Ediscovery: How it Works, and Why It Will Help Keep Your Small Law Firm Relevant

26 May 2017 by Anith Mathai ediscovery,

Don’t know about ediscovery? It’s the next big thing for small law firms. Here’s how it works and why you need it.

Ediscovery is the next big thing for small law firms

If you’re in a small or solo law firm, you know that your clients rely on you to keep pace with the changing legal market. Ediscovery (also ‘edisclosure’) is one of these pivotal changes.  Since most of the information we deal with is digital, ‘paper’ discovery just won’t cut it anymore. In fact, even when they use paper, most law firms end up scanning it—which makes it digital.  

So, how do you deal with all this electronic information that is rapidly changing the nature of traditional discovery?

The good news is that once you have the right tools, ediscovery isn’t that complicated.

Ediscovery (i.e. electronic discovery, or e-discovery) is the process of collecting, reviewing, and ‘producing’ electronic documents

When your client hands you electronically stored information (ESI) such as PDFs and Microsoft Word documents, you need to find someplace to ‘put’ all these files and find a way to review them so you can prepare for your case. Then you’ll need to ‘produce’ these documents for opposing counsel.

That’s all ediscovery is. And it’s made even easier when you have the right tools.  

Let’s explore the process step by step.

The first step is to collect all the relevant data for your case

You’ll be dealing with electronically stored information (ESI), which is an umbrella term for electronic documents (e.g. spreadsheets and word processing documents), databases, mobile phone messages, voice recordings, and instant messages.

Most of the time you will be able to just ask your clients to give you the data. They will know where to find it, and how much of it there is to find. For more complicated projects, you can always hire an IT consultant or an ediscovery expert.

Next, you’ll need to upload all the data to a central location

Now that you have a big pile of data, what do you do? How do you deal with the hundreds (or thousands) of PDFs, Word documents, scanned images, and emails?

One option is to open each file using the relevant application. So, you’d open the PDFs individually in Adobe Acrobat and use its built-in search feature to find the information you need. Similarly, you’d open the Word documents in MS Office, emails in your inbox, and .eml, .pst, and .mbox files using email clients like Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird.

Can you see the pattern here? You’re opening each item individually. And since you have to search through hundreds (or thousands) of them, that’s a lot of time and energy.

Also, since you’re reviewing them one at a time, it’s much harder to compare information across multiple documents and file types. So, you miss out on the larger picture.

That’s where good ediscovery software comes in. It’s not just convenient, it’s essential. It helps you deal with data in a way that other apps can’t. You just dump (i.e. upload) all your data onto the software, and it becomes ‘searchable.’ So you can find keywords across all your documents without opening each one manually in its specific app.

Good ediscovery software makes uploading simple

Uploading can be as easy as dragging-and-dropping your files into the software.

Superior ediscovery apps take care of everything for you and make the process intuitive.

A platform like GoldFynch, for example, has other essential features. While processing your data, it detects and alerts you of duplicate files, deals with password-protected files, and uses OCR ( i.e. converting scanned documents into machine-readable text that’s searchable) and extracts the names of people, places, organizations, and dates.  

You’re now ready to review your data

Once your data is processed, you can review it. You can search for keywords (names, places, dates, etc.), tag files, redact information, mark documents as privileged, and take notes. The better your ediscovery software, the easier all this becomes.

Finally, you ‘produce’ your data for opposing counsel to review

If you’ve produced files before, you’ll recognize the steps.  

First, you’ll need to make sure you can keep track of all the documents. You do this by attaching a Bates stamp (i.e. a special number) to the bottom of each page. The stamp will help you identify and refer to specific documents.  

Second, you’ll need to choose the format in which to produce your files. You’ll be given options, but most of the time files are produced as PDFs.

Ediscovery software like GoldFynch makes all this effortless, with its easy-to-use production wizard.

The best ediscovery software doesn’t just simplify your life. . .

It also offers you essential tools that other apps don’t. Tools that make you so much more efficient. Plus, when software like GoldFynch is cloud-based—which means it stores your files on a trusted vendor’s secure, high-performance servers—you don’t need to worry about setting up and maintaining any hardware and software. And it’s just $27 a month. A small price for making your job that much easier, right?

Intrigued? To find out more about Goldfynch:

For more about eDiscovery for small law firms, check out these articles.