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The Path to E-Mail Production II, Revisited, by Craig Ball, Ball In Your Court


This is the seventh in a series revisiting Ball in Your Court columns and posts from the primordial past of e-discovery–updating and critiquing in places, and hopefully restarting a few conversations. As always, your comments are gratefully solicited.

The Path to Production: Retention Policies That Work

(Part II of IV)

[Originally published in Law Technology News, November 2005]

We continue down the path to production of electronic mail. Yesterday, I reminded you to look beyond the e-mail server to the many other places e-mail hides. Now, having identified the evidence, we’re obliged to protect it from deletion, alteration and corruption.

Anticipation of a claim is all that’s required to trigger a duty to preserve potentially relevant evidence, including fragile, ever-changing electronic data. Preservation allows backtracking on the path to production, but fail to preserve evidence and you’ve burned your bridges.

Complicating our preservation effort is the autonomy afforded e-mail users. They create quirky folder structures, commingle personal and business communications and — most dangerous of all — control deletion and retention of messages.

Best practices dictate that we instruct e-mail custodians to retain potentially relevant messages and that we regularly convey to them sufficient information to assess relevance in a consistent manner. In real life, hold directives alone are insufficient. Users find it irresistibly easy to delete data, so anticipate human frailty and act to protect evidence from spoliation at the hands of those inclined to destroy it. Don’t leave the fox guarding the henhouse. . . .