As Microsoft learned in its recent federal suit, e-mail messages are official company records that can be summoned in a lawsuit. Unfortunately, most companies don't appear to recognize that they may be called upon to produce computerized records for a lawsuit.
In an American Bar Association survey, more than 80 percent of trial lawyers said their clients don't have a policy for handling electronic discovery requests. And two-thirds said that when their clients are noti-fied of a lawsuit, the clients "rarely or never" take steps to preserve electronic data. The most requested electronic data: e-mail messages.
Tip: Before purging e-mail or other files, sort through them to determine which items could have legal significance. Print these out and file them away. Talk with your computer experts about procedures to protect data from being deleted or overwritten.