The Electronic Discovery Reference Model is composed of nine stages, each describing a different part of the overall eDiscovery process. The model is identified by a multi-color graphic which, although flat, is intended to denote a dynamic process that iterates through each relevant stage depending upon the particular disposition of the legal matter at the time.
The EDRM has nine phases or areas of information:
This is the first stage of the EDRM and is meant to denote the native systems in which data lives. That may include the email server, a chat/messaging system, business databases, electronic documents and other forms of digital information.
This is the second stage of the EDRM and indicates the process by which ESI or systems that contain ESI are recognized as potentially relevant to the matter at hand, say a lawsuit or regulatory inquiry. The Identification phase of the eDiscovery process typically goes hand-in-hand with the issuance of a legal hold order and is the precursor for any data preservation and gathering efforts.
As per the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and all U.S. State laws, preserving information is a required step for litigation and ensures fairness in the legal process so that all parties have access to any relevant information for the matter at hand. In the EDRM, the preservation phase sits equally in the hierarchy to the Collection stage because the activities related to each many times intersect.
The EDRM contemplates a phase where data is gathered in order to maintain a preserved set and/or to create copies that may be used for subsequent phases of the EDRM such as to prepare the data for search and production. When data is gathered as part of the Collection phase of the EDRM, it should be performed in a way that maintains its evidentiary integrity with proof that the transfer and copy process itself did not alter or corrupt the data itself. Typically, experts are engaged using specialized tools to ensure the ESI Collection phase is done right. If ESI is not collected in a forensically sound manner with all content and metadata intact and unchanged, any subsequent data analysis may be cast into doubt.
ESI Processing is a required technical step in the overall eDiscovery process and is used to catalog and index the ESI gathered in previous EDRM phases. Processing is a sophisticated set of tasks that are performed against each discrete file (e.g., processing ever email item in a mailbox or all of the rows and hidden data in a spreadsheet) and requires skill, specialized software and a strong QC process. Processing is an ongoing activity against incoming data to the process and may include several levels. For example, basic processing to catalog and index data is one level while processing for predictive analysis or concept analysis as well as identifying similar documents that are not exact hash matches are another level while processing for advanced machine learning and predictive technologies may be another level. For this reason, the EDRM places Processing, Analytics and Review on the same hierarchical place. Typically, parties and law firms will engage an eDiscovery vendor to assist with processing data for legal purposes.
The document review phase of the EDRM is where the lawyers start to do the heavy lifting. Working in tandem with eDiscovery hosting platforms such as Relativity and Reveal, attorneys are able to view, tag, manage, download, and notate every document and other pieces 0f digital evidence related to the case.
The EDRM contemplates that data will be processed for analytics and for attorneys and others to leverage analytic technologies to help with a more effective document review.
Once documents have been reviewed for relevance and privilege, they are packaged in a manner commensurate with standards set by the relevant legal jurisdiction or by consent of the parties and delivered or produced to the opposing party. In the U.S. legal system, all relevant documents must be preserved such that they may be produced if the legal matter reaches this stage. Parties negotiate production protocols which are guidelines agreed to by each side in a dispute as to the scope, form and manner of turning over relevant documents.
This is the stage of the ESI lifecycle that involves presenting evidence, such as relevant documents in a legal proceeding whether that is at a deposition, a hearing or at trial. Many times presentation of evidence includes using demonstrations and other forms of ensuring clarity in presenting the evidence. Many times, Trial Consulting Services are employed by parties to assist in the presentation of evidence.