It is difficult to shut our individual “professional world” out from technology as it continues to play an ever increasing role in helping us manage our day to day activities and accomplish tasks that need to be done. This will range from the obvious of your cellular phone to Blackberry to the Delonghi for your morning expresso. If your coffee is too strong one morning, you can adjust for tomorrow, but we are not afforded that luxury when processing ESI. The reality is, technology continues to evolve, manufacturers / developers are listening to market needs and in many cases developing products or tools that maintain their relevance because they meet your needs or at least somebody is telling you it will. Although I don’t have a Delonghi ‘consultant’ knocking at my door, you will in the world of eDiscovery. As new tools and methodologies address the ever changing technology landscape of the business world we live in, we are constantly being bombarded with upgrades, new technologies, added expenses, and decisions to make regarding all of these.
The obvious challenge with eDiscovery and the tools and approaches we use to address the needs for identifying, preserving, collecting, processing, reviewing, and producing ESI is that every case might be different or at least some distinct nuances. The differences may be the hardware, software, data formats, amongst many other variables. Although there may be a lot of ‘Microsoft bashing’ that goes on from Mac ‘fans’ or others who are the defenders from perceived monopolies there are benefits to be had from the ‘mainstream’. Having some commonalities in the technology world of email communications and business applications allows for the development and improvements of eDiscovery tools that can build upon previous releases, research and development. However, eDiscovery does not allow us to only focus on the mainstream we need to address all curve balls that technology may offer – what I refer to as the ‘fringe’. And this is where some of the real challenges of eDiscovery come in to play – there is no eDiscovery in a box solution.
With litigation support tools, we might invest in one technology to assist with managing our evidence whether it is documents, transcripts, or work product developed based upon the evidence. And invariably, we will complain about the lack of features or how the program is not as intuitive, or wishing it could do x, y and z. If you and your staff have been properly trained, you will leverage some of the benefits of efficiencies and effectiveness of evidence management tools through different stages of the litigation process. But if the ESI was handled properly from the beginning, you issues are not with the integrity of the evidence but how to review, analyze and understand the evidence.
eDiscovery tools are a bit different and some confusion starts to arise as these tools are also now being used during the review stages and in some cases even production. It is important to remember eDiscovery tools must be able to effectively manage ESI (ie track sources, deduplication, reporting), extract metadata, and export information in a variety of useable formats. The fundamental importance when working with eDiscovery tools is that the integrity of the data has to be maintained and a clear audit trail exists throughout the process. If you are using only ONE eDiscovery tool, then perhaps you are the ‘tool’.