Data Archive Has a Legal Angle

New federal evidence rules mean lawyers have to store and protect any kind of digital file. How one vendor believes it's got the perfect way to make it happen.

January 14, 2008

Judy Mottl

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Arthur Angel counts himself among the 400,000 attorneys at small shops that, in addition to running their own practice, have to run their IT decision-making.

Thanks to recent federal laws regarding disclosure and production of electronic data, the civil litigation attorney, like every other lawyer, now must make sure all electronic communications are recorded, stored, secured and available when needed. And the same must hold true for Angel's clients.

The digital document requirements are tied to the federal court system's revamp of rules related to new rules of discovery. The rules changed, which essentially mandates storage of everything from email to surveillance camera film to voice mails, is expected to eventually filter downward to state and local courts.

"What I needed was a nice simple clear way of saving digital documents," Angel told "I had no real good concrete procedure for saving files except onto my hard drive," he added, noting that a past drive crash taught him a valuable lesson on how not to store files.

The attorney also didn't want a solution so technical it required IT consulting expertise or one that took valuable man-hours away from his practice. He found what he needed in Casdex, a Web-based digital archival solution that starts at $99 a month.

"There's no big learning curve. You choose what you need to save, drag it over to your data bucket on the system and it's done. Thanks to version tracking, I can easily see earlier versions and document changes, which is useful given how often documents are changed in litigation proceedings."

What he likes most is that his data is sliced into packets that are then dispersed and stored on various servers in the Casdex system. In fact the product's document authentication approach is tied directly to the industry's longtime support of hashes long used for authenticating digital documents in legal cases.

A hash (a unique numerical identifier) is generated when a document is archived. The hash can then prove a document's authenticity, as well as whether the content has changed since the file was archived. Hash values can be inserted into original electronic documents when they are created to provide distinctive characteristics that will permit authentication and help create a form of electronic stamp of verification.

It's the same technology currently used by forensic experts to confirm that contents of a document have not changed through the process of examination and chain of custody.

Features like the identifier make Casdex the perfect solution for the legal enterprise, says Casdex Chief Technology Officer David Barley. It’s so perfect in fact that the San Jose startup is only marketing to the legal industry at this point.

"This is a very easy and secure approach for the many firms that don't have tech expertise on hand and who do have to put a storage tool in place to meet the new rules," Barley said in an interview with

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