As the technology age creeps upon us and forces us reevaluate our personal lives in everything that we do, the same can be said for how lawyers practice. Partners who have been tied to their pen and paper presentations are now being confronted with a phenomenon that has started to pick up speed since the early 90’s- Electronic Discovery Requests.
In the general practice of law, opposing counsels will ask for relevant and pertinent data from each other under the aegis of full disclosure. But what happens when this information is contained on someone’s computer, more specifically an email, word document, or even an excel spreadsheet? Precisely, many lawyers do NOT know what to do.
This is where the niche practitioners of the field of electronic discovery come into place. These consultants and technologists assist lawyers and firms every day with their electronic discovery needs. From assisting with drafting proper discovery requests, to helping the firm understand how to deal with electronic discovery vendors to process their information, it truly is a growing field in this day and age.
So why is it that many law firms are not up to speed on this segment of practice. For many firms, there is no necessity yet to embrace this technology. But that will change in the near future as more opposing counsels levy electronic discovery requests against them to fulfill. Courts are starting to require firms to electronically file briefs and other court papers.
As you can see, the legal system will drive itself to accommodate the electronic discovery field. Pertinent data resides on cell phones, PDA’s, computers and even voice mailboxes. These are all discoverable under the federal rules of law. Lawyers will need to become educated as well as confident in their understanding of this new field. The pen and paper dinosaur will still be there, but in order for him to survive, he and his associates will need to adapt, and not be so afraid of this new world. Otherwise, they can be looking at extinction.