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A legal hold is a situation wherein a business or organization makes changes to its method of records management in order to preserve information because of a pending litigation. In the digital age, it often involves the handling of business data across sophisticated IT architectures.
Legal hold may also be called “preservation” order or “hold” order.
In addition to pending litigation, a legal hold may be put in place because of an audit and/or an investigation. This will affect corporate policy in a number of ways. For example, a legal hold will often change the rules on how data are backed up in a system, how tape vaults or other storage archives are maintained, and whether physical storage media are recycled. Changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the United States address e-discovery or the discovery of digital information to bring local processes into the 21st century.
The philosophy behind a legal hold is aimed at preventing the “spoliation” of evidence, including the destruction of physical evidence, alteration of digital records, or other changes that can be damaging to the defense. Internal counsel often generates a legal hold in order to keep important information handy.