I reached IQPC’s Information Retention and E-Discovery Management Conference 2009 just as the first speaker stood up on Wednesday morning, feeling rather like Phileas Fogg as he burst into the Reform Club with seconds to spare. Although I had not been round the world in 80 days, it felt like it after the 4336 miles overnight from Orlando (see posts here and here as to why I was in Orlando). At least it was warm and sunny in London, unlike damp, dank Florida.
The IQPC e-discovery conference is one of the best in the London calendar, as much for the people one meets there as for the content. At my first, two years ago, I was introduced to three people on one day who have directly contributed to what I do now. Victor Limongelli, now CEO of Guidance Software, gave the first talk I had heard which drew attention to the similarities and differences between US and UK procedure and practice. Master Whitaker spoke rather pessimistically about the difficulties of persuading judges and practitioners that the proper court management of electronic documents was vital to control litigation costs. Mark Surguy of Pinsent Masons talked about the need for lawyers to understand technology and to get to know some providers of software and services who could help them.
Those three meetings directly shaped the e-Disclosure Information Project. Victor Limongelli introduced me to Patrick Burke, Assistant General Counsel at Guidance Software, and Guidance became one of the first sponsors of the Project. Senior Master Whitaker and I have done several panels together and I sit on his drafting committee working on an e-Disclosure Practice Direction and Questionnaire. Mark Surguy introduced me to His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC in Birmingham, who has emerged as a strong promoter of efficient case management generally and disclosure management specifically. Master Whitaker, Judge Brown, Mark Surguy, Patrick Burke and I were all involved together in events of IQPC’s Day 2.
I have a conflict at these events between attending sessions and taking the chance to talk to the people whom I know or want to know. Several of the e-Disclosure Information Project’s sponsors were there – Guidance Software, Epiq Systems, Autonomy and FTI Technology all had stands, and Legal Inc had had a pre-conference workshop on the previous day. My constant plea to conference organisers is for more space between sessions; that does not, apparently sell tickets (though I bet that many delegates, once actually there, would appreciate more time to discuss and absorb what they hear about). So I have to choose, and prefer to spend my time in conversation than in the sessions, however good they are.
Pleasant though I find all this, it has a serious purpose. My job is to be a kind of communications interface between those who make and enforce the rules, those who have to comply with them and those who supply software and services. That requires constant acquisition of information and views, filtering out of the irrelevant and confidential, and passing on what matters. It is also a marketing exercise, not just of the range of available products and services but of the e-Disclosure Information Project itself to those who might join the list of those who sponsor it. That is not merely a funding point – the wider the range of those who support it, the broader and more objective is its scope. “Scope” connotes several things – big matters and small, domestic and international, software and services and the different areas of the e-disclosure process.
One reason for getting to know a lot of the players is to introduce them to each other. One example of this interface role has been connecting Lord Justice Jackson’s litigation costs review team to this aspect of the litigation process. It was something I wrote which gained e-disclosure its own section in the interim report. That section has gained wide praise from those who know about the subject, and is thanks to the work of barrister Alison Potter of 4 Pump Court who absorbed a mass of information from a range of people and distilled it ably and concisely into the report. Alison was at the conference at my invitation, and I introduced her to as many as possible of those who were present. If we want our views to be reflected in the final recommendations we must make them known, and this was a good opportunity to do that.
As you can see from the programme, Day 1 was about information management and document retention. I went to hear Sanjay Bhandari of Ernst & Young talk about the impact of the global downturn. A little over four months ago, at LegalTech in New York, Sanjay told us that his team’s work was increasingly pre-emptive, as companies worked to anticipate discovery requests. Now, most of it is reactive, partly because that is non-discretionary – you can choose to invest for the future but have no option when an event occurs requiring immediate attention – and partly because of the growth in fraud and investigations work which always accompanies a downturn. It is not that recession increases fraud, Sanjay said, but that it exposes it, either because the hunt for costs-savings throws a light into dark corners or because (as Warren Buffet puts it) when the tide goes out you can see who is swimming naked.
I dipped in and out of other sessions, but the only one I aimed to sit right through was at the end of the day, when Sanjay Bhandari and Glenn Perachio of Autonomy were billed to talk under the title Modern Law, Ancient principles – the Evolution of E-Disclosure. These are two of the sparkier speakers on the circuit, and I felt a little short-changed when their session seemed to finish very quickly. My neighbours told me that I had slept through most of it. I had by then been up for over 30 hours, so I had an excuse. I am told it was a good session.
Ernst & Young hosted a drinks party after the last session, and Autonomy invited some of us to dinner after that. By the time I made it to bed in a hotel round the corner, more than 36 hours had elapsed since I last slept, apart from my few stolen minutes in the final session. That I stayed more or less awake and involved till then provides a pretty good measure of the quality of the day.