Brief History of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) and the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM)

Submitted by Marcus Ledergerber on Mon, 09/21/2020 - 17:48

Electronic discovery (aka "ediscovery", aka "e-discovery", aka just "discovery") is the exchange of data between parties in civil or criminal litigation. The discovery process is largely controlled by attorneys who determine what data should be produced based on relevance or withheld based on claims of privilege. Forensic examiners play crucial roles as technical advisors, hand-on collectors, and analysts.

As a result of the 2006 amendments to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (F.R.C.P), attorneys and examiners now refer to discovery data as Electronically Stored Information (ESI). ESI includes information stored in any computer, cloud computing environment, database, smart phone, laptop, USB flash drive (aka thumb drive), IoT device log, warm storage, cold storage, magnetic backup tape, optical disk, and any other digital media.  If identifiable and recoverable using forensic methods, ephemeral data and deleted data in slack space could also be ESI subject to discovery.

George Socha and Thomas (Tom) Gelbman co-led the development of a now widely accepted framework for e-discovery consulting known as the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM).  

An early version of the EDRM (circa 2008) reflected Information Management as a starting point for the flow of information discovery processes culminating in the Presentation of electronic evidence.  This earlier version of EDRM was featured in scholarly articles and books.

Electronic Discovery Reference Model (circa 2008)
Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), circa 2008

Source: Casey, Eoghan. Handbook of Digital Forensics and Investigation. Netherlands: Elsevier Science, 2009.

On September 19, 2008, Federal Rule of Evidence 502 was signed into law.   

During that decade — with the benefit of intellectual contributions from experts and industry leaders — refinements were made to the EDRM standards, guidelines, and practical resources available to legal professionals and discovery professionals. The EDRM formed the Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM) project led by industry leaders with a keen interest in development of a supplemental model to frame and expand the discussion of information management.

In 2012 the Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM) was published as a standalone infographic as featured here:

Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM)


EDRM founders and project leaders thereafter combined two infographics — (1) the Information Governance Reference Model (IGRM) and (2) the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) — into one ubiquitous knowledge construct.

Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM)
Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM)


Today, unified Information Governance (IG) is depicted at the front-end of the EDRM. With emphasis on Information Governance, ESI volume reduction leads to much more than simply improved relevance as a focal objective.  Significant potential value to be realized by mature organizations include business profit increases, privacy and security risk reduction, IT efficiency gains, and legal risk reduction. 

The EDRM is frequently referenced by corporations and global law firms and service providers that support them.