From emails, voicemails and social media posts to company websites and databases, modern evidence discovery methods are primarily digital. Electronically stored information offers attorneys the ability to quickly search, target and organize relevant ESI to build the strongest case possible.
However, poor management of such information may also lead to potentially significant increases in money and time spent ensuring proper handling of potentially sensitive discovery materials. The U.S. District Court of Northern California offers specific guidelines to help ensure a fair outcome while limiting potential costs, burdens and delays involved in the discovery process.
It is essential that attorneys collaborate with the court and with opposing parties when collecting, reviewing, preserving and producing electronically stored information. In addition to responding promptly to ESI discovery requests and limiting one’s own requests for information to essential data, representatives should strive to engage in cooperative information exchanges as early as possible during the discovery process.
When planning discovery procedures, it is important to examine how discovery itself may impact the case at hand. Before making a specific request for information, legal representatives should carefully consider the level of potential controversy in the case, the importance of the issues at stake, the relative access that each party has to pertinent information and whether the burden of proposed expense outweighs the likely benefit of discovery. It is also important that discovery requests for ESI production and other responses are clearly stated and as specific to targeted goals as possible.
Parties should make sure to discuss preservation procedures both at the onset of the case and on a continual basis as circumstances and relevant issues evolve. Counsel should attempt to reach a proportional agreement about the potential expense and burden of the scope of preservation efforts. If disputes arise, it is also important to bring those discussions before the court promptly and efficiently.