As I'd posted about previously, the amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure relating to electronic discovery changed as of today's date, December 1, 2006. There's an interesting AP article about the effect of the new rules on U.S. businesses. From the article:
The new rules, which took effect Friday, require U.S. companies to keep better track of their employees' e-mails, instant messages and other electronic documents in the event the companies are sued, legal experts say...
Under the new rules, an information technology employee who routinely copies over a backup computer tape could be committing "virtual shredding" once a lawsuit has been filed, said Alvin F. Lindsay, a partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP and expert on technology and litigation.
Companies still could routinely purge their archives if the data aren't relevant to cases companies have pending or expect to face, though specific sectors such as financial services remain governed by other data-retention rules.
Company lawyers and information-technology staff will have to work more closely together to ensure that routine erasing of backup data doesn't pose legal problems, Lindsay said, while also ensuring that lawyers know where their company's data are stored.
The new rules make it more important for companies to know what electronic information they have and where, especially because of a provision that requires lawyers to provide information much earlier in a lawsuit than before.
Let's hope the vast majority of businesses are aware of the impact of the new rules upon the possibility of future litigation. If not, it'll just make lawyers' jobs that much harder. I'm not holding my breath. How about you?