Lawyers and ESI: New Survey

September 5, 2010

On 7 September, Symantec Corp release the findings of a survey of 5,000 lawyers. Its results suggest that the profession is struggling to manage the vast amounts of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) that play a vital role as evidence in legal matters across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Survey respondents across ten countries admitted that they had either lost a case, experienced a case delay or been sanctioned by a court or regulator in the past two years because they were unable to locate or process ESI that could have been successfully presented as evidence. Half of those surveyed (51%) admitted to problems identifying and recovering ESI in the last three months.  

On the other hand, the research also suggests that, while poor availability of ‘digital evidence’ can hinder the legal process, the power of technology to identify and collect relevant information among millions of electronic files has had a positive impact on many cases: 98% of the lawyers questioned said that ESI identified ‘digital evidence’ during e-discovery had been vital to the success of legal matters in which they had been involved in the past two years. 

The  survey was conducted in August 2010 and is based on responses from 5,000 lawyers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. 

69% of respondents claimed their teams were ‘fully prepared’ for processing ESI relating to important litigation or compliance matters. However, 60% of respondents admitted they struggled with the amount of information that had to be searched, 29% complained that they did not have enough time to conduct thorough investigations and 24% said they lacked sufficiently sophisticated e-discovery technology to fulfil requests effectively. When asked how this might be alleviated, 57% specifically called for ‘improvements to search technology used to identify, preserve and process ESI’ over measures such as new legislation governing the presentation of evidence in digital formats or greater international collaboration.  

‘Assembling a body of evidence strong enough to win a case was testing enough when it involved patiently picking through hundreds or thousands of physical documents,’ said Jaap den Exter van den Brink, Information Management Specialist at Symantec. ‘But the rise of electronic data means today’s investigators have to deal with files in the millions. Our survey results suggests that even though lawyers might feel prepared, the fact they have all lost cases or legal matters because of difficulties producing ‘digital evidence’ shows more needs to be done for the good of the legal process. The good news is that lawyers acknowledge how e-discovery technology can make locating digital evidence efficient, cost-effective and – above all – manageable.’