A career devoted to court rules and electronic documents is not an instant turn-on for dinner party conversation. The subjects are, however, important ones for businesses beyond those which actually work in litigation, and the rate of change is increasing
What exactly is it that you do? Like all of us, I get asked this question from time to time by people who are outside the world of law and technology. It is much easier for those of you who read this. If, whatever your gender, you say you are a litigation solicitor, then doubtless people gaze on you with that same awestruck admiration which was formerly reserved for chaps on leave from the trenches. If you are a supplier and say that you work at the cutting edge of information technology then you are up there with rocket scientists – they do not understand, but they know it matters. Barristers are assumed to have mighty brains and Ciceronian eloquence. If you are a judge, then you are met with equal deference whether you are a part-time Deputy Recorder or sit in the Court of Appeal.
When they ask me, my answer usually elicits a perfectly understandable look of blank incomprehension. “I speak and write about the disclosure of electronic documents for litigation” I say. “Will you excuse me?” they reply. “I’ve got to go and see a man about a dog” or some such transparent excuse to get away.
Well, what does it break down into? What do I actually do which promotes understanding of electronic disclosure? I can at least assume that anyone reading thus far does at least know what the words mean. I am quite interested to find out myself, so let’s go back to the beginning of last week.
In those two weeks, I have done the following:
written seven articles and made changes and additions to my web site
had a series of transatlantic conference calls about a forthcoming e-disclosure conference, put together some documentation for its handbook, read up two new cases (Digicel v Cable & Wireless and Hedrich v Standard Bank and Zimmers) and prepared what I wanted to say at the conference
attended a meeting of the group convened by Senior Master Whitaker to draft a Technology Questionnaire, resulting, after a considerable debate and A&O’s excellent beef-burgers, in a penultimate draft.
prepared a speech and gone to the Ritz to deliver it at a lunch hosted by Autonomy.
gone to Birmingham with Browning Marean of DLA Piper US LLP to talk to HHJ Simon Brown QC about LexisNexis CaseMap.
been with Browning Marean and Jonathan Maas of DLA Piper UK to see the Senior Master with ideas for an international forum of e-discovery at a judicial level, and to discuss a new Practice Direction which he has been asked to pilot.
given some written advice about e-disclosure
attended the faculty dinner of the West LegalWorks conference.
co-chaired (with Browning Marean and George Socha) an all-day conference in London which attracted 70 attendees and which seems to have gone well
exchanged a lot of e-mail, met or re-met lawyers and suppliers, picked up some gossip, heard or imparted news, views and information, discussed future conferences, and generally kept in touch with my sponsors, would-be sponsors and influencers in the UK, Australia, Canada and the US.
Isn’t this exactly the sort of thing which gives blogging a bad name? you ask. You will be telling us next what you had for breakfast and how your dog is (chocolate croissants and he is fine, thanks, since you ask).
There is in fact a context which matters. The e-disclosure market is worth billions annually worldwide, and litigation itself many times more. The UK is at risk of losing significant business to foreign jurisdictions because our courts are seen as expensive. Our courts and the lawyers who practice in them have been slow to adapt to the technology which, properly used, could make us again the jurisdiction of choice for international business and restore cost-effective litigation to its proper place in commercial relations.
We are, suddenly, seeing progress. We have the two new cases mentioned above which emphasise the value of understanding the rules and technology or, at least, the downside of not doing so. We have significant progress towards improvements in the rules. A senior judge has been given a year to review litigation costs. New technology emerges almost weekly, with a focus on early case assessment and the concomitant costs-savings. There is a move towards trans-jurisdictional collaboration to address the whole subject.
Apart from all that, I have sponsors who are entitled to know that I spend my time doing things to promote understanding in the market. The list above leaves little room for anything else – sleep, for example – and it all helps, in its small way, to move the market along.
If you want to know more about any of this, please contact me.