File These eDocuments — Quickly

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I have frequently written about how computer technology is a double-edged sword. It can offer cost-efficient advantages to the law firm that leverages it, and it can be the death knell to the firm that does not keep pace.

Since 2006, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have required that electronic documents and data be produced for trial. Defendants and their counsel must carry out the duty to preserve and provide electronically stored information or face penalties from the court, and they must act at a pace almost as fast as the technology is evolving.

The Rules of Civil Procedure allow only a 120-day window after a lawsuit is filed to identify, analyze and classify relevant documents.

With ESI, lawyers now must take the additional step of meeting to agree on the form in which the e-documents are provided (typically native, PDF or TIFF images) and on such logistical issues as accessibility, location and types of information, production formats and matters of privilege.

That can be a challenge, as ESI can encompass a huge number of documents. One gigabyte of ESI can equal up to 75,000 hard-copy pages, and the largest lawsuits may require production of up to one terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of material, or 500 million pages of paper — approximately the height of 58 Empire State buildings.

But the additional time preliminarily spent on technical preparation will save both time and money in the end. Document-searching software programs obviously serve as major time-savers, and lawyers can maintain more direct control of the process by scanning client documents as searchable PDF files in an ongoing records retention and management program.

Scanned documents can also be searched for key terms, and if documents are already scanned, they can be produced and analyzed faster in the discovery process. Having all key documents scanned to comply with a records retention policy can be a major advantage in litigation and settlement as a simpler way to save substantial amounts in discovery costs.

And if a client or firm is never sued, scanning documents in keeping with a retention policy creates a file database that is easily searchable, saving both time and money and greatly reducing the paper-copy document burden.

Where there is change, there is also opportunity.

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