May will be “social media in the law month” on Frank, putting a spotlight on the ways social media is changing eDiscovery for small firms and personal cases. eDiscovery was once the sole concern of Big Law and large-scale litigation, but has increasingly become an issue in smaller cases for smaller law firms. In large part, that trend is being driven by the rise of social media evidence.
Dishon & Block Family Law Attorneys produced this neat infographic, “How Family Law Attorneys Use Social Media Evidence in Court Cases,” to illustrate just how widespread this phenomenon is. Consider that over 42 percent of all Americans are on Facebook and 250 million people are daily users of the site. And as of this year, 10 percent of American adults will be using Twitter. That means more Americans are not just living their lives online, but leaving a rich and valuable trail of digital records that is discoverable in litigation. That digital trail is driving many family, employment, and other small, personal cases, changing the litigation landscape in new and profound ways.
To lawyers, it means developing an expertise in obtaining and managing digital records from these sources. According to the 2011 ABA Legal Technology Survey, almost 40 percent of solo attorneys now regularly respond to eDiscovery requests for digital evidence.
Small and solo lawyers are learning some important lessons about the benefits and burdens of obtaining electronic evidence in litigation. Small firms can not only effectively conduct eDiscovery and forensic investigation, but these firms are often at an advantage when competing with big firms. Without legacy software and processes in place, small and solo lawyers can often adapt more quickly to the challenges of social media and eDiscovery. In addition, after some false starts and confusing decisions, the courts are clarifying and defining the scope and practice of social media discovery.
This month, look for a roundup of social media and eDiscovery cases that are driving the law ahead into this new world, technology news that will change how you think about eDiscovery, and in-depth analysis of the ongoing trends. This week, Sharon Nelson and John Simek, well-known forensic examiners from Virginia will share some of their experiences in the trenches of eDiscovery.