Survey: Companies not prepared for ediscovery rules

Few corporations are prepared for the new U.S. government rules slated to take effect Dec. 1 for electronic discovery of documents in civil cases, according to a survey conducted by Computerworld.

About 42 percent of the 170 IT managers and staff surveyed said they did not know the status of their company's preparation for the new rules, while 32 percent said their company was not at all prepared.

The new rules specify requirements for submitting electronic documents -- including email and perhaps even IM logs -- as evidence in civil cases.

The rules were recommended in Sept., 2005, by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Supreme Court's Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. Some states have instituted similar rules (see " ").

If the survey is correct, a widespread lack of preparation that could lead to large fines to companies, said John Bace, an analyst for Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., who said the Computerworld survey results are in line with his research.

The new rules, described in a 300-plus page document, require that companies that are involved in civil litigation meet within 30 days of the filing to decide how to handle electronic data. The firms must agree on what records are shared, which electronic format is used, and a definition of "accessible data."