These posts sometimes acquire a life of their own in the writing especially where, as with this one, they are done in stages across a rather long day. What began as an account of my last day in Singapore turns into the observation that EDD quotations are like a cold beer on a hot day – if you really need it right now then you may have to pay more for it.
Up at 4.00am this morning [Friday], for no more obvious reason than that my internal clock was unsure what time zone it was in. It had probably caught up with Washington, but was actually now in Singapore – but not for much longer. I stayed awake throughout the second day of the conference (just as well really, since I was chairing it – how embarrassing would that be?) and went out for blameless suppers with Browning Marean, followed by early nights, respectably ignoring the fact that Singapore has a larger number of very beautiful girls than any city I have been in. It is probably that which has caught up with me (early nights, I mean, not being respectable). If you go to bed four hours earlier than usual then you wake up four hours earlier. Nothing to do with time zones.
Getting up that early allowed me to check in and choose a seat whilst everyone else was still abed – Emirates do not have the Economy Plus cabin which BA has, and conference organisers don’t run to Business Class in 2009. I also have a sporting chance of an upgrade with BA, but none with Emirates. Why not travel BA then? Good question. I did not make the booking. Emirates does have some advantages over BA. Real cutlery. Edible food. Air hostesses younger than me.
As an aside, I catch myself picking up the style of what I last read. I cannot read anything else after reading Private Eye, for example, because I run everything through an assumed satirical filter – a law report comes across very differently if you assume that the judge is being sardonic throughout. At the moment I am reading Hilary Mantel’s excellent Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell. Short sentences. Verbs optional. Internal thought and dialogue merged with recitals of fact to keep the narrative flow going. Great book.
I had at least caught up with writing about the last conference by breakfast time, knocked off the e-mails and started catching up with news only dimly glimpsed on Twitter. Simmons & Simmons have outsourced litigation coding to Mumbai with Integreon. e.law in Australia has bought CCH Workflow Solutions from Wolters Kluwer. Lord Woolf has given both barrels to everyone – lawyers, judges, government – who wrecked his dream, the Civil Procedure Rules. The 2009 Fulbright & Jaworski Litigation Trends Survey is out. The ACC in Boston has flushed out things we all guessed at about client willingness to pay for litigation services. A Kroll Ontrack survey reports that whilst most US and UK companies have a document retention policy, a much smaller number claim to have an ESI discovery readiness strategy; the surprise lies in the first statistic – unless “keep everything” has the status of policy that is.
Numerous interesting articles have been written which I must catch up with. There are rumours to follow up. Two firms want me to ring them about imminent e-disclosure requirements, and a journalist wants to talk about a proposed newspaper article on the subject. Someone has apparently asserted that blogging is dead – that’s my occupation gone then. I will have to read the article, but people do tend to confuse the medium and the method – a blog is just a vehicle, which may be for journalistic scoops and interviews, for commentary, or for telling the world what you had for breakfast. To assert that the whole lot is “dead” seems rather odd.
It took the morning to catch up. There had been no sun, midday or otherwise, since I arrived (Indonesian forest fires are blamed, apparently), but the heat is damply oppressive at any time of day. My preparations for leaving for Singapore consisted of hastily washing and repacking what I wore in Washington without much thought, so I have a bag full of double-cuffed shirts and nothing suitable for the climate. That has not mattered during the conference, but becomes a handicap when walking round the city. I could buy some clothes – my hotel is next to the largest shopping mall I have ever seen, with every top fashion name represented on floor after glossy floor – but I find the infinite choice all rather forbidding, and am slightly nervous of being lost for ever in one of these vast places. The malls go below ground as well as up, and merge with the underpasses whose use is compulsory when crossing a main street. One’s sense of direction evaporates when one goes down multiple flights of turning stairs and through a curving shopping centre just to cross the road, and I kept popping up on the wrong side of a junction.
You can’t come all this way and not see something of the place so I wandered damply down to the centre, where the very smart Supreme Court building adjoins the office of the Prime Minister and other government buildings. Singapore’s history is respected – I saw Sir Stamford Raffles’ statue, though not the eponymous hotel, crossed a footbridge whose archaic notice warned that cattle were not allowed to cross it, and took the river walk lined with cafés from which old and new Singapore can be seen side-by-side. People leapt out at me waving garish menus, as if the combination of pictures and earnest forcefulness somehow imposes a duty on me to buy. You don’t catch me like that: I have been attending legal software shows for years, so I know how to look straight through an eager-eyed salesman waving brochures at me.
Singapore looks and feels a prosperous place – the busy cranes as well as the expensive shops give evidence of money to spend. Singapore, they say, foresees every commercial trend and is ready for it when it comes, remaining prosperous by being one jump ahead. It could be dispute resolution next.
Any economy made by walking there and back instead of taking a cab was wiped out by the cost of the beer in the hotel when I got back. S$17 for one beer! I sound like a lawyer getting an EDD estimate. I could, of course, have gone back down 38 floors, out again into the wet heat and wandered along the streets until I found a bar selling beer at a price significantly less than S$17. It might not have tasted so good, would not have been right there when I needed it, and certainly would not have a 38th floor view thrown in, but it shouldn’t take long to find somewhere cheaper – say 20 minutes or so.
Think of that beer, right there, pale, cold and inviting, just at the time when it was most needed, when you next get what looks like an extravagant quotation for your urgent data collection or hosting requirement. You could probably get a better price somewhere else. It would take several hours of chargeable (or, more likely, non-chargeable) time to find a rival product and to determine what the pros and cons are of rival proposals. Or you could just get on with it.
The moral, for those not up with me in the dark pre-dawn of Dubai airport where I am writing this, is that I should have established in advance what the beer cost, or even worked out for myself that cold beers in smart bars cost more than they do elsewhere. If I had done some homework, I would have been ready when the need arose. The same applies to sub-contracting electronic data handling. Get a couple of rival suppliers lined up, in the abstract as it were. Find out their prices and their terms and conditions and agree what will happen when an urgent need arises (and no need was more urgent than my beer). You may decide that price is not the main determining factor – convenience, availability (or the view in my case) might persuade you that the expensive one is the one for you. But you are at least then making decisions advisedly, even in a hurry.
Some things are beyond price, beyond even asking what the price is. At Dubai Airport I had two espressos and a squeezed orange juice at a bar where I could smoke and put my laptop on a big flat table next to a 13 amp socket. They charged me 61 somethings. I had no idea what they were or what 61 of them were worth (Dirhams, I now know, and £10), but with seven hours flying behind me and another seven to go, I did not care. They were just what I needed when I needed it. Whilst I do not recommend buying e-discovery solutions with quite that insousiance, getting just what you need when you need it is worth paying for.