The Dawn of e-Discovery

By Michelle Maisto — November 01, 2006

"Since 1936, federal laws [regarding information management] have changed only six times, and they're about to change again." This attention-grabber came from Nicholas Croce, president of DOAR Litigation Consulting and an Aungate customer, at a recent lunch hosted by the latter in New York City . The purpose of the lunch was to discuss Aungate's enterprise offerings, in view of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that will go into effect Dec. 1. The changes will essentially hold companies more accountable for their electronic information by treating digital and physical documents as equally admissible evidence in a court of law.

"The playing field is changing," said Croce. There is now information in documents, on handhelds, in laptops and on desktops. "Human beings just cannot review that much information. Technology created the problem, and technology needs to solve the problem."

Other Aungate customers include regulators, stock exchanges, banks, litigation management companies and businesses for which it's not unrealistic to expect that a court may one day ask you to produce your data.

And that data, say the experts, is growing like never before. A 2000 study by the University of California , Berkeley , forecasted that more information would be created between 1999 and mid-2002 than had been created in the entire period up to 1999.

Plus, we're not only creating more data--we're also saving it. Debra Logan, a research VP at Gartner Research who also spoke at the lunch, shared that 50 percent of the files most of us keep are redundant, and another 50 percent of the files we save haven't been touched in a year. What's more, the cost of having a legal team sort through this immense and growing digital information is staggering. "If you could [use e-discovery to] cut just 1 or 2 or 3 percent of your legal fees," said Logan, "you have a business case."

Limiting employees' use of mobile devices or IM and email (both more indiscreet mediums than the old paper memo) would only hamper productivity, said Ian Black, Aungate's managing director, so it's better controlling their use that Aungate proselytizes. Its Autonomy products offer a scalable software infrastructure that creates an understanding of end-users' content, whether it's text or voice-based, structured or unstructured, and no matter where it's stored. The infrastructure enables applications to communicate without any manual help, connectors or metadata--a process it calls "Integration Through Understanding."

"We are not the silver bullet," said Black. "But we can reduce handling times in the hands of the experts, lowering cost, time and risk."

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