The Place of Emails in eDiscovery

Email represents the current golden standard for both external and internal corporate communication. Everything from birthday announcements to important meeting minutes are often shared over email networks within organisations.

eDiscovery is a process that procures, localises, reviews and exchanges electronically stored information (ESI). Since eDiscovery processes cover all the components in a firm’s communication network, there is a large significance placed on emails in eDiscovery.

Relationship between Electronic Discovery and Email

Whenever a case is opened, a request by the legal department or some external party can prompt the need for the company to obtain information on an urgent basis. eDiscovery deadlines are often tight, and companies need to locate, review, and provide relevant data quickly for the legal dispute. In the case of emails, this calls for a complete digital search of all the enterprise’s emails.

Who’s in Involved with Electronic Discovery of Emails?

The first person that would come to mind here is the IT administrator. This role may have different names, but it essentially refers to the individual who has responsibility for running the email archiving solution. They also enable authorised personnel, like the internal legal department or compliance officer, to review the relevant data.

There may also be designated individuals from external parties with a common example being an external auditor. The firm’s management is also often involved in the process.

Challenges of Working with Emails in eDiscovery

Since emails are an unstructured data type, there are quite a few challenges associated with using them in eDiscovery. A few of them are mentioned below:

  1. Time, effort, and resources. Due to their nature, emails require a lot of effort and resources to search. On the other hand, electronic discovery deadlines are often very tight and require fast work. When dealing with high email volumes, you can’t be sure if you’ve always found all the relevant content you need.
  2. Unverified and Unreliable. In eDiscovery, the integrity of data is very important. When compared to some other data types, emails are more vulnerable to being manipulated or damaged. Companies need to ensure that they can attest to the integrity of the emails being used in eDiscovery. Damages or manipulated emails must be eliminated effectively.
  3. Security. As mentioned earlier, emails are more vulnerable to attacks and their security is a problem that needs to be addressed. The company needs to have robust policies and protocols in place to make sure that third parties are not able to gain unauthorized access to emails. Meeting data privacy and security laws, such as the GDPR, is paramount.

Effectively Working with Emails in eDiscovery

The effective organization of mass email volumes for review is usually done through the use of a technology known as “email threading”. These structured analytics tools are optimized to simplify and organise the email review process. They allow you to group several members of an email conversation together via their temporal and logical relationships.

The two main benefits of email threading are:

  • It allows you to code and review related emails together. Therefore, you can minimize errors that you would otherwise making in assessing emails in isolation.
  • It allows you to perform “bulk coding”. This simply means that you can bulk code all items in a conversation at the same time, lowering review costs, time, and errors.

There are also other email archiving and retention technologies that help companies implement a solid eDiscovery process for emails, ensuring that the unstructured nature of the data does not hold you back from producing relevant ESI.

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