Think of this: In the year 1999, 93% of all information generated was generated in digital form, on computers. Eleven years later, in 2010, the total amount of information created was 1,350 exabytes. That’s enough to fill 9,990,000 Library-of-Congress-collection-sized libraries.
So, it seems the era of passing notes in class is gone. When the paradigm and methods for exchanging information change so drastically, it’s usually a pretty good sign that we in discovery should be paying attention. Where the information goes, so must we.
The new communication paradigm
It isn’t new information that social media, in particular, is no longer limited to just one demographic, purpose, or use. As of April 2017, there are nearly 2.907 billion active social media users. Facebook and Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and Pinterest still have a stronghold over the majority of social media users, making up the “Big Five” networks most of us think of when we consider the word “social media.”
On the organizational side, software developers have had plenty of time to take advantage of a new generation of workers who have come to expect and evangelize the social nature of online communication and collaboration, and thrive within it. Most job seekers apply for jobs online, and in fact, of the 65% of Americans using social media, 35% have used social media to look for or research a job.
We’re seeing organizations like Harvard and NASA supplementing — even replacing — email with tools like Slack, which allows them to monitor and organize employees, and increase communication efficiency all in one place. Microsoft Sharepoint, Trello, Salesforce Chatter, Google Hangouts, Asana, and Hive are just a few others replacing traditional forms of online communication inside companies. Mobile tools like Whatsapp are also used for a variety of purposes, socially and professionally. Many of these tools offer multi-device options; for example, Slack is available as a web-based platform, a mobile app, and a desktop app that stores additional data. The word “volume” no longer feels like a sufficient term to describe any amount of ESI — there is just so much of it. Everywhere.
The new eDiscovery challenge
So for those in discovery, all of this doesn’t just mean different information. It means more information, exponentially so. And it means more types of it, more places it can be found, and more ethical questions surrounding privacy, the discovery of that information, and how it can be used in a case. ESI grows by the day. With an increase in cases and the sheer volume of ESI, there are new risks and significant costs to litigators. According to Michael R. Arkfield, some of these new challenges faced by law firms include:
- Increased Regulatory and Litigation Workload
- Court- and Regulatory-Imposed ESI Federal and State Rules and Case Law
- Court-Imposed Responsibility to Monitor Client’s ESI Systems and Sanctions for Failure to Disclose
- Capability of In-House IT Systems and Administrative Costs
- Recovering IT Costs in Compliance with Ethical Rules
In the time of social media, litigators need to be aware of not only what’s out there, but how, when, and why it’s changing. They need to understand the resistance social media sites have shown to comply with discovery requests, and the risks faced by individual and corporate users of platforms like Twitter or Slack. People have entire lives, professional and personal, stored on the Internet, on their desktops, inside their smartphones. Companies do, too.
The new eDiscovery professional
More than ever before, law firms and lawyers are pressed not only to take change in stride, but to proactively learn and follow where it’s headed. At the pace social media, tech, and the Internet of Things are growing (Amazon just rolled out the Echo Look — in case you need some fashion advice), it’s also crucial for firms to hire the savviest, best-informed talent for their eDiscovery projects: professionals with the right type of experience, the skillsets to perform with a competitive edge, and knowledge of the tools and technologies needed for the job.
Leveraging the latest technology, LexInsight has over 10,000 pre-vetted, US-licensed document review attorneys on its platform who are prepared to take on your next eDiscovery case. Sign up and post a project today to make sure your document review is being handled by the right person for the job.