I attended the 2010-2011 kickoff meeting of the EDRM (The Electronic Discovery Reference Model) last week in Minneapolis, and was pleasantly surprised by the tone, content, and quality of the meeting.
This was the 6th kickoff meeting for EDRM, and over the years this group has defined clarified, and made readily available information about the various stages in electronic discovery. Discovery is the legal process that takes place once two parties are involved in a law suit, and involves the court required exchange of information pertaining to whatever the dispute is about. In earlier times this information was primarily in the form of paper, however now, given how we all do our work, it is predominantly composed of electronic files of various types, depending on the particulars of the dispute. Typically emails, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, audio, video, graphic and other files make up the information exchanged in discovery these days, and so the techniques to secure and review these files have become digital in nature. In addition, there are typically far more digital files being created today than paper documents in the past, so the volume of information pertaining to a matter has become enormous. This poses many challenges for justice systems, including how to contain costs so that parties can still afford to turn to the courts for justice.
How big a problem is it? Imagine you are a government attorney and a matter comes up involving the recent Bush administration and you have to review their emails. The Bush administration turned over 200 million emails to the National Archives and Record Administration, and estimates are the Obama administration (assuming it goes to 2 terms) will generate over a billion emails! That is an enormous digital asset management problem. The costs associated with going through those emails for any particular matter are crushing, and many corporations have similar burdens of data. As a result, parties may be deterred from seeking justice because the basic costs of the discovery portion of such a legal engagement can be crushing. The potential result: people giving up on pursuing justice.