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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Cost of Doing Business

A couple of weeks back, I was on the receiving end of my company’s first summons. It was a trivial issue that resolved itself within a couple of days. But it gave me some insight into how my customers (typically, large companies) think about these things.

My first reaction was shock (“How could this happen? There must be some mistake”). That feeling was soon eclipsed by outrage (“This is ridiculous, we haven’t done anything wrong”); which was followed by regret (“I wish we had just avoided this situation”); finishing up with irritation (“I can’t believe I have to waste time on this when I have so much real work to do.”)

When I mentioned this reaction to a couple of our customers, they just chortled to themselves and suggested that I get used to it: as your business grows, they said, you can be certain that more of these will follow.

That’s when it struck me: dealing with these issues – and by implication, e-discovery – is by no means unusual; it has become part of the cost of doing business. In the same way that companies pay their taxes or process employee visas, they respond to subpoenas, demand letters, and regulatory inquiries. Whether they themselves are directly implicated in wrongdoing, or they were innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with it, doesn’t make any difference. They have to do the work all the same.

With this in mind, I feel better prepared for the next summons, whenever it comes. Right now, we are focused on recruiting and training; at some point, if all goes well, we will get to e-discovery.

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