E-discovery software is usually packaged and marketed containing several types of electronic discovery aids, all of them intended to make litigation preparation faster, cheaper, and more manageable. E-discovery services include organizing and extracting relevant data from emails, business spreadsheets, word-processed documents, and information stored on audio and video. E-discovery tools have application to any type of electronically stored information (ESI).
In litigation, discovery is the process by which the opposing parties exchange documents and information relevant to the dispute. E-discovery deals specifically with ESI exchanges between the litigants. With the many new information technologies, e-discovery has become its own field of law. The Federal Rules of Procedure contain specific provisions for conducting e-discovery.
Complex and large-scale litigation is time-consuming and costly. Important e-discovery services involve the organization and retrieval of only relevant information from sometimes millions of document pages. E-discovery litigation support software can remove data that is outside the time frames relevant to the lawsuit. This eliminates duplicate information, saving on what are often tremendous copying costs. E-discovery software can also perform a cost-benefit analysis of preparing and copying all the relevant data contained in discovery.
With any ESI document, including emails, e-discovery software can arrange ESI by type. It can also track document history, including any actions performed on the document, and identify the person who handled, changed, or deleted a document within a specific period. E-discovery services include isolating documents that are handwritten and files that may need to be examined by hand. They are also used to create graphs for use as exhibits at trial. ESI in a foreign language can be isolated and translated.
Services for electronic discovery also include tracking legal “keywords” in ESI and finding recurrent patterns of legally relevant data. These services help the lawyers litigating a case identify important legal issues and develop a strategy for presenting evidence. Services also include programs that can isolate the names of people who were the key custodians of documents during legally relevant periods. This can aid lawyers in preparing a list of witnesses and deciding the order in which they should testify.
E-discovery services are available for internal ESI to protect potentially discoverable documents. They are used to safeguard sensitive legal documents like contracts, board meeting minutes, customer information, and personnel records. This type of service helps avoid storing sensitive information longer than necessary and lessens the risk of loss or exposure of important documents. Internal uses also include tracking compliance with company policies and government regulations to avoid litigation.