The Standardization of Ediscovery

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How should you write "ediscovery?"

Is it e-discovery, E-discovery, eDiscovery, or ediscovery? While some may say the derivation of a word should dictate its spelling, others argue that communication has become a fashion; the method, spelling, and even the meaning of language should change to match the current social and cultural climate

This conversation could lead into serious digression. However, I do think the spelling of a word speaks about the culture and, in some cases, the industry surrounding the term.

Before diving into ediscovery, let’s look at an auxiliary term. In 1978, 14-year-old Shiva Ayyadurai, a medical college employee from New Jersey, “developed a computer program which replicated the features of the interoffice, inter-organizational paper mail system. He named his program EMAIL.” As the commercialization of the internet (and email) exploded, the spelling of email varied widely. As email became ubiquitous, the spelling of email was also standardized. Furthermore, we no longer need to explain what email “is.” As the sector has matured, the discussion moved to focus on explaining which email provider gives the best experience, is the most performant, provides the best security, etc.

Email has undoubtedly had a pivotal impact on the process and culture of ediscovery. Similarly, as the commercialization of the internet (and email) exploded, “courts and practitioners struggled, as volumes of information grew at unprecedented rates.” Even today, courts continue to debate corresponding issues such as ESI production formats.

As with email, the spelling of “ediscovery” has varied widely.

DISCO competitors like Everlaw, Kroll Ontrack, and Cicayda use ediscovery on their marketing websites whereas iPRO, Logikcull, Epiq Systems/DTI, and Recommind by OpenText seem to favor eDiscovery. Others such as kCura favor e-discovery whereas Thomson Reuters seems to use a mixture (e-discovery and ediscovery). Still others such as Catalyst use E-Discovery. Prominent law firms Latham & Watkins LLP, DLA Piper, and WilmerHale seem to use the spelling eDiscovery. Other firms, such as Sidley Austin LLP seem to use E-Discovery.

DISCO has also used various spellings in the past. However, as the market has matured, a trend by legal practitioners to move towards a simplified spelling — ediscovery — is apparent. One example: Judge Peck’s spelling in his March 2, 2015 Rio Tinto opinion.

I would argue ediscovery as an industry is now at a maturation point. Taking a lesson from email, the removal of a hyphen should symbolize the reality that 99.99% of discovery is digital. As an industry, let’s recognize that ediscovery is the standard process and instead focus the conversation around understanding which solutions elevate ediscovery from simply moving data around to those that automate and simplify error-prone tasks to allow legal professionals to make high-margin, high-value legal judgments.

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Neil Etheridge