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The six-step eDiscovery process, explained

| Written by Altlaw

The eDiscovery process is a series of steps to identify, collect and produce electronic information for legal cases and regulatory compliance. 

Mastering the eDiscovery process can help legal professionals build cases from mass electronic data efficiently, saving time and money.

Throughout this blog post, we’ll explore the six-step eDiscovery process in detail so you can understand the importance of each stage.


  1. Data collection
  2. Data transfer
  3. Data processing
  4. Early case assessment (ECA)
  5. Document review and exchange
  6. Case termination

1. Data collection                                                               

In the first step of the eDiscovery process, forensic data collection methods are used to compile all the necessary data without altering the original file metadata. It’s vital not to modify the metadata during collection as this can cause the evidence’s validity to be questioned.

Any changes to the metadata could hinder your Early Case Assessment (ECA) process or, in some cases, lead to sanctions from the court on counts of spoliation. If your client wishes to conduct self-collection, the responsibility to avoid data spoliation is theirs.

One famous instance of data spoliation in a high-profile case was the Wagatha Christie case between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, which came to fruition in 2019. We explored the data spoliation that occurred throughout the events of the case in our blog post here.


2. Data transfer

Once you’ve collected your data, you must transfer it to a secure environment for further analysis and processing.

This step moves data from its original source to a centralised repository or designated eDiscovery platform.

Ensuring the security and integrity of data is crucial here, so maintaining a chain of custody is a key consideration.

Altlaw has a secure file transfer system that allows you to drag and drop data into the transfer tool, but this step is only necessary if your client is self-collecting any data that needs to be securely transferred to the hosting platform. For more information on a hosting platform with all the required tools to make transfer fast and secure, visit our RelativityOne webpage.


3. Data processing

Next, raw data is processed to reduce the volume of information present in the data set.

You must apply a level of care to processing to avoid the loss of relevant information and adhere to legal and regulatory requirements.

In this step, your data is also indexed, making it searchable. Your data is checked against lists of common file systems, program files and non-user-generated files that are unlikely to prove relevant to your case.

If any of the above files are identified within your data, they're removed in DeNISTing.


4. Early case assessment (ECA)

ECA aims to reduce the number of documents passed through for review by only advancing those deemed to be relevant.

By doing so, your review will be far more efficient and you’ll also minimise review costs. Review is typically the biggest cost driver of an eDiscovery project, so this is a vital stage in the overall process.

You can use several tools to determine which documents are most likely relevant. These include keyword searching, concept clustering, near-duplicate identification and email threading.

When working with Altlaw, an experienced project manager will guide you through every step of this process, allowing you to benefit from their support and expertise. If you’re interested in learning about the tools available during ECA, our Luddite’s Guide to Analytics Tools is a great place to start. Click here to start reading.


5. Document review and exchange

The most time-consuming and labour-intensive part of the eDiscovery project is document review and exchange. In this step, your team of reviewers looks over your documents to determine their relevance and privilege, and identify any issue coding. 

If only a few documents are queued for review, a standard, manual review is often faster, easier and cheaper.

However, a substantial number of documents in this stage can cause time and money complications. With the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence, you can improve efficiency and reduce the time spent manually reviewing information.

Once you’ve completed your review, it’s time to produce your documents. This typically involves presenting the relevant documents from your review to the opposing counsel and receiving their relevant documents. Documents can either be produced electronically or in physical form.


6. Case termination

Once the relevant information has been identified, reviewed and exchanged, the eDiscovery process moves towards its conclusion.

As the eDiscovery portion of your case comes to an end, there are two routes you can take.

The first of these routes is to delete all your documents from the hosting platform, ensuring they can’t be accessed again. 

Alternatively, you can archive your documents, allowing you to return to them later, should the case require it.


Learn more with the Altlaw content bundle

Now that you’ve got to grips with the six-step eDiscovery process, why not take your learning one step further?

Over time, we’ve produced several pieces of educational content to help you master the complex world of modern litigation.

By clicking below and registering for our content bundle, you can access all of our locked content, including our eBooks, guides, videos and more. Continue your journey to becoming an eDiscovery aficionado today.