The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended in 2006 to include requirements regarding electronically stored information. Most importantly, these rules were amended to require participants in legal proceedings to engage in a Rule 26(f) conference, where parties could discuss relevant electronic data and the best ways to access it, among other issues. Here, the digital forensic and Rule 26(f) experts at Atlantic Data Forensics provide an overview of Rule 26(f) conferences.
Rule 26(f) Has Several Subsections
Each subsection within Rule 26(f) defines a different aspect of the conference. Subsection (1) pertains to the scheduling of a conference—it must happen as soon as is possible and at least 21 days before the pretrial scheduling conference is to be held. Subsection (2) specifies what should be discussed at the conference, including the discovery plan, preservation and settlement. In Subsection (3), discovery is defined more specifically, including regulations regarding witness identities and statements. Finally, Subsection (4) allows for the court to modify some conference-related deadlines under certain circumstances.
Rule 26(f) Conferences Can Help to Reduce Discovery and Preservation Costs
Civil proceedings can be costly and time-consuming, but Rule 26(f) conferences can actually help to reduce these burdens by more exactly defining the appropriate scope of the legal suit. Within a Rule 26(f) conference, parties are obligated to, “discuss any issues about preserving discoverable information.” This includes discussions about time-sensitive materials, document retention policies, automated deletion and archiving, defensible deletion, production formats, employee status changes, legal hold applications, whether there is a need for a protective order motion for specific information and data and more. By focusing in on only the most key, relevant information for the legal proceeding, the cost and amount of time spent is greatly reduced, allowing for a more efficient process.
Useful Technology and Specific Methodologies Should Be Discussed
Another important aspect of any Rule 26(f) conference is a discussion about appropriate technologies and methodologies to use when collecting and storing data. The type of technology used will impact collection deadlines, privileged information, the form of production of information and more. In order to avoid making any firm commitments to a specific methodology or technology at the time of the meeting, this conversation should remain at a high-level and simply touch on general agreements about the use of technology. This will also allow for individuals present at the conference who are not as adept with technology to become more familiar with the likelihood of collecting and retaining certain types of data.
A Computer Forensics Team is an Invaluable Asset During a Rule 26(f) Conference
Although a Rule 26(f) conference may seem like another burdensome formality, it is actually a critical point in civil procedure that can have a massive impact on the course of any legal proceeding. Ensure that the data necessary for case is properly secured and that you have a knowledgeable and experienced team at your side during your Rule 26(f) conference by speaking to the e-discovery experts at Atlantic Data Forensics. Through the use of data-based, qualitative methodology, as well as an extensive IT infrastructure and data storage experience, the team at Atlantic Data Forensics has the capability to guide your team through the Rule 26(f) preparation and conference. For more information, contact Atlantic Data Forensics today.