Proper archiving, retention, monitoring, filtering and electronic data are no longer optional, they are imperative to reduce risk and protect intellectual property, according to the guide's author, Cynthia Jackson, partner in the legal firm's office in Palo Alto, California.
"Companies of all shapes and sizes should be aware that the age of electronic data imposes challenges and liabilities," she said.
US statistics show that by 2005, 24% of companies had e-mail subpoenaed and 15% had gone to court over lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail. The guide recommends that companies should plan, implement and train before a legal crisis arises.
Jackson said the guide is relevant to any UK company that does business in the US or has US customers. She said it also raises awareness of the issues and foreshadows the challenges UK companies are likely to face in future.
"This guide will help companies understand the problem and ask the right questions. Ignorance is no defence in a court of law," said Peter Lorant, senior director of marketing for Postini in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Postini, an electronic communications company, has made the Baker & McKenzie guide available to UK businesses through free download from the Postini website.
A webcast discussing the contents of the guide is also available.
The guide outlines the risks, looks at the legal requirements to maintain electronic records, and gives ten ways companies can manage electronic data to avoid legal risk through archiving, e-discovery and encryption.
"Successful approaches to electronic communications need to be holistic. Having the right tools is only part of it. Companies need to educate themselves on how best to use those tools without exposing the business to risk," said Lorant.
The value of electronic data management is not only in reducing risk, said Jackson. "With the mass of information that is available, a company that can search that information and respond quickly will have a definite business advantage."
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