The general perception is that volume is the problem and companies need to have document retention policies, records retention policies and eliminate e-mails after a certain period of time, said Stephen Maddex, lawyer and associate in the commercial litigation group at in Ottawa. But "organization is the key," he said.
Before e-mail, businesses "maintained massive databases of records of files in paper and it was never a problem to figure out whether you had documents that responded to a specific litigation ... because it was organized," he said.
It's not so much that there is a lot of e-mail, but that it is maintained in a "massive, disorganized haystack," he said. "What people figured out was that the value of any given record to litigation wasn't what was written on the record, but it was the value of the cost it would take to remove that needle from the haystack," he said.
Businesses stopped maintaining their records in an organized fashion with e-mail and "that's what created the e-mail problem of discovery," he said.
Another point to keep in mind, he added, is that it is a business decision as to whether or not you keep any files at all. "You could have a policy that says no e-mails are going to be saved on any server or any device or anything more than 30 days," he said.