Electronically Stored Information (ESI)

Electronically Stored Information (ESI) is data that is created, altered, communicated and stored in digital form. Under revisions made to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) in 2006, ESI was legally defined to assist with electronic discovery (E-discovery) processes as well as to accommodate litigation pertaining to electronic records. FRCP rules state that one party may present another with a legal request for documents and/or electronically stored information -- including writings, graphs, charts, photographs, sound recordings, images and other data compilations -- stored in any medium. Upon receipt of a discovery request for information and data pertaining to a lawsuit subject to the FRCP electronic discovery rules, the receiving party must take action to develop and produce a response to the request. It is important that ESI be managed so that privileged information is identified and protected. This includes storing privileged information in a secure location and indexing it for search and retrieval.[1]

ESI is the principal object in eDiscovery. ESI is a term that encompasses any digital record such as letters saved as Word documents or PDFs, web-reports, spreadsheets, presentations, email, chats, database records, websites, social media posts and many other forms of digital information. All the activities related to eDiscovery such as the preservation, collection, indexing, searching, review, production is the management of ESI for a legal matter. A matter without ESI has no eDiscovery, instead, there are only paper documents and physical objects involved. Almost every legal matter arising today contains ESI.[2]

Types of ESI[3]

When it comes to corporate eDiscovery, ESI includes just about everything. In fact, ESI encompasses any digital record and covers all activities related to eDiscovery. A matter without ESI has no eDiscovery, as there are only paper documents and physical objects involved. As such, ESI encompasses, but is not limited to, the following types of information:

  • Electronic communications, including emails, text messages and instant messages and their attachments
  • Documents, including word processing documents, text files, spreadsheets, slide decks and PDFs
  • Database information
  • Social media profiles, posts, messages and other information
  • Data from mobile or computer applications
  • Images, photos and videos
  • Sound recordings, including voicemails
  • Data from a smart device, such as a smartwatch, smartphone, smart appliance, personal assistant or any Wi-Fi-enabled device.
  • Emerging technologies used in business, like drones or transportation navigation systems

In short, practically all data and information that you encounter in the corporate world that is not printed is likely to be ESI.


  1. Defining Electronically Stored Information (ESI) Techtarget
  2. How does ESI relate to eDiscovery? BIA
  3. What are the different types of ESI? Zapproved