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Understanding the 9 Phases of the EDRM

The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) was developed to improve standards and set guidelines in the eDiscovery process. Created by George Socha and Tom Gelbmann, the  EDRM illustrates the sequence of eDiscovery activities relating to a specific legal matter.

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The EDRM is composed of nine phases, which will be outlined in more detail throughout this article. It is important to fully understand all the stages of the model to ensure your organization is able to carefully follow each step. 

With ESI requests on the up, it is especially important for organizations to have a good comprehension of the EDRM.

Phase 1: Information Governance

Information Governance relates to the strategy of managing information within a company. It’s focused on facilitating a high standard of information management, and supporting organizations with the tools they need to achieve that standard. This stage is concerned with more than simple record management – it also encompasses information security, compliance, electronic discovery, risk management, big data, business intelligence data storage, and privacy.

With the increasing volume of data (especially of digital data) generated by businesses over recent years, companies needed to adopt a clear framework to handle their data. With the average eDiscovery case containing 130GB of data, 10-15 custodians, and 6.5 million individual pages, it’s not hard to see why it was necessary to create a specific model, the Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM), to streamline the eDiscovery process. The initial Information Governance of the model asks companies to indicate the systems their data lives in. 

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for this stage of EDRM? 

Here are some actions that have been proven to be effective: 

  • Monitor data sources to ensure that no crucial piece of data is lost
  • Securely archive data
  • Create a detailed data inventory (data map) 
  • Implement clear retention policies that outline how long data is held
  • Create secure and reliable disposal practices 
  • Put a solution in place that overwrites retention policies and allows data to be placed on legal hold 

It is crucial that businesses pay attention to Information Governance, which is the first, foundational stage of the EDRM. This way, companies will be better prepared and in a much more advantageous position to meet and respond to eDiscovery requirements at later stages.

Phase 2: Identification 

As the name suggests, the Identification stage of the EDRM identifies the key pieces of ESI (or key systems containing the ESI) which might be potentially relevant to the legal case in question.

Identification is an important stage within the context of eDiscovery, as it assists you to find specific ESI that could prove critical to a case. As organizations are legally obligated to provide any ESI requested, having the means to easily and accurately identify it is absolutely crucial. 

This second stage of the EDRM usually occurs with the issuance of a legal hold.

What can organizations do to ensure that they are well prepared for the Identification stage of EDRM? 

The first step to success is ensuring that your organization pays attention and complies with Stage 1 - Information Governance. Your data needs to be well organized and managed if you’re going to be able to search for and locate it effectively.

By working with a solution such as Pagefreezer, this stage is made simple, with carefully stored, complete records of all data automatically collected. Pagefreezer enables easier eDiscovery by providing collaborative access, a public portal, and advanced search capabilities, making it easy for multiple teams to gain appropriate access and identify the data they’ll require.

Businesses often focus on the comprehensive collection of data, but the easy identification of these records is just as important. You must be able to produce the exact information that is requested, and hiring external experts to help locate highly specific elements of ESI can be expensive. Investment in solutions such as Pagefreezer help to ensure you comply with the Identification of information in a cost-effective and highly efficient manner.

Phase 3: Preservation

In eDiscovery, the validity of data used as evidence must be completely watertight. As part of the Preservation stage, companies need to be able to show a robust chain of custody: a chronological account of the handling of evidence.

Chain of custody helps determine authenticity and the validity of your wider eDiscovery processes. Preserving the chain of custody by following the correct procedures helps organizations to preserve and guarantee the quality of evidence presented to the courts. This third stage of Preservation is crucial to businesses as, if companies fail to comply, it can result in spoliation of the resultant digital evidence. 

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for the Preservation stage of EDRM?

Companies must proactively protect data from spoliation and also have a robust legal hold strategy in place. The best way to ensure this is to ensure a proactive and rapid response to legal hold requests, and a thorough ESI preservation process.

Pagefreezer supports both the collection and preservation of ESI, with an intuitive dashboard that enables ESI to be easily located, formatted, and presented. Your archived data can be securely accessed by external parties via a public portal or public-access link, and all ESI is archived with metadata required to render it admissible evidence in a court of law.

When it comes to this Preservation phase, companies need to have plans in place before they run into issues. Proactively plan for data preservation, so you can ensure your ESI is properly protected and any potential issues regarding the need to prove chain of custody are addressed in advance.

Phase 4: Collection 

After setting guidelines, identifying and preserving your information, the next step of the EDRM is Collection. After issuing a legal hold, legal teams can get to work collecting the information needed as evidence throughout the legal process.

The Collection phase of the EDRM sees data safely collected for preservation. You need to gather your data in a way that maintains its authenticity and integrity. It may also be necessary to create copies of files so that data can be used in the following stages of the EDRM. In the context of eDiscovery, data intended to be used as evidence will be judged admissible or inadmissible – there is no in-between.

An increasing challenge of this stage of the EDRM is the need to correctly collect data from the increasing number and types of data sources, such as the unstructured data generated by workplace collaboration tools

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for the Collection stage of the EDRM?

It is helpful to have a clear process established when it comes to the way that your data is collected. Businesses can also save a great deal of time and effort by working with a platform that removes the margin for error when it comes to collecting evidentiary-quality data.

Having a solution such as Pagefreezer helps you export all your data in a manner that preserves all metadata and provides a SHA-256 digital signature. This means it will comply with the rules of collecting digital evidence, and collection is a swift, efficient process.

