Businesses today find themselves deluged with electronic files, documents and records that require special handling, protection and preservation, a lack of which can come back to bite a company, particularly in court.
Tulsa attorney Gerald Jackson said that electronically stored information (ESI) brings with it a whole raft of issues, which can be exacerbated by the growing number of employees who work in nontraditional settings, such as at home on their own computers.
"It's going to be a bigger and bigger issue," he said.
Jackson, with Crowe & Dunlevy, said law firms may be at less risk to a degree, because e-mails and documents created internally are generally privileged.
Jackson said he counsels clients to have an electronic discovery readiness plan for handling computerized information. That involves establishing policies and procedures for addressing such files, as well as determining how much and what kinds of data a company keeps.
"You can't manage the risk associated with ESI if you don't know what you have and where it is," he said.
Use of home computers can get overlooked, he said.
However, Jackson said attorneys are more conscious these days that some employees work at home, and sometimes go after data on home computers in lawsuits.
"It's a constant issue now that's coming up," he said.
One danger is that home computers are generally outside the control of the company's information technology department.
Jackson said that raises concerns of whether data is properly backed up or retained as company policy requires.
"We always encourage them to have a retention policy that routinely eliminates this backlog of data out there," Jackson said. "Once you're sued, it's too late to start doing that."
Home computer-stored company data that has not been deleted as policy requires can be "a ticking time bomb," he said.
Jackson said federal discovery rules are particularly explicit about what must be done with electronically stored information.
"Once you're sued, your company is sued or you have good reason to believe you're going to be sued, you have to stop destroying documents, stop overriding these files," he said.
An employee working from home who is still routinely deleting files could cause problems for a business, he said. …