Protecting Privilege — New Rule 502 mitigates the risk of inadvertent e-discovery disclosures

By Michael Kozubek

Published in the 2/1/2009 Issue of Inside Counsel.

Privilege review has been a major culprit in the skyrocketing cost of e-discovery. With hundreds of thousands of documents subject to discovery in numerous cases, attorney-client communications and work-product information frequently end up in the hands of the opposing party. Because the production of privileged documents during discovery waives the privilege, discovery teams scour through documents trying to ensure nothing slips through that could damage their case. Still, with the volume of electronically stored information, inadvertent disclosure is almost inevitable, with potentially devastating results.

“Cases have been lost in part because of inadvertent disclosures,” says Bobby Balachandran, CEO of Exterro, a legal hold and workflow software provider.

But that risk diminished when Rule 502 of the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE 502), originally drafted by the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, recently became law. The new rule is designed to mitigate the expense of privilege review while protecting companies from potentially large liabilities arising from inadvertent disclosures of privileged communication.

The rule provides that privilege is not waived when privileged communications are inadvertently disclosed, provided the holder of the privilege took “reasonable steps” to prevent disclosure and to rectify the error.

Litigators celebrated the enactment of FRE 502 while warning that it is not a panacea and does not remove the need for sound e-discovery management practices.

“The new rule is welcome news for litigants,” says David Lender, a partner at Weil, Gotshal and Manges. “An inadvertent production will not result in the waiver of the privilege as long as reasonable steps are taken to preserve the privilege before production.”

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E-Discovery Trends in 2009 — New developments in e-discovery will affect enterprise general counsel and compliance officers, law firms serving corporate clients, and IT departments

By Christine Taylor, January 9, 2008, 12:10 PM

A few years ago, the Taneja Group coined the term “Information Classification and Management” (ICM) to describe the technology of locating and classifying data throughout the enterprise. ICM covered sub-technology sectors such as e-discovery, compliance, data security control, and data management. However, we saw the term “e-discovery” trump the more comprehensive name as rabid attention turned from ICM to the specifics of civil litigation software tools. We are now seeing the e-discovery term itself take on a fuller usage, more akin to ICM. People do use the term when talking about civil litigation, but are also expanding it to encompass compliance, corporate governance, data classification, and even knowledge management.

In this broad sense we have looked at the trends of the e-discovery market as they impact its largest stakeholders: the enterprise general counsel and compliance officers, law firms serving corporate clients, and IT.

The crux of the matter is that e-discovery and its related areas will be extremely hot for litigation and compliance, especially those related to the financial meltdown. The market increasingly understands the necessity of e-discovery software tools and systems, and will move toward proactive e-discovery adoption. A more reactive approach will remain alive and well as many companies will still avoid implementation until driven to it by a lawsuit or federal investigation. But companies will increasingly understand that the e-discovery solution phenomenon is much more than a litigation aid. It also has major effects on federal compliance and internal governance, and potentially on data management throughout the enterprise.

For more see byteandswitch.com.

E-Discovery Requirements Are About to Hit Canadian Firms

As Canadian firms brace for new e-discovery rules, they can look to their U.S. counterparts for technology lessons.

By Anne Rawland Gabriel

Time is growing short for Canadian securities firms to prepare for the scheduled April enforcement of the new Canadian National Instrument 31-103 (NI 31-103), regulation that significantly expands record keeping requirements for electronic communications. Fortunately NI 31-103 substantively mirrors U.S. regulations already in place, which means Canadian firms have the opportunity to learn from others’ experiences.

“NI 31-103 is very similar to SEC and FINRA requirements in the U.S.,” substantiates Carolyn DiCenzo, a Gartner research VP. “It’s important to remember that the spirit of the law is communications and not just one particular type of communication, such as e-mail or instant messaging.”

For more see wallstreetandtech.com.

Judge OKs legal settlement for Mo. gov.’s e-mails

By DAVID A. LIEB

A judge has approved a legal settlement that requires outgoing Gov. Matt Blunt to hand over thousands of e-mails to investigators, but leaves unresolved the question of whether Blunt’s office violated public records laws.

