PUBLISHED:January 19, 2017

With EDRM acquisition, Duke Law leads in e-discovery study and training

illlustration of computer with scales of justice on monitor, a gavel, clould computing, and email iconDuke Law's Center for Judicial Studies has taken over EDRM (Electronic Discovery Reference Model), a well-known organization that develops standards, guidelines, and professional resources for e-discovery. The move positions Duke Law to explore new opportunities for preparing law students to work in an increasingly technology-fueled industry and partnering with law firms, technology vendors, government agencies, and the judiciary to study e-discovery and information governance issues.

EDRM, co-founded in 2005 by Minnesota attorneys George Socha and Tom Gelbmann, has built an extensive network of e-discovery professionals. The  EDRM diagram, which illustrates the conceptual framework for the iterative stages of e-discovery, is widely acclaimed and used, and the organization’s website,, is a leading source of e-discovery standards, glossaries, guides, data sets, and other  resources.

“This agreement sets the stage for an expansion of EDRM’s efforts in industry education and standards,” said Dean David F. Levi. “E-discovery is a major component of today’s litigation practice, and EDRM provides valuable resources to educate not only experienced practitioners, but also law students and new lawyers about practical discovery problems they will encounter. This is also an important step in Duke’s continued efforts to bring together the judiciary, legal practitioners, educators, scholars, and government organizations to advance the understanding of the judicial process and improve the complex processes in the administration of justice.”

The partnership also gives EDRM an institutional home with the reputation, stability, and creativity needed to ensure the program’s continued vitality.

“EDRM’s achievements are a direct result of the hard work of many legal and technology practitioners whose efforts and expertise have improved e-discovery and information-governance practices and ultimately the judicial process,” said Socha. “This arrangement will provide the growing EDRM community — working groups, sponsors, technology providers, and legal professionals — a connection with a greatly admired and respected organization.”

Socha has remained with EDRM following the acquisition. EDRM co-founder Tom Gelbmann will retire after helping transition EDRM programs to Duke Law.

John Rabiej, director of the Center for Judicial Studies, said e-discovery is becoming an important tool for making litigation more just, more efficient, and less expensive. With the acquisition of EDRM, the center will foster education and cooperation among judges, attorneys, and e-discovery providers  to encourage deeper understanding of the technology and to facilitate the development of standards  and guidelines that can ease adoption. “Historically the center has focused on exploring broad ideas for making the courts and the legal profession more efficient,” he said. “EDRM gives us an opportunity to directly tap into, learn from, and share the expertise of those who are developing technologies that are rapidly transforming the legal landscape.”

Duke Law already offers several courses that address e-discovery, including a writing course  and a Wintersession course. But student interest in e-discovery and law and technology is growing, said Jeff Ward ’09, associate clinical professor of law and director of the Start-Up Ventures Clinic. He sees opportunities for students to get involved  in both the business operations of EDRM and the substantive legal work conducted by member attorneys and organizations.

“This is an exciting step in strengthening Duke’s leadership in law and technology,” Ward said. “It creates new opportunities for students to develop highly marketable skills and experience in e-discovery — hands-on opportunities that no other law school can offer right now.”

 New areas of focus for EDRM member organizations and practitioners include cross-border discovery and predictive coding. Members also participate in annual EDRM conferences and the EDRM webinar series. Other benefits include discounts for Center for Judicial Studies programs, including the Duke Conferences and subscriptions to Judicature.