The big day for the new e-discovery Federal Rules of Civil Procedure has arrived and it’s Gold Rush time for e-discovery vendors. This morning’s Associated Press report quoted a somewhat dubious source, James Wright ” . . . director of electronic discovery at Halliburton Co. . . . There are hundreds of “e-discovery vendors” and these businesses raked in approximately $1.6 billion in 2006, Mr. Wright said. That figure could double in 2007, he added.”

Given the hearings and possible lawsuits coming Halliburton’s way over their lavish Iraq reconstruction contracts, maybe he knows more than I think. “The backup tapes were lost in a mortar attack” is certainly better than “my dog ate them,” but still, who’s going to believe them?

Don’t panic, just yet. has written about e-discovery (see Sto’Mo’s 3 Minute Guide to Electronic Discovery and E-Discovery: Sizing the, Um-m, Opportunity and has some disagreements with some of the vendors. In my view it would be nuts for IT to take on sole responsibility for records management and e-discovery: don’t most CIOs have enough risks to manage already? You need one that could land you behind bars just so you feel alive?

Here’s a good place to scare yourself – or your boss – silly
Some of the lawyers at legal mega-firm Preston Gates (and yes, that is Bill G’s grand daddy) have put together a e-discovery blog that covers the latest legal decisions in the burgeoning field of e-discovery. Some recent highlights:

  • “Court Grants Access to Individual Plaintiff’s Work and Home Computers; Plaintiff Had Continued Deleting Potentially Relevant Emails for Years After Commencing Litigation” – tsk, tsk. A very bad idea, Mr. Plaintiff.
  • “Court Orders Production of Handwritten Worksheets Underlying Database, in Light of Demonstrated Data Entry Errors” – this is part of a case growing out of New York police suppression of protesters at the Republican National Convention in 2004.
  • “Plaintiff’s Efforts to Preserve and Produce Email and Electronic Records Were Untimely and Inadequate; Court Invites Motion for Sanctions” – in this case the Spanish government is in hot water for not preserving documents needed for the case.

Under the scary headlines though is a fairly simple principle: judges get really peeved if they think someone is playing games with evidence.

The StorageMojo take
As with any new rules there will be a sorting out period of several years over what the rules mean, and another sorting out period over the best practices for complying with the rules. IT professionals will want the help and support of their company’s legal counsel and records management professionals, in writing. And don’t lose the documents.

Comments welcome of course.