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Lawsuits in a 21st Century World Are Not Your Dad’s Lawsuits Anymore


A lawsuit is filed…and that is often when the real work begins for all the parties involved.

In some cases, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant has all the proof; documents, data and other types of evidence; they need to fully prove their respective cases. So, each party is allowed to ask questions and request documents (data) from each other.

This is a journey called “discovery”. Once it involved going to filing cabinets and boxing up sometimes hundreds of boxes of paper. In our digital world, the discovery process can be a frightening experience for those unprepared and an experience fraught with error for those not sufficiently informed.

Let’s take a look at what is faced in the digital discovery world today.

Many in the United States are convinced that we manage more email than anywhere else and that is simply untrue. We only represent around 14% of the world’s total email volume; with Asia and Europe beating us by two and three times our volume.

Last year the average number of business emails received and sent daily by a single worker averaged 105. If you are involved in a lawsuit with a company in which a single department has   25 workers, you may be dealing with as many as 958,125 email documents generated in a single year. If (3) of the company’s departments have relevant documents and data, you are now   trying to sift through nearly two million emails or an average of 3 million pages (not including attachments).

We produce text documents, PDF’s, spreadsheets, databases, and many other types of “documents”. But, we have gone far beyond those very basics. Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, maintains   that we are producing the same amount of information every two days that we had previously created in the period from the dawn of mankind until 2003. Sound    impossible?

Here is just a slice of what we now produce that we never did before:

Walmart’s customer database is at 600 terabytes and growing. That is 600,000,000 megabytes of data. That is 240,000,000 floppy disks (for all us old timers).

In 2011, we were expected to produce 1,800 exabytes. How much is that? An Exabyte equals 1000 petabytes; which equals 1000 terabytes; which equals 1000 gigabytes; which      equals 1000 megabytes. So, we were expected to produce  1,000,000,000,000 (one quadrillion?) megabytes or 400,000,000,000 (400 trillion) floppy disks. That would be 8,333,333,333 feet of floppy disks stacked vertically or 1,578,282 miles.

In 2011 we will have 531 million wireless phone and data users. This used to involve simply cell phone calls at one time (anyone remember the “bag phone”), but we have now added text messaging, video conferencing, and email to our phones. The Pew Research Institute reports that our teenagers are currently averaging 60 texts per day and if that was applied to our 75 hypothetical corporation cell phones, it would mean over 1.5 million text messages in a year.

Within corporations and our personal lives, we produce each minute of the day:

  • 204 million emails
  • Google receives over 2,000,000 search queries
  • 684,478 Facebook shares
  • 347 new WordPress blog articles published
  • 27,778 Tumblr blog articles published
  • 571 new websites are created
  • Over 100,000 tweets are sent on Twitter
  • 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube
  • $272,070 spent on web shopping
  • Apple receives 47,000 new app downloads

And, it goes on and on.

In today’s discovery world we can no longer think about filing cabinets, rolodexes and calendar books. When looking at trying to gather all the data that may lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, we now must look at not only the possible repositories within the larger corporate computer system, but also the work habits of potential data custodians.

Let’s consider a single worker in our 75 worker company. If that worker uses the following appliances, imagine the total amount of data that 75 of the similar workers would produce:

  • Desktop computer
  • Laptop computer
  • Smart phone
  • IPad
  • (4) Flash drives
  • External drive
  • Corporate email account
  • Personal email account used also for business
  • Home computer used for business occasionally

In today’s litigation world, attorneys and law firms are no longer able to simply look at the world around us that can be physically touched and seen. More than ever before clients need lawyers and law firms capable of handling the 1’s and 0’s of this new digital world.

Check back for our next installment re: litigating in a digital world.

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