To borrow language used in a different context, the question as well as the term are overly broad and lack specificity. Click here to see the wikipedia definition.
But for our purposes, let’s use a semantic approach. Breaking down the term into its component means its the electronic version of the discovery process. But it seems to have lost its meaning. Its been abused and heaped with a whole host of additional acronyms. ESI, EDD, PDF, OCR, TIF, and my favorite only with side of eggs is MD5 Hash, to name a few. It’s walled off intentionally to convince people into writing obscenely large checks for processes that have things called custodians, holds, heuristics, natives, and of course meta-anything.”
There is no question that there are significant and difficult challenges to figure out in collecting, storing, reviewing, and producing electronic evidence. But throwing up large volumes of technology lingo to a degree that could provide the basis for a linguistics thesis is counter-productive at best, and at worst, is intentionally designed to add confusion to the issue.
One thing eDiscovery is not is trial preparation. The same tool used to cull for relevance and privilege is definitely not the same tool to prepare for trial. It requires a different tool set. A different approach. Discovery ends. Even eDiscovery ends. But that’s when trial preparation begins.
So for as much as people talk about eDiscovery, very few people can define it or put boundaries on it. It becomes sort of a catch-all phrase that essentially deadens decision making from senior non-technical decision makers. This is the wrong approach. People with direct technology responsibility have a duty to make sure senior leadership understands the high level issues. But right now our observation is that they don’t. The jargon is used as a shield, preventing prying eyes from seeing what is already obvious to most people. What ever eDiscovery is, it isn’t working and something has got to give.