The rules relating to types of information companies must produce when involved in lawsuits are being defined by individual court decisions and changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that took effect in December. They affect companies of all sizes and in all industries. While larger companies may tend to be prime targets for lawsuits, SMBs are more likely to lack the IT and legal resources to deal with e-discovery.
"The biggest thing we have to do from a small-company perspective is to balance everything we have to do because we don't have the luxury of a big staff," said Dan Grosz, vice president of information systems at VIP Parts, Tires & Service in Lewiston, Maine. "We wear multiple hats, and I don't want to add yet another hat. I have enough to worry about without having to become a lawyer.''
"I think [customers] are in denial. Until somebody really gets slammed by a judge as a result of failing to comply with FRCP, I think most people will put that on the bottom of their priority list," said Nik Simpson, storage analyst at Burton Group Inc. in Midvale, Utah.
The bottom line to the amendment to the FCRP -- the rules that govern civil cases in U.S. federal courts -- is that they put digital documents and communication on a par with written documents and require companies involved in suits to be able to show early in the proceedings what documents they have and can produce at what expense. In addition, the changes place the onus on a company to make a good effort to store and archive relevant documents "at the point of creation" rather than trying to find and recover them once a legal action is filed, according Simpson. "It has to be a much more proactive approach to preserving what you might call an evidence trail," he said.
This article originally appeared on SearchSMB.com.
This was first published in July 2007