Have you ever heard of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP)? Basically, the FRCP are the rules used by US district courts to govern legal proceedings. Fair enough, but why would I be blogging about them on a blog that is supposed to be about data management “stuff”? Good question!

Well, one of the things that those of us in the business of managing data have had to contend with lately is ever-expanding data retention requirements. We are keeping more and more data for longer and longer periods of time. Sometimes we are doing this just because we can. Or, perhaps more accurately stated, we are doing it because the business users realize that we can so they ask us to keep that data around longer. Of course, we are also retaining data for longer periods of time because regulations are changing that require us to keep data around. You know, regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA.

Which brings me to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. One of the items in this set of rules dictates policies governing discovery. Discovery is the phase of a lawsuit before the trial occurs during which each party can request documents and other evidence from other parties or can compel the production of evidence. You might remember seeing movies or TV shows where the discovery process required the prodcution of boxes and boxes of paper. In today’s modern world discovery more often takes the form of electronic evidence – that is, computerized data.

And that brings me to Rule 34b of the FRCP which is changing in December (2006) to state that “A party who produces documents for inspection shall produce them . . . as they are kept in the usual course of business…”

So what does that mean to those of us in IT and data management? Well, I think it means that we will be asked to maintain and manage even more data for even longer periods of time. By requiring evidence to be produced in the form it is kept “during the normal course of business” means, more often than not, producing electronic data. It will also mean that your company’s IT department and its legal department will have to work together more frequently.

How often do you work with your legal department today? I’d wager not very often… probably only to review contracts. That will have to change. But it will probably be changing slowly.  According research from Gartner, Inc.Through 2007, more than half of IT organizations and in-house legal departments will lack the people and the appropriate skills to handle electronic discovery requirements (0.8 probability).” (A Primer on the Legal Discovery of Electronically Stored Documents, G00131014)

I believe there are additional implications that arise from this change to the FRCP, especially when coupled with the growing list of data breaches and the growing regulations being voted into law by federal and state government. It means that we will be forced to treat data as the corporate asset that it is – instead of just saying that we treat it that way. That means analyzing and modeling data and metadata, maintaining and managing data and metadata, and archiving it for long-term data retention. I’ll blog about these topics in more depth in the future… so be sure to keep reading… and please feel free to share your thoughts on these matters, too!