DIY Electronic Discovery

Feeling brave? Maybe it’s not quite like DIY brain surgery or DIY rocket science, but maybe a lawyer might try his or her hand at do-it-yourself electronic discovery.
A great new article from computerforensics and electronic discovery expert Craig Ball called Do-It-Yourself E-Discovery raises the important question of when and how you might want to deal with certain parts of electronic discovery matters yourself.
In Craig’s article, the example is email and .pst files. Craig looks at a number of software tools before deciding on dtSearch. He invites others to suggest other options, with all due warnings about understanding the “chain of custody,” spoliation and other evidentiary issues inherent in any DIY approach. Do not underestimate these issues. You must understand the risks (see the quote from Craig below).
Note that you might also obtain the forensically-sound copy you need and then have a second copy prepared that you will use these DIY tools on to screen the copy without compromising the evidence of the other copy.
I suggest taking a look at some free and inexpensive tools and some tools you may already own – the X1 search tool, Adobe Acrobat 7 (import the PST files into Outlook and then use Acrobat to save the folders as PDF files to work with) or the free Copernic Desktop search tool,. You might even try to import the PST file and then export it out of Outlook into an Access file. There may be other creative options. I’m looking forward to hearing about them.
Remember that (1) you might get the opposing party to agree to using these simple and cheap tools and get a judge’s approval as an alternative to full-blown approaches in appropriate cases, (2) these tools might help you see whether use of more expensive and more elaborate tools will be needed, or (3) you might use these tools for other screening purposes.
As Craig says:

As a computer forensic examiner, I blanch at the thought of lawyers harvesting data and processing e-mail in native formats.
“Guard the chain of custody,” I want to warn. “Don’t mess up the metadata! Leave this stuff to the experts!”
But the trial lawyer in me wonders how a solo/small firm practitioner in a run-of-the-mill case is supposed to tell a client, “Sorry, the courts are closed to you because you can’t afford e-discovery experts.”

This is an intriguing, potentially quite important, topic that deserves some serious thought and attention. I congratulate Craig for raising the topic and look forward to the discussion it raises. For example, see Evan Schaeffer’s post here.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Learn more about electronic discovery at Dennis Kennedy’s Electronic Discovery Resources page.
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