The challenge of processing digital information has caused lawyers to lose a case or to be fined or sanctioned in the last two years.

A survey of 5,000 lawyers across EMEA by Symantec found that they are struggling to manage the vast amounts of electronically stored information that play a vital role as evidence in legal matters across the EMEA region.

Half of those surveyed (51 per cent) admitted to problems identifying and recovering e-discovery in the last three months. However the poor availability of ‘digital evidence', which can also hinder the legal process and the power of technology to identify and collect relevant information among millions of electronic files has had a positive impact on many cases across EMEA.

Almost all of the lawyers questioned (98 per cent) said that ‘digital evidence' identified during e-discovery had been vital to the success of legal matters in which they had been involved in the past two years.

Over half of the respondents (60 per cent) admitted they struggled with the amount of information that had to be searched; 29 per cent complained that they did not have enough time to conduct thorough investigations; while 24 per cent said they lacked sufficiently sophisticated e-discovery technology to fulfil requests effectively.

When asked how this might be alleviated, 57 per cent specifically called for 'improvements to search technology used to identify, preserve and process electronically stored information', over measures such as new legislation governing the presentation of evidence in digital formats or greater international collaboration.

Jaap den Exter van den Brink, information management specialist at Symantec, said: “These results demonstrate the pivotal role electronically stored information now plays in routine legal matters, with 91 per cent of EMEA lawyers rating it as either ‘critical' or important to their day-to-day work.

“Assembling a body of evidence strong enough to win a case was testing enough when it involved patiently picking through hundreds or thousands of physical documents, but the rise of electronic data means today's investigators have to deal with files in the millions.

“Our survey results suggests that even though lawyers might feel prepared, the fact they have all lost cases or legal matters because of difficulties producing ‘digital evidence' shows more needs to be done for the good of the legal process. The good news is that lawyers acknowledge how e-discovery technology can make locating ‘digital evidence' efficient, cost-effective and – above all – manageable.”