E-Discovery in the Legal Process
Before litigation or a trial, the legal teams of both parties are required to provide the opponent with the information and evidence they plan on introducing in court. This is called discovery and allows both teams to better prepare for the upcoming trial. As technology continues to advance, electronic discovery or e-discovery is becoming increasingly common. E-discovery is any electronic data such as emails, documents, spreadsheets, audio or video files, or computer software that can be used in court.
E-discovery can be complicated. Documents must be searched, flagged, organized, and archived. Some electronic data contains hidden or additional data known as metadata. Most computer users do not understand that even after something is -deleted,- the information is retained in the metadata. Details such as IP addresses, dates, and edits are usually not completely destroyed, especially for the average computer user without technology expertise. The presence of metadata and many confidential details within e-discovery can create ethical and legal concerns. The laws and regulations set forth by the U.S. government are periodically updated as new issues with technology arise. It can be difficult to decipher exactly what information contained within e-discovery is admissible in court. Many legal professionals choose to become certified in e-discovery through an independent institution or organization approved by their particular state. Certification courses offer students the opportunity to become well versed in the field and stay up to date on technology. Some clients prefer their legal counsel to be certified in e-discovery, which gives certified individuals an advantage over their non-certified colleagues.
To help ensure that the e-discovery process runs smoothly, law firms should implement organizational systems for all of their documents. This can help in the future when information needs to be located quickly; if it is properly filed, the process should run smoothly.
Many firms choose to outsource their e-discovery. Since the workflow of e-discovery can vary, outsourcing is usually cost effective because the firm only pays for the immediate work and does not retain fulltime employees for nonexistent work. Most firms are also not able to keep up with the changing technology and software programs for e-discovery and benefit from using specialized services.
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