There used to be a sort of gentlemen's agreement between attorneys to not dig in to electronically stored information (ESI). That was back when everything important ended up on paper anyway, which was discoverable.
As time went on, fewer things ended up on paper, but the rules of discovery didn't evolve. That was the time of backing up a U-Haul full of printed out copies of every file, e-mail, etc. that a company had. Now the opposition had to dig through mounds of trash in the hopes that they will find that one incriminating document.
Then attorneys got more savvy, and in the so-called Rule 26 (refers to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure), the attorneys would agree on the format of ESI to be exchanged. In December, 2006, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure changed to directly address ESI and electronic discovery.
Now, in litigation, parties may still get obnoxious amounts of data, but it's electronic. Once it's processed and converted (usually to TIFFs with extracted text, but sometimes PDF), attorneys can do what amounts to a Google search through the files and find what they want pretty quickly. In fact, paper documents are usually scanned and OCRed so they can be handled and searched in the same manner.
Actually, I thought it was a fairly common legal tactic to make the data as difficult to actually find as possible, without revealing too much to the other side.
"They want records from three years ago? Send a truck with printouts of all the files we have, that'll keep them busy..."
Does anyone know that this is no longer the case?
So no, it's no longer the case. But the first guy who did it must have thought he was pretty funny.