I am told that there is record attendance at CEIC 2010 here in Las Vegas. Putting it like that implies no doubt on my part that the claim is correct, but this place is so vast that you could lose half the UK civil service (there’s a nice thought) in it, so assessing headcount by eye is quite difficult.
The numbers became clear at the welcome reception last night, the biggest poolside party I have ever attended (not that poolside parties on any scale are that common in Oxfordshire). You get some idea of it from the photographs.
Last night it was packed, with endless supplies of good food and drink. The quality of the company matters most, of course. There seemed nothing incongruous about discussing with a US Magistrate Judge (Judge Andrew Peck) the implications for US interests of Gucci v Curveal in such surroundings, or catching up with software company CEOs, like Victor Limongelli of Guidance Software, Eddie Sheehy of Nuix (whom I saw in London last week and will see again in Sydney in a few days time) or Andrew Sieja of Relativity, perhaps the only boss of a world-class software company who sits personally at a keyboard puzzling out how to make the search experience better for users.
The suppliers are not just there to sell things. The three I bumped into just happen, between them, to cover the full range from collection through processing to analysis and review, with overlaps between them. Like the delegates at what is primarily a forensics and collections conference, they are there (I assume) to explore the boundaries between their respective specialist areas. Those who collect data need to know something of the purposes for which it is used; review applications must get their data from somewhere; processing is the engine which sits in the middle, turning raw data into something refined and useful for the lawyers to review. There are marketing, as well as technical, reasons why these people need to know each other, and a poolside party is as good a place as any to meet up.
A lot of business is done and information exchanged at such gatherings on top of what is imparted at the formal sessions. I make no promises as to how much of the latter I write up, serving you better, I think, with occasional nuggets rather than full accounts. I liked Browning Marean’s synthesis of recent US cases as “Clueless is no excuse”, one which would serve as well in the UK, given the recent history of adverse disclosure rulings. I liked also Judge Peck’s statement (quoted by someone else, not heard direct from him) that “co-operation is your insurance policy” – that is, if some disaster strikes you in your discovery, whether from cluelessness or otherwise, his attitude towards you will be coloured by the extent to which you had co-operated with your opponents.
A third observation which I heard at a session was “how do people send and receive so many e-mails?”, a question which lies at the root of the problem – note that this skips over the equally puzzling point why they send so many? Crack that one in your business, and you are well on the way to solving the problem before it starts. Storage is not free, said the same speaker – the total cost of ownership is what matters, and that includes the obligations you acquire with each new message.
Judge Peck said that he had assumed that he would be called on as a speaker on this subject for six months or so after the introduction of the FRCP Amendments. By then, he thought, everyone would have cracked it, but the invitations continue to pour in. At the root of this lies not just the inventiveness of technologists coming up with new techniques for managing documents, nor the inventiveness of judges in devising ways of managing cases, nor even the apparent cluelessness of those who purport to engage in litigation on behalf of clients. These will all make Judge Peck a welcome speaker on the eDiscovery circuit for years to come. The core problem, though, is this question why (and how) people pour so much stuff into the ether. For as long as they keep churning it out, in email, in instant messages, in Tweets, voice recordings and the rest, there will be a need to clean up after them.