"Attorney and e-discovery expert Tom O'Connor, with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Legal Electronic Document Institute, says that judges in the cases he consults on are ordering e-discovery and computer-forensics investigation much more frequently than ever before. O'Connor is seeing the effect of this change on all kinds of cases.
"For civil domestic cases such as divorce proceedings, there's an enormous amount of forensics investigation occurring. O'Connor says that PCs are being examined to prove or refute claims by one spouse that the other has been engaging in extramarital affairs or hiding financial assets. Forensics experts are trained to search for e-mail exchanges in which the parties are setting dates and carrying on other communications. They can also:
- Uncover questionable online purchases;
- Track credit-card transactions; and
- Detect whether credit cards unknown to one spouse are being used to make illicit purchases.
"Stephanie Simons Neal, litigation-support [PDF] project manager in the New York office of Weil Gotshal & Manges, attests to the burgeoning need for forensics expertise at her firm. Simons Neal's caseload consists of a number of patent cases, along with other corporate-litigation matters.
"'We've definitely noticed an increase in request for forensics, as well as requests for review and production of documents in native form as opposed to paper,' she says, adding that while the requests continue to come in, the expertise to meet those requests is lacking and there is a growing 'disconnect' between what cases actually require and what the law firms are equipped to provide.
"Trial attorney and certified computer forensic examiner Craig Ball of Austin, TX, has seen a marked increase in the use of forensically qualified imaging to preserve data prior to litigation rather than in reaction to it."
NOTE: This article also says: "Computer forensics is still a young science that's being shaped by the electronic-discovery rules as they continue to evolve and change. This expanding industry simultaneously presents huge opportunities and great responsibility."