Lawyer alert: amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure take effect on December 1 governing electronic discovery. Here’s an article from a technology news site about the upcoming changes, and here’s a legal blog with a few more details.

Lawsuits in federal court have always required massive document productions at the beginning of the proceedings. Those rules are now expanded to include the burden of searching, retrieving, and producing electronic evidence that might be relevant to the litigation, with dire consequences for undisclosed evidence. In theory this will reduce litigation costs by preventing squabbling later in the case about discoverable information. It’s difficult to evaluate the intangible savings later in the litigation; the tangible effect is that companies involved in litigation in federal court have a huge burden to gather information that will now expand to invade every part of their data stores, from servers to backups to laptops to PDAs to instant messaging logs. It increases the pressure on all companies to have data retention policies.