It’s no secret that technology is continually influencing the world we live in. From how we shop to what we eat to how we communicate with the world, it seems everything is driven by technology these days.
Technology is changing the way law firms do business too. One of the fastest growing areas of law is not bankruptcy filings, malpractice or arbitration, it’s electronic discovery. What is electronic discovery? Electronic discovery or e-discovery is a method of discovery (the pre-trial process where both sides can obtain information through various means) where information is sought in electronic formats.
Electronic information is considered different from traditional paper information for several factors, namely its volume, persistence, transience and its intangible form. As such, this type of information is subject to rules of civil procedure and is reviewed for relevance and privilege before it’s turned over.
When it comes to electronic discovery, some of the general types of electronic data include:
- Electronic messages
According to the Electronic Discovery Reference Model, there are generally, six steps to the e-discovery process:
- Identification: The requested information is identified for review.
- Preservation: Requested data is identified as potentially being relevant to a case and is placed in a legal hold, ensuing that is isn’t destroyed.
- Collection: This step begins once requested documents have been preserved and involves transferring data to legal counsel.
- Processing: Essentially this step involves pulling relevant data from its source and putting into formats that are more accessible such as PDFs or spreadsheets.
- Review: Documents are looked over for privilege and for responsiveness to electronic discovery requests.
- Production: In the final step, relevant data is turned over to opposing counsel, based on pre-determined stipulations.
So what does the growth of electronic discovery mean for average legal team? It means that to keep up with the times, it’s best to have an electronic discovery lawyer or at least a position at a law firm that specializes in electronic discovery.
How can a law firm benefit by doing this? Here are four benefits a law firm can gain from boning up on knowledge of electronic discovery:
- Mastering technology: Any business worth its salt these days knows that to survive, it has to use technology. The same is true of law firms. That being said, the average lawyer isn’t necessarily expected to be a jack-of-all-trades and he or she focuses on specialization. Electronic discovery is no different. Why is that. There are three reasons for specialization:
- More and more discovery decisions
- More technology that allows for collection, processing and review of data
- Increased corporate efforts to manage responses to compliance
By investing time and energy to learn the ins-and-outs, lawyers can become specialists in their area and help their firms avoid falling behind with technology advancements.
- Helping clients: The new rules associated with electronic discovery have had some lasting impacts on big companies. As such, many of them have had to establish rules for managing e-discovery and for retaining records. This opens the door for many law firms to help these companies. They can help companies by explaining issues concerning technology and legal matters and helping them develop plans to respond to discovery and for establishing discovery policies.
- Making things easier and minimizing risk: Electronic discovery is an area where best practices are still be established and as of now, there are lots of ways to get reach a resolution.
That being said, when it comes to e-discovery, no one wants to make a mistake. That means no bad press, no sanctions and no inferences. This is where law firms can step in and tailor approaches and advice to clients and help them out. By helping companies manage their EDD response and minimize their risk while also giving them a fast turnaround.
- Handling problems: Dealing with EDD requires time and resources. Fortunately, law firms can have both. In fact law firms can assemble entire teams that specialize in EDD and can learn all the skills and technology that go with it.
Experts have estimated that about 1% of civil cases reach federal court. If any of those cases involves electronic discovery, your law firm can become an invaluable source of advise and companies seek legal representation.