Lawyers Urge Doc Management

Lawyers warn users to get ready for stricter laws regarding stored data

July 14, 2006

3 Min Read
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When it comes to the world of legality, the term "forensics" now applies as much to what's in your data center as it does to what's at a crime scene. Indeed, a small army of consultants, advisors, and lawyers is on the march to encourage enterprises to get their data organized.

In an online article on his firm's Website, Michael D. Gifford Esq., of Michigan's Howard & Howard Attorneys warns that new U.S. legislation regarding the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, approved by the Supreme Court this last April, are likely to catch a lot of enterprises off guard.

"The new rules address both discovery and preservation of evidence issues arising from the ever widening use of and reliance upon electronic data and data storage," Gifford writes in his article. "Absent Congressional intervention, the new provisions will become effective on December 1, 2006... Although not yet effective, businesses must start planning now to address the new requirements."

Apparently, the fine print of the latest iteration of the Federal Rules will allow courts to penalize companies that can't produce electronic proof in legal proceedings.

Another lawyer, trial attorney Stan Gibson of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro in Los Angeles has founded an entire practice on advising enterprises how to get their data sorted to avoid sanctions of the kind that Merrill Lynch faced when that firm couldn't produce email evidence a couple of years back. Services start at about $5,000.Gibson thinks many enterprises could be in for a rude awakening regarding the new legalities. "I believe that most enterprises have heard of the changes, but they will not understand how the new rules will impact their business -- which is likely to be a difficult, expensive, and unpleasant surprise," he states. Unless organizations get themselves organized, they could find themselves charged penalties in court.

There's nothing new about lawyers warning users of the need for better content management -- usually, with an eye to profiting themselves. Consultancies like DolphinSearch Inc. have sprouted up to assist enterprises looking to get a handle on internal documentation. (See Dolphins Aid Compliance.) A company called Attenex was instrumental in helping Gibson's firm win a $500 million settlement in 2004 that involved uncovering documents in the case of Medtronic v. Michelson.

The legal specialists are joined by firms like Armedia that specialize in using off-the-shelf products to assist the cause.

At least one large integrator also believes there's a big future in data forensics. "Data security is tied to forensics, or managing and auditing traffic in and out of the network," says Gary Gammon, SVP of marketing for the enterprise division of Bell Microproducts.

Storage suppliers, too, see a potential goldmine. Document management is why CA bought MDY, why Kazeon has formed partnerships with Google and Netapp, and why FAST is linked to Avamar, Archivas, and others. (See CA Buys Records Mgt Firm, Kazeon, Google Search, Sifting the Haystack, and NetApp, Kazeon Sign OEM.)There are also efforts underway that aren't tied to particular products or services, though. The Association for Information and Image Management, for instance, makes available a set of best practice specs regarding document management on its Website.

It remains to be seen how much liability users will experience as a result of the new legislation. But one thing is certain: Come December 1, 2006, a lot of help will be available to those who need it -- and can pay.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Archivas Inc.

  • Avamar Technologies Inc.

  • Bell Microproducts (Nasdaq: BELM)

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)

  • Kazeon Inc.

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