Opening the Black Box? A New E-Discovery Processing Primer by Craig Ball

Recently eDiscovery expert Craig Ball published a thorough and thoughtful primer that seeks to describe and demystify many of the “black box” tasks that constitute eDiscovery processing. From bits and bytes to hashing and deduplication, Craig’s new primer is a concise and cogent guide that will benefit anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the important eDiscovery phase of processing.

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Editor’s Note: Craig Ball is a board-certified Texas trial lawyer, certified computer forensic examiner, law professor, and electronic evidence expert. He is also one of the most well-known, well-respected, and well-liked experts in eDiscovery. He has improved the eDiscovery ecosystem’s collective understanding of legal discovery through his dedication to educating professionals from the bench, bar, and business about computer forensics and electronic discovery. Recently Craig published a thorough and thoughtful primer that seeks to describe and demystify many of the “black box” tasks that constitute eDiscovery processing. From bits and bytes to hashing and deduplication, Craig’s Processing in E-Discovery, a Primer is a concise and cogent guide that will benefit anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the important eDiscovery phase of processing.

Processing in E-Discovery, A Primer

An extract from the primer by Craig Ball

Talk to lawyers about e-discovery processing and you’ll likely get a blank stare suggesting no clue what you’re talking about. Why would lawyers want anything to do with something so disagreeably technical? Indeed, processing is technical and strikes attorneys as something they need not know. That’s lamentable because processing is a stage of e-discovery where things can go terribly awry in terms of cost and outcome. Lawyers who understand the fundamentals of ESI processing are better situated to avoid costly mistakes and resolve them when they happen. This paper looks closely at ESI processing and seeks to unravel its mysteries.

Processing is the “black box” between preservation/collection and review/analysis. Though the iconic Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) positions Processing, Review and Analysis as parallel paths to Production, processing is an essential prerequisite—“the only road”—to Review, Analysis and Production. Any way you approach e-discovery at scale, you must process ESI before you can review or analyze it.

There are hundreds—perhaps thousands—of articles delving into the stages of e-discovery that flank processing in the EDRM. These are the stages where lawyers have had a job to do. But lawyers tend to cede processing decisions to technicians. When it comes to processing, lawyer competency and ken is practically non-existent, little more than “stuff goes in, stuff comes out.”


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A Primer on Processing and A Milestone

An extract from the introductory blog post on the primer by Craig Ball

The research for the paper confirmed what I’d long suspected about our industry. Despite winsome wrappers, all the leading e-discovery tools are built on a handful of open source and commercial codebases, particularly for the crucial tasks of file identification and text extraction. Nothing evil in that, but it does make you think about cybersecurity and pricing. In the process of delving deeply into processing, I gained greater respect for the software architects, developers, and coders who make it all work. It’s complicated, and there are countless ways to run off the rails. That the tools work as well as they do is an improbable achievement. Still, there are ingrained perils you need to know, and tradeoffs to be weighed.

Read the complete introductory blog post for Processing in E-Discovery, A Primer

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

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ComplexDiscovery is an online publication that highlights cyber, data and legal discovery insight and intelligence ranging from original research to aggregated news for use by business, information technology, and legal professionals. The highly targeted publication seeks to increase the collective understanding of readers regarding cyber, data and legal discovery information and issues and to provide an objective resource for considering trends, technologies, and services related to electronically stored information.

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