An International Standard for E-Discovery?

The International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) is forming a new e-discovery committee tasked with the development of standards for e-discovery processes and procedures. The international standard “would provide guidance on measures, spanning from initial creation of [electronically stored information] through its final disposition which an organization can undertake to mitigate risk and expense should electronic discovery become an issue” according to a draft committee charter.

ISO is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards comprised of a network of standards bodies in more than 160 countries. Since its inception over 60 years ago, ISO has created more than 19,500 international standards for nearly every aspect of technology and businesses.

The proposed standard would cite ISO 9001, a part of the ISO 9000 family of standards that sets forth an internationally accepted consensus on good quality management practices. ISO 9001 defines minimum requirements for a company’s Quality Management System and is used by more than 1 million businesses in over 180 countries.

Reactions to the concept of promulgating an international e-discovery standard are mixed. Opponents contend that such a standard is not feasible in light of the rapidly changing landscape of e-discovery and the unpredictable nature of litigation. Supporters argue that e-discovery is a technology and engineering issue that can be standardized. All critics seem to agree, however, that e-discovery standardization is a central need for the industry as a whole.

Indeed, the potential benefits of a uniform standard would inure to practitioners, clients and the judicial system. Creation of such a standard should significantly reduce, if not eliminate, disputes regarding how e-discovery should proceed, thereby significantly reducing litigation costs and promoting judicial economy. E-discovery software companies may also be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors by meeting the standard and branding their products as standards-compliant.

The establishment of the committee appears to be a certainty with support from the United States, Italy, Japan, South Africa and the U.K. Should the project move forward, a draft report would be submitted sometime in July, followed by a comment period beginning in August. This blog will continue to track the progress of this important e-discovery development.

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