) is an industry-standard approach to digital data for legal purposes, particularly during the discovery period of cases involving digital files, commonly called eDiscovery.
- The EDRM has 9 basic stages: Information Governance, Identification, Preservation, Collection, Processing, Review, Analysis, Production and Presentation.
What Are the 9 Stages of EDRM?
Here are the industry-standard nine stages and a brief overview of each.
1. Information Governance
Information governance is the crucial step of evaluating your own data storage and preparing it for the discovery phase. You should also evaluate the digital information setup of the party you're investigating.
In the identification stage, the needs of the specific case come into play. Consider the scope of the case and narrow down the categories of information that are most relevant. Questions to consider in this EDRM stage include:
- What department or departments are involved in the case?
- How does this department organize and store its records?
- How are the records backed up, and how often are they deleted?
- What people are involved in the case, and where is their correspondence stored? Is their correspondence on private electronic devices, or is it all connected to cloud servers?
- How do these people know each other, and do any of them know the person or system that stores their data particularly well?
- What keywords or phrases are especially relevant to the case?
Don't rush this stage of the process. Consider broad answers to each question. Time spent on this step can deliver valuable insight and ammunition to your case down the line.
Once you have identified all of the electronically stored information that may be relevant, you must ensure the ESI will remain intact and secure for collection. In this step, mitigate the risks of parties deleting or tampering with important pre-trial data.
Put together a preservation plan using methods that are legally defensible, time efficient, auditable and responsible. Make sure the ESI stays safe while you are making and executing this plan.
Now, you must gather all of the information you have identified and protected in an efficient and legal manner. This process can be challenging if you don't have extensive experience in EDRM, so outsourced assistance from eDiscovery experts can be the key to this stage.
All of the raw data you collected is unlikely to be relevant to your case, so it's time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Begin to condense the ESI you've gathered into digestible reports and overviews.
Focus on the relevance of each piece of information before review, as that stage is time-consuming and expensive. Make sure no duplicate sets of information make it through to the next stage.
At this stage, attorneys must review each document to evaluate its relevance to the case and its privilege. Reviewing can be an expensive and tedious process. There are many strategies to expedite this stage, ranging from designating a single, quiet review room to the use of AI to organize and flag documents.
Perhaps the best review strategy, however, is to streamline the amount of ESI that passes through this stage. This is where rigor and good organization in the previous stages of EDRM both come into play.
This often begins during the review stage as attorneys read and evaluate the ESI. With additional understanding, attorneys can group the materials by topic to make the information as digestible and easily usable as possible. The outline of the overall legal strategy often forms during this stage as the information brings the case into sharper focus.
This stage is handing over the information in accordance with the law. The hand-off can be either digital or physical. This stage often involves double-checking and ensuring all files are in the correct formats.
The best way to present data to a legal team isn't always the best way to present it in a trial setting. The final step is transforming the most relevant data into graphics and other easy-to-understand mediums for presentations in the courtroom.
Why Is Technology Vital to EDRM?
In the digital age, performing all nine steps thoroughly is a steep uphill battle. The sheer amount of records, correspondence and data to sift through can be overwhelming. To make matters worse, many companies use outdated data management systems that are poorly organized.
Often, cases require 'legacy data,' such as records from former employees, that can be difficult to locate. You need a solid strategy for each stage of the process, but it can be a struggle to create such a strategy without experience in the field. Software and AI can help sort through mountains of raw data, but that's only if you can identify which programs suit your needs.
How Can Cloudficient Help With eDiscovery and the Stages of EDRM?
Expireon software from Cloudficient is designed to meet these needs and be an eDiscovery lifeline. This right-sized eDiscovery software streamlines the first four stages of EDRM, making the later stages exponentially easier. Expireon software includes digital transformation aid to get your own files in order and continues to help down the line, working well with popular legal software such as Relativity, Smarsh and others. To learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your eDiscovery process, contact us.
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