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Lawyer explains importance behind e-discovery education

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Technology certainly has made life easier in the legal profession, but it also may have provided quite the learning curve.

However, many of the state's attorneys are working to close the gap, especially when it comes to e-discovery.

A recent seminar presented in Charleston by The Appalachian Institute of Digital Evidence taught attendees all about the e-discovery process.  

This seminar has existed in some form for about three years and now, and officials plan to make this year's presentations into a regular event.  

"It's a real tough world for lawyers today, especially in the civil practice," explained Jackson Kelly member Jill McIntyre. "Criminal prosecutors have been working with digital evidence for years. Civil lawyers haven't and their default is ‘let's print it out' but the universe of documents has gotten so big. Right now, 95 percent of documents are created electronically. You just can't print all that stuff out."

The event hosted speakers including forensics experts, judges and lawyers. Lawyers also found out whether an e-discovery issue could qualify a referral to the business court division. 

McIntyre, who spoke at the AIDE conference, said one of the main themes was a fictitious case about a woman injured in a chemical plant explosion. The made-up woman then sued the owner of the chemical plant and then sued the contractor that built the unit.

"They were looking for evidence relevant to their contract and who was responsible for what part of the construction," McIntyre explained, later adding, "It went through the life of discovery with the lecture format and some demonstrations."

For example, she continued, the speeches demonstrated what would happen when that person's attorney interviews an employer about how they keep data.

"This is different than it used to be," McIntyre said. "You may not be used to having someone coming in, invading your desktop and saying, ‘show me where you keep everything,' asking how big your inbox is, how many deleted items do you have and do you have a folder relating to these issues?"

So why is teaching attorneys about e-discovery important?

McIntyre said it helps lawyers realize that they can't print everything out in today's world.

"The question is how much is enough and how much is justified? … How do you make a decision on how to get it, rather than printing it?"