Under the deal, Blunt’s office must provide 60,000 pages of e-mail documents from the accounts of the outgoing Republican governor and five staffers from a three-month period in 2007. The settlement includes no specific assertion of wrongdoing by Blunt nor any specific exoneration.

A bipartisan pair of court-appointed assistant attorneys general said they believe Blunt’s office broke Missouri law by deleting the e-mails that should have been saved as public records.

But former Democratic Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell and Republican attorney Louis Leonatti both said it would have been almost impossible to prove Blunt’s office committed a knowing and purposeful violation, which are required elements under Missouri law for imposing civil fines.

That’s because they said Blunt and his top deputies were relying on in-house legal advice _ albeit wrong _ when they asserted in 2007 that e-mails were not public records and did not have to be kept.

Leonatti said there was nothing to indicate any criminal conduct occurred, and he praised Blunt’s former legal counsel, Henry Herschel, for eventually correcting his wrong interpretation of public records laws.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon _ who will succeed Blunt as governor Jan. 12 _ wasted more than $600,000 of taxpayer money by initiating the investigation ‘with nothing to show for it but false accusations.’

The legal settlement seeks to end an e-mail controversy that has dogged Blunt for the final year-and-a-half of his term. The settlement gives investigators until Jan. 26 to complete a report on their findings, and then gives Blunt until Jan. 30 to attach a response before the report is publicly released.

Reviewing Your Email and Internet Usage Policies

Written by Sue Walsh on January 2, 2009

As the year comes to a close it’s good time to review your Email and Internet usage policies and insure that they are clear and comprehensive. The folks over at SmartBiz have published some helpful tips to assist you. Here’s an excerpt:

As the Internet and email have become a big part of our everyday lives, employers need to make clear the separation between work and non-work. What someone would consider appropriate with friends may be out of line in the workplace. Each practice needs to have a clear, written policy in place to eliminate confusion by the employees on what is and is not acceptable.

Such policies are critical in this day and age. It only takes one email or dubious website to cause your business a lot of trouble in the form of viruses, security or confidentiality breaches, even lawsuits. So keep your policy updated and easily available to all your employees!

Local Government Botches E-Discovery and Legal Hold — County Underestimates Value of Its Own E-mail Records

Some public agencies don’t realize that in ligation their own good records can be their best defense.

Commonly a defendant in a lawsuit is reluctant to search through its e-mails – and incredulous that a court would force it to dig deep for them. In Toussie v. County of Suffolk, 2007 WL 4565160 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2007), a New York county made the process of e-discovery excessively difficult and expensive for itself.

Plaintiffs sued the county for allegedly barring them from participation in a real estate auction to which they were entitled. After the lawsuit started, the county did a poor job of preserving its e-mail records. Then, when the plaintiffs demanded – in the “discovery” phase of the lawsuit — that the county search for and disclose relevant e-mail, the county faltered. It initially turned over only two e-mail records.

For more see legal-beagle.com

E-mail Archiving Demands Overwhelm Backup Alternative

By Kieron Dowling

One look at the numbers makes it clear that e-mail archiving is still in its early stages. While most large enterprises have deployed first-generation solutions, the mid-market has yet to answer the call to e-mail archiving even though all organizations are subject to the same regulatory pressures and IT demands.

The most recent AIIM user survey reveals that 63 percent of organizations have little or no confidence that e-mails related to commitments and obligations made by themselves and their staff are recorded, complete and recoverable.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of respondents to a Storage Magazine survey report they’ve been asked to perform a legal or compliance request, with 73 percent recovering that data from backup tape (and 29 percent from backup disk). But asked how confident they are that they could meet e-discovery requests, 47 percent of the Storage respondents are only “somewhat confident.” Ten percent are “not at all confident.” Still, 64 percent have made no technology purchases specifically for e-discovery, even though the e-discovery process for relevant e-mails can take months.

For more see govtech.com