Phase 5: Processing

The Processing stage refers to the technical step of the eDiscovery processes. It is used to “filter” the data, by converting collected data files into a usable form, deleting irrelevant or repetitive data, and indexing and organizing the data into respective folders.

Processing data is an ongoing activity, as it needs to be done as new information is collected. Many organizations use an eDiscovery platform to assist and simplify this process, such as Exterro, Logikcull and Relativity.  

The Processing phase is important –  data must be prepared and processed correctly, so it can be used as evidence in the legal case that it is linked to.

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for the Processing stage of EDRM?

Companies can help to ensure a successful processing stage by having good underlying data governance from the outset. They need to make sure files are stored logically and effectively to minimize the need for extensive preparatory work ahead of attorney review.

Pagefreezer can help by providing a system that allows data exports to be ingested by the latest eDiscovery platform, speeding up processing and streamlining legal workflows. Businesses can speed up their obligation to provide evidence and avoid fines for running over by working with solutions like Pagefreezer, which export efficiently to a variety of eDiscovery tools.

Phase 6: Review 

Once all ESI is collected and processed, it is time for legal teams to review the information, to understand its relevance to the case. The Review stage is one of the most important (and most expensive stages!) of the EDRM process. 

Due to the enormous amount of data, the Review phase represents 80% of litigation cost in the U.S. – a total of $42 billion a year. During Review, the legal teams must revise all the evidence and ascertain exactly how the information presented relates to the case in question. 

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for this stage of EDRM?

Companies need to ensure their data is in the best possible shape. As previously mentioned, this stage is not cheap, so make sure you take the actions to make sure your data is well presented and your sources are uncontested to minimize the amount of work that will need to be done. A clear chain of custody will also help speed up the process.

Pagefreezer provides solutions that allow you to efficiently and compliantly review and export the data for litigation. With Pagefreezer, businesses can enjoy a peace of mind at the Review stage knowing their data has been located, exported and presented in the best possible way. Questions about data quality or the specific origin of data won’t slow down this phase - you’ll have the answers at your fingertips.

Phase 7: Analysis 

The Analysis phase involves evaluating ESI for particular use during a legal matter. More than reviewing the information, the Analysis identifies key patterns, topics, and people involved in the case — and digs into the content and context.

At this stage, the context of the evidence submitted will be examined, so the format and source of the data will all be taken into account. 

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for the Analysis stage of EDRM?

At this stage - not much! If you’ve optimized your process for all the stages up until this point, you’ll be in a great position, having handed over well-organized, carefully documented, and compliantly handled data from a wide variety of sources. 

It is important to remember that even though Analysis represents its own phase, every phase of the EDRM process involves some form of analysis.

Phase 8: Production 

With all relevant ESI identified and incorporated into a legal strategy, it is time to produce the resultant evidence via the agreed form, delivery schedule, and method. This is the point in discovery at which evidence is selected and packaged in such a way so that it can form part of a legal defense or challenge.

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for this stage of EDRM?

If you’ve followed the best practices suggested in steps until this point you should be in a good place. Digital evidence can make or break a case, so it’s really important that the final production is done correctly. There are many cases in which digital evidence was denied in court for not meeting court standards. 

Working with Pagefreezer gives confidence to businesses that the Production stage of the EDRM will be successful and swift, thanks to Pagefreezer’s careful collection and preservation of ESI.

Phase 9: Presentation 

Finally, we have the Presentation stage of the EDRM. This is the stage that involves presenting the ESI during a legal case. Presentation aims to persuade the court of your position or argument, based on the careful preparation and handling of your evidence. 

Nowadays, Presentation is mostly done in a digital format. It can also include the creation of videos, tutorials or any other form of presentation that ensures clarity and makes key arguments understandable. 

What can organizations do to ensure that they’re well prepared for the Presentation stage of EDRM?

At this point it's time to sit back and let your legal team do their job - safe in the knowledge that you’ve carefully optimized your own data collection, preservation, and presentation processes.

The Presentation stage will be much easier for your organization if they’ve taken proactive steps at every other stage of the EDRM process to get to this point of success. 

Is Your Business Ready For All Stages Of the EDRM?

The EDRM model is a valuable resource for eDiscovery professionals, and for establishing eDiscovery best practices. While it’s a fairly long and complex process, it is crucial to understand each of the nine phases of the EDRM model to ensure you’re optimizing your internal practices for each and every stage. 

Companies with a good understanding of the EDRM will certainly benefit from better implementation and better practices, such as being litigation ready, saving time and costs, defending themselves more successfully, and avoiding fines for late submission of data, etc.

Pagefreezer is the perfect solution for companies in this regard, as it helps in each and every stage of the EDRM model, ensuring ESI is collected efficiently, effectively, and compliantly - with the positive effect of this waterfalling down each of the following nine phases.

Want to learn more about eDiscovery in modern enterprises? Pagefreezer partnered with the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) to create a report that examines how in-house legal teams are dealing with modern online data sources. We surveyed 211 in-house counsels across 23 industries and 22 countries. The results are fascinating and reveal important quantitative insights into the current maturity level of IG programs, as well as the extent to which legal departments are prepared for the eDiscovery processes involved in potential litigation.

Download the Report

George van Rooyen
George van Rooyen
George van Rooyen is a Content Marketing Specialist at Pagefreezer.

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