Small Case Vs Big Case eDiscovery: There's Such a Difference!

25 October 2020 by Ross ediscovery

Takeaway: With larger eDiscovery cases, you usually need an entire eDiscovery team, to stay on track. But for smaller, internal cases you just need the right software.

There’s a huge difference between simple, in-house eDiscovery and eDiscovery for larger cases.

The larger and more high-profile your case, the more complicated eDiscovery gets. You’ll need to collect massive volumes of data, learn about and follow protocols strictly, and buy expensive software with advanced features. There’s so much involved that you’ll inevitably assemble an eDiscovery team to guide you through the whole process. Seems like a lot of work, right? The good news is that if you’re a smaller company or law firm with small in-house matters, the process is so much simpler. Let’s take a closer look.

1. For larger cases, you’ll need an ESI expert.

The electronically stored information (ESI) you need will be scattered across work and personal computers, email, the Cloud, and so on. And for a large workforce, you can imagine the amount of effort involved. So, you’ll need an ESI expert who knows all the rules and protocols for finding this data. They’ll need to:

  • Know where to look. They’ll have to know about all the latest apps, Cloud storage, social media platforms, and other places ESI can sit. A slip up here and you could overlook valuable data caches.
  • Know how to get the data. They’ll have to guide you in spotting, mapping, preserving, and collecting the data you need. And there’s a lot that goes into this. For example, what kinds of questions should you be asking custodians? And what are some do’s and don’ts when interviewing them?
  • Know the right protocol. Each case, court, and opposing counsel brings a different set of requirements and challenges. So your ESI expert will need a background in law and eDiscovery so that they can help you with case strategy. If they suggest or approve faulty protocols, you’ll pay for it down the line.

But for smaller cases, finding the information isn’t that difficult. You’ll just need to know some ESI basics, and find the right eDiscovery tools.

  • What is ‘electronically stored information’ (ESI)? It’s data you store on your computer – things like documents, pictures, video, audio, emails, etc. Your computer doesn’t store these as ‘text,’ ‘images,’ ‘videos,’ and ‘sounds.’ It stores them as zeroes and ones – i.e., ‘bits.’ And it encodes these bits together into a ‘file’ (with a particular ‘format’) that’s opened by specific software. So, for example, the bits may be encoded with a ‘.docx’ file extension. This tells your computer to open it with Microsoft Word. If the file was encoded with a ‘.pdf’ extension, your computer would use Adobe Acrobat to open it. You’ll usually be working with Microsoft Word files (‘.docx’ extension), PDFs (‘.pdf’ extension), Images (‘.jpeg’ or ‘.gif’ or ‘.bmp’ or ‘.tiff’ extensions), Emails (individual emails have a ‘.eml’ file extension. Email archives usually have a ‘.pst’ or ‘.mbox’ extension). (Learn more about ESI.)
  • eDiscovery tools you’ll need. It’s almost impossible to do eDiscovery without the right software. When looking for software, make sure it has the following features: Optical character recognition (OCR) so you can scan paper documents, Cloud storage so you can access your data from anywhere, advanced searches that find you the evidence you need, secure redaction to censor privileged information, and a variety of production options so you can present your data when needed. (Learn how to choose the right eDiscovery software.)

2. For larger cases, you’ll need a digital forensics expert.

Your ESI expert will often need a digital forensics expert to help get data from unexpected places. This might include video doorbells, smart speakers, gaming platforms, new social media, etc. They’ll decide which data is important based on patterns in the way it’s been used. (Perhaps it was accessed in a novel way, by an unauthorized person, at an unusual time?) They’ll also need to decide if the data should be collected on-site or remotely, and how best to keep it safe and encrypted. If all this isn’t done systematically, you’ll have a hard time defending it later on.

But for smaller cases, the data won’t be this hard to find and collect. You’ll just have to make sure to protect file metadata.

