With the United States having witnessed a number of e-discovery wake-up calls in recent years, such as the Zubulake Decisions, 'a chill' has been sent through the Canadian corporate community, says Norm Letalik, a partner in the Toronto office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

And at the very centre of the e-discovery challenge is that the majority of electronic data in storage is in the form of unstructured data. And one of the most obvious proliferators of unstructured data is e-mail. 'When it comes to e-discovery,' Letalik says, 'that's where all the juicy stuff is. That's often where you need to look for the smoking gun.'

However, tackling the e-discovery challenge can be a costly undertaking. And, in this economy, convincing companies to jump on the bandwagon can be a tough sell.

'It's a difficult time to think about putting new systems in place; and indexing costs are huge,' Letalik says. 'It's hard to convince a CFO it's a worthwhile expenditure; and IT departments see it as a royal nuisance since they have better things to do. Once you find yourself in the middle of a court process, however, the requirement to produce everything relevant becomes incredibly burdensome.'