I have already written (Describing the e-discovery elephant) about the two e-discovery panels which I took part in at CEIC 2009. The panels were only one of the reasons why I came here. There was another formal reason and countless informal ones.
The other formal reason was a meeting of Guidance Software’s Strategic Advisory Board which brought together a small group of people from different parts of the e-discovery field – two General Counsel responsible for electronic discovery in large corporations, two well-known private-practice lawyers specialising in e-discovery, and two industry experts from other jurisdictions – who sat down with senior executives from different areas of the company’s activities. The traffic passes both ways at these things – the company gets input from those outside it and the invited members learn more about what the company is doing and what it plans to do. Discussion ranges beyond the company and into the wider industry, with the combination of the occasion and the assembled company taking us down ways not envisaged in the agenda.
The UK perspective on data collections is, of course, rather different from the US one. Most of the drivers are the same – to collect what you need, and not much more than what you need, as quickly and efficiently as possible and to deliver it for processing, assessment and onto review. The US idea of what must be collected is wider than ours – or, at least, wider than ours would be if we applied properly our narrower definition of “disclosable”.
Outside (outside the meeting room, that is, not outside in Florida’s perpetual drizzle) there are less tangible but no less important benefits – putting faces to names I know, topping up acquaintances which exist by e-mail for the rest of the year and meeting new people. I have also learned at these events that if you talk enough (and listen) with a wide range of people, you can pick up threads which get missed in the day-to-day traffic of information up and down the normal corporate conduits. You do not have to get very big as a company before people start getting left out of the loop, and gatherings like this can help join up the dots.
Away from the social parts – the meals and parties and other semi-formal events – the essential components for life were all present here. I found a comfortable seat with a table, close to an espresso machine, within reach of a floor-socket and a wi-fi spot, and near a place where I could smoke and keep an eye on my laptop. What more could one want?
Guidance Software threw a party in the Hard Rock Cafe on Monday night. A pink Cadillac appears to be tumbling through an outer wall. Another rotates above a vast circular bar. Upstairs is a replica of John Lennon’s New York flat, furnished and decorated with the original fittings and decorations. You take a circular staircase up to what turns out to be the upper tier seats of a large auditorium.
I had forgotten that Orlando is the administrative home of the Masters Conference until I bumped into Sasha Hefler and Marilyn Gladden, who run it in Washington every October. The dates this year are 13-14 October and although the programme is not complete, past form suggests that anyone interested in the thoughtful side of information management should be there. If you need motivation over and above the conference itself, the accommodation this year will be in the Willard Hotel – my favourite hotel in the world – and at a very good rate.
The best part, perhaps, was meeting people whom I do not know who have not only read what I write but remember it – I had two or three conversations with strangers who referred to particular posts, some of them quite old. There is a passage in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead where the Player tells of the growing realisation that he and his company of actors have been giving their all to the empty air. I see the stats and I know that people pull the pages onto their screens. It is good to know that they actually read them.
How does one measure the value of a trip of this kind? I am writing this in the middle of the night, at 39,000 feet, a few hundred miles south of Rekjyavik. There is a group of Australians in the cabin, so sleep is impossible. It will be 6.40 am when I land and I will have to go straight to the next conference, IQPC in Piccadilly, for two days, so will not get home till late on Thursday. That is not a bad time to evaluate a trip like this. Would I do it again and would I recommend it to others? Yes I will certainly go to CEIC again, and reckon that it is well worth the trip for anyone with an interest in data forensics, who would be able either to hone their data investigation skills or complement them with a selection of talks from the e-discovery track.
My thanks to Guidance Software for the invitation and the hospitality.