That seems to be the message being sent by court decisions as mentioned on Future Lawyer today. They point to an article by Roger Matus where he talks about the increasing number of cases where the “We don’t have enough resources” defense for not meeting a discovery request just doesn’t cut it.
As a guy who used to be the one IT guy for a small business, that scares the heck out of me. I was involved in some litigation, as well as an unemployment arbitration in my time there and I can’t even imagine the amount of work I would have had to put in if either of those things had fallen under the current federal rules for e-discovery. I would have spent a lot of time doing keyword searches, tracking down locally stored .pst files, searching across the network, restoring stuff from backup tapes, etc. and we had a really small, simple network. You throw in something like Exchange, or maybe a couple of file servers, or firewall logs and this gets really huge, really quick!
It’s no wonder e-discovery vendors are popping up all over the place. There’s some serious money to be made helping organizations that don’t have the resources or expertise to comply with electronic discovery requests.
I also happen to think there’s a pretty good opportunity for a law firm with the internal resources to take on some of this work on behalf of their clients to become a major player. Of course, that requires having the expertise on staff and making a commitment to keeping it. I haven’t worked at a law firm that long, but I’m betting that’s easier said than done. Ultimately, a law firm is about the attorneys, not the e-discovery team, so you do have to weigh going outside the core competencies of your organization and how dedicated you want to be to doing that. I can’t imagine it’s an easy call, but certainly I think a firm with some e-discovery technical expertise can have a leg up in certain situations.