Discovery is one of the most critical elements in any case, whether we’re discussing a criminal court case, civil litigation, a Freedom of Information Act, law suit, or similar situation. Today, electronic discovery, also called e-discovery, eDiscovery, and ediscovery, is playing a larger and larger role. How does electronic discovery differ from conventional discovery?
Perhaps the single most important difference between discovery and electronic discovery is the medium in which the information sought is held. In conventional discovery, that information can be in hardcopy format and other analog formats. However, with electronic discovery, information sought is contained in some type of electronic or digital medium. A few examples of these include the following:
- Video files
- Audio files
- Digital documents
- Digital/electronic presentations
- Social media content
There are quite a few unique challenges when it comes to electronic discovery. One of those is that it requires more complex processes and advanced technologies to extract information from an electronic format. For instance, finding information within a vast electronic database can be much more challenging than thumbing through a hardcopy ledger. There is also the fact that these formats are more dynamic than analog mediums, and that there is usually accompanying information that can enrich the discovery process, such as:
- Date stamps
- Author data
- Recipient data
- File properties
In order to prevent claims of tampering of damage, the electronic discovery process must preserve such metadata as well as the original content.
In terms of complexity, the process of electronic discovery requires significant steps. First, the information must be identified, and all relevant documents placed under legal hold. Then, the data within the documents must be analyzed. However, information not relevant to the case must be removed and then relevant information can be put into a secure digital environment for relevance coding.
Technology plays a central role in all of these processes, including converting to specific file types, such as PDF or TIFF, computer-assisted review programs, predictive coding solutions, and more. Only when all of these steps have been completed can the evidence be used in the litigation in question.
When it comes to electronic discovery, success requires the right combination of human knowledge and technological capabilities. Increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms are able to handle most of the process, freeing human legal experts to focus on areas where they will have the most impact.