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eDiscovery Lessons Learned from Blagojevich

by on January 28, 2010

Blagojevich The people who gather electronic evidence sometimes spend too much time snatching documents from an adversary and not enough time considering how to protect that information once they get it.


A case in point is the defense team of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. News hounds may remember that the wacky former chief executive was indicted in April ’09 for using his office to extract money and favors from anyone who needed a political pal.

When the Chicago legal team for Blagojevich arrived at their south-side offices on the morning of Dec. 4, they found their digs ransacked and eight laptops stolen.

The laptops contained 3.5 million pages of documents obtained through eDiscovery.

What can be learned from this case? Obviously, physical security is important to protect documents obtained through eDiscovery.  Blagojevich’s legal team is reportedly considering moving their headquarters to avoid future lefts. That kind of closing-the-barn-door-after-the-horses-have-fled strategy doesn’t rank very high in the best practices department. In fact, let’s face it, thefts can happen anywhere. The problem isn’t the location of their legal offices, but rather their inability to secure the data they had obtained.

In addition to creating a secure physical home for eDiscovery documents, protecting the information itself is important. It’s common for electronic documents to be reviewed on notebook computers. Those laptops should be secured with passwords and the contents of their hard drives encrypted.  In addition, as with any type of electronic information, the data itself should have been copied securely to a remote server in case the data was lost. (Or at least, not put the data on a “server” that fits in a backpack.)

Blagojevich’s team down played the document loss. They claimed most of the information wasn’t sensitive. They could always obtain the data again from prosecutors. Of course it is the tax payers that will ultimately pay to procure all that the electronic information again.

For those firms that can pass off the bill to taxpayers, it is important to realize that data security is as important for themselves as it is for their clients.

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