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In today's world, it is no wonder that every lawsuit has electronic evidence. Unfortunately, for the most part, lawyers and judges do not understand IT or the Internet. As a result, litigation generally misses the mark regarding what is now referred to as "ESI," or electronically stored information. It is in your best interest to learn more about the legal issues regarding e-discovery to be prepared, since surely everyone reading this article will be impacted in the future, if not already.
The discovery of 'documents and things' was turned on its head with the December 2006 amendments to the FRCP. FRCP Rule 34 now defines both 'documents' AND 'electronically stored information' as discoverable content in the enterprise. This distinction is not without significance. To discuss documents alone in an ESI world is selling your audience short. Information content held in the enterprise is the target, whether described or held as a traditional 'document' or a compendium of data from multiple sources. Normalizing the expressed information, represented by the data plus the tools used to render it to the user, is the biggest challenge.
You make the same error that many legal and IT professionals do. You fail to mention the role of the Records Manager in this entire discussion. The core responsibilities for managing content as a record, in any environment, is that of the records manager. Many e-discovery efforts fail because of the lack of attention to the records manager. Records managers may not have all the technical savvy, though they have the most important skill needed, that it the identification of "What is a record." In the organizations that I have worked the records retention schedule is usually developed by the records manager and legal, after completion IT is brought in to apply to the ESI environment. This definition is normally diluted between legal and IT, and that is where most e-discovery efforts fail. I have a high level of understanding of IT systems, legal compliance, and records management, which allows me to see the whole picture and not just a limited view. It really takes all three to make any discovery effort work, regardless of media.