There is a more than theoretical interest in what is happening in disclosure in other jurisdictions. We are all facing the same challenges, and it is helpful to know what the problems, and the perceived solutions, are in far-away places – Scotland, for example, the US or Australia.
I mention Scotland because it came up last week when I met Bob Wiss of LexisNexis who was talking about CaseMap. There seems to be a wave of interest amongst Scottish lawyers in using CaseMap to relate the facts, documents and people to the issues in a case. I hope to go up to Edinburgh soon to find out what is happening there, not just with CaseMap but generally on the e-Disclosure front.
The US experience is by no means all about awful warnings as to what to avoid, and there is regular two-way exchange of information between the US and UK. Although the limelight gets hogged by big cases fought between giant firms over vast document populations, the majority of cases in the US are routine affairs handled by small firms, whose experiences – and costs constraints – are not at all remote from those of modest-sized firms in the UK.
Perhaps the most interesting jurisdiction, for UK lawyers, is Australia. Jo Sherman of eDiscovery Tools has long been involved in the development of rules and practice in the Australian civil courts to take account of the growing volumes of electronic documents and the need to handle them efficiently and cost-effectively.
A new Practice Note is due for release on 1 July, and Jo Sherman has been running a travelling road show with Louise Anderson, the Registrar from the Federal Court of Australia charged with rolling out the Practice Note. They have been meeting representatives from the Association of Litigation Support Managers, who are apparently enthusiastic about the implications of the Practice Note. Interestingly, from my point of view, the new moves are deliberately aimed at average or even small populations of electronic documents, and not just at the very large ones.
Litigation support managers are easily converted to the wider use of electronic tools to tackle electronic problems. The harder nut to crack may be the lawyers and perhaps the judges. We are approaching it here by a focus on the rules and the practice, to which the technology is an enabling servant, rather than as a purely technical issue, and it seems that Australia is doing so as well.
I will find out more about the Australian Practice Note and how it relates to developments here, and tell you more in due course.