November marks the first anniversary of what became the E-Disclosure Information Project. It did not have that name when I ran a half-day training session for judges in Birmingham last November but it was effectively launched with that event. This Commentary began a year or so earlier.
That first session was made possible by generous support from forensic collections expert FoxData whose Ian Manning has continued to back what I do, by turning out to speak and with useful information and introductions as well as financially. Tyrone Edward, now at Ernst & Young Forensic Technology & Discovery Services, made the suggestion for a business model which has allowed me to spend substantially all my time on spreading information about electronic disclosure. The Project is sponsored by the companies whose logos appear here, but on the basis that it is independent and product-agnostic.
The main outputs from the e-Disclosure Information Project are what I write here and on my website, and conferences. There are 228 posts on this site. None of them are simple regurgitations of press releases – PRs are invaluable sources of hard information, but I am more interested in the context and the implications of a software or services initiative than in the bare words of a press release.
This site and my web site had 2,758 page views over the last 30 days, most of them on this site which usually acquires new material every week. The subject-matter is fairly specialist and I doubt that anyone comes here either by accident or reads the same article twice, so that implies a good level of interest. The statistics returned by WordPress (where this blog is hosted) are not very comprehensive. I could move it to my own site and get a much closer knowledge as to who the readership is. I do not, partly because WordPress is always there and needs no technical handling by me, and partly because I am fearful of losing the rankings which I get from search engines.
The combination of blog and web site gives me both long-term “findability” from the web site and very quick indexing from the blog. As at today, a UK search for e-disclosure puts LexisNexis in the top two slots followed by the electronic disclosure site maintained by barrister Clive Freedman. The next two entries are mine. A search for electronic disclosure litigation has pages of mine as the top two entries. You will find me on page 1 of Google for searches like digicel cable wireless, practice direction part 31 cpr or document retention. The most common search terms are in fact the names of companies, products and people in the industry. More than half the visitors, I think, come direct (that is, they know where to go) as opposed to the use of search engines.
In the last year, I have spoken at 23 conferences or similar events, including one in Sydney, and attended others, including LegalTech, ILTA and the Masters Conference in the US. My information comes partly from them – as much from the bars and restaurants as the formal sessions. The rest streams into my InBox or browser, or comes from just speaking to people.
A lot has happened this year, both in what I do and externally. Externally, the year has produced cases like Qualcomm, US v O’Keefe, Equity Analytics and Victor Stanley in the US, and Digicel v Cable & Wireless and Hedrich v Standard Bank in the UK. These cases drive both the technology which is available for capture, processing and review of ESI and the attitudes and culture in which they are used. We have seen the appointment of Lord Justice Jackson to review litigation costs. In my own ambit, Master Whitaker’s drafting group has produced a Technology Questionnaire and we are moving straight on to a Practice Direction. New audiences have been found who are, at best grasping the potential in the CPR and embracing the technology or are, at the least, accepting that these things must be understood.
Over it all hangs the recession. With all its many downsides, international, national and personal, the recession will blow away inefficiencies in the way companies manage their electronic documents and in the way lawyers and courts handle litigation.
It is fifteen years since I swapped the practice of litigation for working full-time in the technology and its application to the rules and practice of litigation. For much of that time, it has felt like flogging the proverbial dead horse. It feels rather different now. What was a narrow, specialist subject has suddenly become topical at home and abroad. To be able to spend most of my days writing at home in Oxford, venturing forth occasionally to Birmingham, Sydney, Leeds, Washington, Bristol or New York, is a rare privilege. The subject-matter may be narrow, but it takes me from matters of judicial policy down to rows and columns of data, from the largest international litigation to everyday stuff, from the Willard Hotel next door to the White House or the Ritz down to spartan conference rooms in the UK regions.
Most of this work has no client, and would not be possible without the support of those who sponsor me. Their contribution goes beyond their financial support and beyond their own direct interests, allowing me to become a message-board for the industry as much in the US and Australia as in the UK. I take this opportunity to express my thanks to them and to the many others around the world who contribute views, comment and material help.