I had hoped by now to have written up the talks which HHJ Simon Brown QC and I gave to two groups of judges in the last two weeks, but time is against me and a short summary will have to do for now.
The audiences were first the Designated Civil Judges and then the Specialist Judges. The e-Disclosure Information Project, of which this site is the most obvious tangible output, began as an exercise in helping judges at the junction of two technical subjects – the CPR and technology. The first of these has been unchanged since 2005, but remains shrouded in a mystery which it does not deserve. The second changes all the time. My role is to try and unshroud the rules and to help introduce the technology to those who need it or who need to know about it if proportionate orders are to be made about disclosure.
Data collections experts FoxData were kind enough to fund the educaton exercise from the outset. The companies whose logos appear beside this post have kept it going since. Between them they represent almost every component of technology relevant to efficient management of civil cases – data collection and extraction, hosting, search, review, transcription, case analysis and consultancy are all here, and there will be more.
My report on what was said to the judges will have to wait. HHJ Simon Brown QC summarised the problems, gave some case law and described how he imposes rigourous case management in his court in Birmingham. I tried to wean us all off the idea that e-disclosure is some black art. It is disclosure as the rules require, of what happens now to be electronic documents, using widely available tools and services at costs which are generally proportionate to the case – but how will practitioners know that, or tell judges at CMCs, if they do not pick up the phone and ask for quotations? I compared our rules favourably with what obtains in the US, and drew attention to the recent Australian Federal Court Practice Note.
Mike Brown of Epiq Systems showed the judges what a document review application looks like – it happened to be DocuMatrix, but Mike is scrupulous to talk about “applications like this”, and stuck carefully to generic functions which illustrated what lawyers might expect from such a tool. Review is the function most closely related to lawyers’ own experience and is the obvious starting point for those new to electronic disclosure.
In the last three weeks, I have addressed two e-disclosure conferences in London, been to Bristol and Leeds to speak on behalf of the Law Society, given a talk to a London law firm’s litigation department, and been to Warwick and Northampton to talk to judges. Tomorrow I am off to Washington to take part in a discussion on the same subject. The issues, and the messages are much the same, for judges and practitioners, for big firms and cases and smaller ones, in Leeds or Washington.
All this has not left much time to write it all up. I hope to catch up with my reports on the plane or in the relative calm which will descend when I get back on Friday.