You place a call on a landline and the telephone converts your voice into electric signals. Voicemail picks up on the other end. You leave a message, which the system converts into binary code. The answering machine automatically siphons the code, which takes the form of a .wav file, into the recipient's e-mail inbox as an attachment. The message sits in the recipient's inbox on the company's server. In a matter of seconds, what began as a human voice is transformed into an electronic document.
This is just one example of how unified messaging works. The technology is sweeping the corporate world because it offers a highly efficientway for users to access voicemails, faxes and e-mail all through the same electronic inbox for easy retrieval.
As a result, companies using unified messaging need to prepare themselves for a potential influx of e-voicemail discovery requests. And that's no easy task.
Although most in-house counsel most likely would rather keep unified messaging out of the workplace, that is unlikely to happen.
"Lawyers are concerned about how it plays into the litigation environment, but you don't want litigation to be the tail wagging the dog," Wagner says.