When you create a document on your computer, the application you’re using (e.g., Microsoft Word) records a bunch of information about it. Things like who created it, when they created it, when it was last opened, etc. This ‘data about data’ (i.e., metadata) is a digital footprint which tracks the history of the document. And it gives you valuable information that you probably didn’t know exists. Unfortunately, metadata is fragile and can be destroyed quite easily. So, when collecting files, just make sure your eDiscovery software doesn’t change their metadata.

3. For larger cases, you’ll need a review platform expert.

With massive amounts of data, you’ll need to use advanced tools like technology-assisted review (TAR). So you’ll need someone who can help you choose and run more advanced eDiscovery software, make sense of its analytics, and oversee your review team. They too will need to understand eDiscovery protocols so that the data is handled properly.

But for smaller cases, you’ll be using simple eDiscovery software with intuitive features.

You won’t need to do anything advanced with your software, so you won’t need an expert to help you run it. It’ll be intuitive, building on skills you’ve already learned. You’ll:

  • Log in as you do with email. You’ll just go to your eDiscovery provider’s website, enter your username and password, and start using the software. It’s the same as using email.
  • Move files around like in Windows. You’ll drag-and-drop them into your browser. The software handles all the complicated processing that follows.
  • Search as you do with Google. You’ll enter keywords into a search bar and the software will pull up files with that keyword.
  • Access files like you do with Dropbox. Since your files are in the Cloud, you can get at them from anywhere – you’ll only need a laptop and an internet connection. This is perfect for working remotely.

4. For larger cases, you’ll need a project manager.

With so much going on, you’ll need someone to coordinate all the moving parts. This project manager will need to understand all the steps of eDiscovery, keep costs under control, and troubleshoot problems as they come up.

For smaller cases, your team will manage themselves. You’ll just need to give them the right tools.

The right eDiscovery software can help your team work better together. You’ll get:

  • Searches that you can save. eDiscovery searches need to be broad enough to catch all the files you’re looking for. But not so broad that they catch a lot of irrelevant files too. So, you’ll set up a search, test it on a small sample of your data, see the results, tweak the search, and repeat. This takes a lot of time and effort. So, the best eDiscovery applications let you save any search that your team builds. That way, team members can use or reuse these searches when needed. Learn more about searching your eDiscovery case.
  • ‘Tags’ to help you review files. Think of a tag as a virtual post-it. With paper documents, you stick post-its to key pages so that you can easily find them again. With electronic documents, you use tags. They’ll pull up related files and content with a single click. And it makes it easy to ‘produce’ these files too. Good eDiscovery software lets you tag files quickly. And these tags help your team members work on the case with you. (Learn more about tags.)
  • Notes, annotations and comments to help discussions. You’ll be able to add context to files by tacking on notes to documents and annotations to paragraphs in those documents. You’ll also be able to leave comments with more informal thoughts and ideas for your team to weigh in on. That way, you’ll be able to start a discussion without having to switch to email and flood your inbox.
  • The choice of who does what. You may not want everyone on your team to have full control of a case. So, the best eDiscovery applications let you allot different levels of access for each user. For example, (1) Reviewers can review data. (2) Users can review data as well as upload it and modify tags, productions, and reports. (3) Admins can, in addition, remove, and change roles for users, while (4) Owners can do all of the above, plus delete cases.

eDiscovery gets so much simpler when you have the right software. Want proof? Try GoldFynch.

It’s an eDiscovery service that’s perfect for smaller, in-house cases.

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up front how much you’ll be paying. It takes just a few clicks to move from one plan to another, and billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch and you’re good to go. Plus, it’s designed, developed, and run by the same team. So you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • It keeps you flexible. To build a defensible case, you need to be able to add and delete files freely. Many applications charge to process each file you upload, so you’ll be reluctant to let your case organically shrink and grow. And this stifles you. With GoldFynch, you get unlimited processing for free. So, on a 3 GB plan, you could add and delete 5 GB of data at no extra cost – as long as there’s only 3 GB in your case at any point. And if you do cross 3 GB, your plan upgrades automatically and you’ll be charged for only the time spent on each plan. That’s the beauty of prorated pricing.
  • Access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.