Last year, Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius allegedly shot and killed his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The trial, which has just entered its fourth week, will now extend into April. But what does this high-profile murder case have to do with IT professionals? Three words: Electronically Stored Information (or ESI).
Recently, the lead investigator in the case flew from South Africa to Cupertino, California, to visit Apple's headquarters in search of ESI. The New York Daily News reports the investigator brought Pistorius's iPhone 5 in order for Apple's engineers to unlock the phone and give investigators access to data that could be used as evidence.
In addition to murder investigations, ESI research is especially common in data breach lawsuits when corporate lawyers are looking to understand what data was leaked and how cyber criminals broke into a network.
While many IT consultants are probably unaware they could even be hired to perform legal research, ESI is a new opportunity they should keep their eyes on.
New Markets for IT Companies: Data Breach Investigations
Inside Counsel, a magazine specializing in corporate law issues, recently published a profile on Electronically Stored Information and the difficulty of “electronic discovery,” the legal process of finding and requesting evidence before a trial.
ESI research is particularly hard because you need an IT background to know all the places to find records and data that might be relevant to a court case. Say a company is being sued for a data breach. In order to build their case, lawyers need to know how the breach occurred, when it occurred, and who was responsible. But a digital crime scene makes this difficult.
Weeks after the breach, logs might be deleted. Since most lawyers don't have a tech background, they won't know where to look for the deleted data. That’s why IT firms are sometimes hired to consult.
4 Reasons You Should Look into Working with Lawyers
ESI research isn't for every tech consultant, but there are some good reasons to expand your business to include this and other related services. Here are a few:
- Networking (not the Internet kind). Lawyers are great people to know. Sure, they can be intimidating. But from a business perspective, they're valuable. Lawyers know lots of people. They have many clients and tend to be well connected in their local business communities. If you get to know a lawyer well, you might start to get referrals from them.
- Diversification. As a small-business owner, you must perform a balancing act between specializing in the services you're best at and expanding to new ventures. One way to manage your financial risks is to diversify your sources of income. (For information on another growing opportunity, see our post Software Testing: A Growing Market for IT Professionals.)
- Improving your security credentials. As the cyber security and security consulting markets continue to expand, small-business owners should try to capitalize on the new business. Anything you can do to improve your business's reputation for security expertise might help you find more clients in the long run.
- A new perspective on IT issues. Analyzing IT issues from a legal perspective and learning how lawyers approach a data breach / identity theft lawsuit can only help you protect your own liabilities. You might gain some knowledge that can protect you and your clients from lawsuits.
As we said above, legal consulting might not be right for every IT business. Furthermore, any time you expand your business, you need to think seriously about the new risks that come along with the new work.
For example, if you aid lawyers in their ESI investigations, you expose your business to malpractice lawsuits. If you make a mistake retrieving data, you could be sued for bungling the investigation. That's why, no matter what type of IT work you do, Errors & Omissions Insurance offers important protection from your professional liabilities. To learn more, check out our other posts about E & O coverage.