EDRM: The Identification Stage

By Dean Gonsowski  |  Posted 2009-08-04 Print this article Print

EDRM: The Identification stage

Using the EDRM model as an architectural blueprint, legal teams can make informed decisions about which areas of discovery to bring in-house and which ones are better left to outside experts or service providers. For example, it often makes sense to begin with the first stage of discovery: Identification. The decision to bring this function in-house frequently hinges on whether or not the legal team has access to a strong IT department. If so, it's likely the two teams can effectively collaborate on creating a map of all relevant data sources that can be referenced when a new matter arises.

Similarly, if legal and IT can successfully place and enforce a legal "hold" on electronically stored information (ESI), the second stage of e-discovery (that is, Preservation) is an excellent candidate to bring in-house.

On the other hand, certain stages of the e-discovery process which are more likely to result in judicial challenges (such as Collection), are often left to the experts (since interfacing with disparate data sources and using special forensic tools can be challenging). Defensibility and transparency at this early foundational stage of the process is imperative, and it often makes sense to utilize a third party that can testify to the Collection process.

Whereas some stages of the EDRM are not as clear-cut, one of the most obvious areas to consider for insourcing is the Processing/Analysis/Review stage. Universally, this area is considered to be the most expensive part of e-discovery and one of the most critical in determining the outcome of a case. Companies routinely spend in excess of $1,800 per GB simply to process the data-only to learn that a mere 10 to 20 percent of that data ends up as relevant.

Increasing data volumes merely exacerbate the need to consider insourcing this part of the process. Fortunately, making a business case to internalize this function is frequently a slam dunk because the alternative options (that is, outside service providers) are often two to three times more expensive. Additionally, these third-party options don't usually provide early case assessment capabilities, which are critical to optimizing case strategies.

There are specialized Processing/Analysis/Review solutions that can help legal departments to move more quickly through the data, separating the wheat from the chaff in days versus weeks. E-discovery technology can help legal departments quickly understand case facts to make informed case strategy decisions and produce a tighter, more relevant subset of data before passing to outside counsel for review. With outside counsel billing rates exceeding $100 per hour for manual review, the cost savings can quickly add up.

For example, one Fortune 500 company recently reduced their discovery costs by $1.7 million by using a Processing/Analysis/Review solution over a seven-month period. By delivering a tighter data set to outside counsel and minimizing the number of relevant documents, they also lowered attorney review costs by more than $2.9 million, resulting in ROI results of 435 percent.

Dean Gonsowski, Esq., serves as Vice President of E-Discovery Services at Clearwell Systems where he helps enterprise customers deploy best practices as they bring e-discovery in-house. Dean is a licensed attorney in the states of Colorado and California. Dean is a member of The Sedona Conference Working Group on Electronic Document Retention and Production (WG1), the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), and teaches a series of continuing legal education (CLE) courses on various e-discovery topics. He can be reached at dean@clearwellsystems.com.

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