The 4 Languages of eDiscovery

A Proficient eDiscovery Provider Needs to Be Fluent in Several Languages

Despite the title, this isn’t a post about translation services in eDiscovery – it’s about the different “languages” that an eDiscovery provider needs to be able to speak to provide excellent services to their clients. Becoming fluent in the various languages is key to communicating effectively with your clients and within the discovery team. It’s also key to educating your clients and your team to understand the concepts and terminology of discovery that may lie outside of their normal expertise or comfort zone.

How am I defining “languages” here? Languages are the terminology that each of us uses to do our respective jobs. Understanding the terminology associated with our own disciplines is required to be able to satisfy our job responsibilities but understanding the terminology of the other participants in the discovery process is necessary to effectively communicate with them to effectively achieve the overall goal of the discovery project.

The Four Languages of eDiscovery

There are at least four languages that are spoken within a typical eDiscovery project. They are:

Legal: The various legal terms, concepts, and rules (i.e., the “legalese”) you need to know to understand the issues at stake and the procedures by which legal proceedings are conducted. Lawyers live the terminology associated with practicing law daily and the eDiscovery provider needs to understand key legal terms to be able to provide effective discovery services to them to support their needs.  Having project managers who have lived the legal life ad the impact it has on a project is key.

Technical: Terms associated with the “nuts and bolts” of managing electronic data throughout the entire discovery process (i.e., the “geek speak”).

Even within the technical geek speak, there are different disciplines that may involve different team members and different skills. For example, a forensic collection specialist may use terms specific to collecting data in a forensically sound manner, while a data management specialist may use a completely different terminology associated with converting and loading data into a platform in a manner to maximize its usefulness. Effective eDiscovery providers provide a team of specialists – each with their own unique language – to support the various technical disciplines needed for a typical eDiscovery project.

Project Management: There are terms specifically associated with managing projects that enable projects to be completed successfully, on time and on budget, while managing a variety of resources to do so. Some of these terms are general to management of any type of project, while others are specific to management of eDiscovery projects.

Client: There are terms specific to the client’s business that an eDiscovery professional needs to understand to support the litigation associated with their business and each type of litigation case has its own terminology. For example, the terminology associated with employment litigation is completely different than the terminology associated with construction cases or toxic tort cases or intellectual property cases.

It’s important for an eDiscovery provider to understand the terms a client uses to conduct business and how those terms tie into potential legal issues in the case. The client language can be one of several potential languages, depending on what type of business they conduct and/or what legal issues they are disputing in litigation.


The ability to communicate effectively with lawyers, client personnel, technicians, and project managers – using the terminology they understand – is necessary for an eDiscovery provider to provide excellent services to support the discovery effort. Your provider has to be multi-lingual to help you achieve better outcomes.

Over the next several posts, I’ll look at each of these languages in more detail to discuss some of the details and nuances that eDiscovery providers need to know to speak the languages of the participants in a typical eDiscovery project. In the next post, I’ll start with legal terms, concepts and rules that eDiscovery providers must know to effectively communicate with legal teams.

For more information about Cobra’s eDiscovery services (including project management services), click here.

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