My e-Disclosure predictions for 2010 are up on the website of the Society for Computers and Law. I have not checked back to my previous years’ SCL predictions, but I think that this batch have much more, and much better-grounded, optimism in them than was the case in previous years.
I will come back in a moment to my own ambitions for 2010, but it is worth first having a quick review of 2009. I wrote about 250 blog posts during the year, bringing the total to 489. There is no easy way of calculating the word-count, but that would add up to a fair-sized book. I was a speaker, panelist or chairman at 12 public conferences in 2009 and attended others. Venues included the US more than once, Brussels, Sydney and Singapore as well as the UK. I got involved in a couple of cases at a strategy level (that has not been the priority for the last couple of years). The rest of the time was spent in meetings or talking about e-Discovery / e-Disclosure in restaurants or bars.
If asked to identify high-spots, I would pick two: the judicial panel and my mock e-Disclosure application at the IQPC conference in London in May, and the demonstration which I organised for Lord Justice Jackson referred to my post of this morning – more concentrated demo firepower than I have ever seen in 90 minutes. The low point was probably the moment when Senior Master Whitaker asked a group in London if they were familiar with the practice direction to Part 31 CPR which governs e-Disclosure, and with Digicel v Cable & Wireless. The audience had presumably self-selected as being interested in the topic, but almost no hands went up. I am usually resolutely upbeat about the opportunities which astute use of the rules and timely use of technology can bring. Every so often, however, a different mood comes up – despair at coming across an audience like that, at discovering a litigation lawyer who has not caught up with rule changes of a decade ago, or on hearing of people pronouncing that e-Disclosure is all too expensive without having made one phone call to establish the facts.
I prefer to (and more often do) take the more positive line – that proper use of the rules can save money and win cases, that some of the technology now available is near-magical in its ability to take the drudgery out of lawyering, and that there is work to be won by those who can show their clients that they have the subject under control.
Next year looks promising, and for more reasons than one. The litigation support industry approaches it in leaner shape than a year ago, but with new applications whose development has perhaps been kick-started by the inevitable downward pressure on costs. In the UK, we have Lord Justice Jackson’s report due in January and the prospect of a new e-Disclosure practice direction and questionnaire from April. HHJ Simon Brown QC’s judgment in Earles v Barclays Bank Plc  EWHC 2500 has obvious application to a wider range of clients, lawyers and matters than Digicel did, and the recent article in The Times will have ensured that a bigger audience than usual gets to know about it. The Ofsted fiasco, also covered in the Times article (and here), where 2,000 disclosable pages emerged from their hidey-hole in the photocopier as the trial was ending, will alert practitioners to the dangers of getting it wrong, and perhaps suggest other ways of tackling the documents problem.
These developments will, with any luck, also have the more positive benefit that lawyers will scent some of the opportunities which arise here. The recent prediction by Gartner (and here) foresees a 23% increase in the e-Discovery software market, predicated on Gartner’s assessment that post-recession litigation, a tightening regulatory regime, increased internal investigations and rule developments in several jurisdictions will result in increased work for everyone with products and expertise to sell in the e-Disclosure / E-Discovery field. What we are short of at every level and in every jurisdiction is the people with the skills. A skills shortage means opportunities for some.
And what of my plans for the year ahead? I will keep on writing the blog entries, fortified by kind comments such as “… incisive and trenchant showing a penetration to the heart of a subject with clear, sharp, and vigorous expression” and “What a fantastic job you have done with your blog through 2009!“. I aim to go back to all the countries visited last year (at least) plus Hong Kong. My first invitation to talk to a law firm in 2010 has arrived, together with two invitations to speak at LegalTech in New York.
There are other plans and ambitions. They include the following:
I have begun an overhaul to the website, which has stayed more or less as it was when the Project began, and which was built with tools which were old-fashioned then – the Christmas project is to learn how to use a new one. Planned additions include a dedicated page for each of the Project’s sponsors, allowing them a showcase for white papers (whether written by me or not), contact details, links and anything else they would like me to put there; more comprehensive resources such as links to case reports, rules and other formal sources; updating my roll of links to other sites of interest for those working in e-Disclosure / e-Discovery; a feed from my Twitter account and wider use of Twitter to pass on things of interest; and incorporation of videos, podcasts etc. This blog is about to move to a three-column format which will give a better display of both logos and other links.
I hope that this year will bring more active involvement with the Project’s sponsors and with their clients. The big public conferences serve a valuable purpose, but there is a lot to be said for smaller and more tailored events at which products or services can be aired whilst I talk about whatever subject is relevant to the clients – rules, technology, business processes, or EU privacy, for example.
Another ambition for the year is to focus on the UK regions. The sessions which I did with some of the Project’s sponsors in Birmingham and Bristol were primarily designed to get across the message that document-heavy cases and the technology to deal with them are not exclusively for London firms. The combination of Lord Justice Jackson’s report and the new practice direction and questionnaire make it timely to do more of these.
I am working on connections with Women in eDiscovery, both the formal organisation of that name and with others, particularly the UK Association of Women Judges (who have an international conference in 2012). IQPC has kindly agreed to host sessions dedicated to this at their May conference and I very much look forward to that.
Many thanks are due. Thank you to the estimable Jonathan Maas, who picks up my typos and the numerous occasions when what I wrote is not precisely what I meant to write – he pulled me up this morning, for example, for saying that I hoped to get to Hong Kong “later in the year”, suggesting that I had better hurry; I meant next year. Thank you to those who have invited me to take part in their conferences and who have organised them with such efficiency. Thank you above all to those who sponsor the e-Disclosure Information Project and who make it possible for me to devote my time to promoting a subject which, at the threshold of 2010, looks exciting.