The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended in 2006 to address a growing concern about the discovery of electronically stored information. That data includes an arsenal of information-rich resources such as voicemails, electronic calendars, instant messages and chats, emails, and other online resources. Whether stored on a local device, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, or backed up with a cloud service, all of these resources are fair game when it comes to the law.
This relatively new area of data collection is called electronic discovery and is making a noticeable impact on the legal field. New positions are being created to handle the seemingly endless task of tracking down information, sorting it, and applying it appropriately to the case. Complex cases in 2014 will become even more intense, multi-faceted, and, potentially, drawn out. This means heightened costs for all parties.
The notion of electronic discovery is relevant in countries around the world. Expect to see electronically stored data play a major role in numerous international cases throughout the coming years. As our obsession with online communication and documentation continues to grow, so will the necessity to access pertinent information that can influence courtroom outcomes.
The astonishingly fast rates at which technology advances begs the question: Will another amendment to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure be necessary before long? As new forms of web-based media and communications become mainstream, legal professionals will no doubt be anxious to ensure they have access to all data that could be used as evidence in the courtroom. While we don’t know the answer to that yet, it’s clear that electronically stored data will continue to play a role in our everyday lives, and therefore in legal matters, for the foreseeable future.