I have made many references over the last few months to the pending UK e-Disclosure practice direction and to the electronic documents questionnaire which is part of it. The more observant of you will have noticed that I have never actually said that it will come into force on 1 October 2010. Indeed, someone wrote to me only yesterday asking if I knew what had happened to it; my carefully-worded reply (quiet optimism qualified by the need to see an official announcement) led him to observe “your cautious response reminds me that once a lawyer, always a lawyer!”
Well, we do at last have the official announcement, on the Civil Procedure Rules section of the Ministry of Justice website. I found out about it from Twitter, although the vision this brings of messages flying round cyberspace is rather undermined by the fact that the tweet was put up by Jonathan Maas of Ernst & Young, who was a only few yards away from me here at ILTA in Las Vegas.
If the practice direction itself has yet been published in its official form, I have not seen it. I will let you know as soon as Twitter points me to it. The questionnaire is available in more or less its final form as part of Senior Master Whitaker’s judgment in Goodale v Ministry of Justice – the MoJ thus making a coincidental double appearance in this story.
I do, of course, know what the practice direction says. What it does NOT say is that parties must exchange information about electronic documents in every case. That will be a requirement only in cases where this is helpful for the proportionate management of disclosure, and the practice direction is carefully worded to target only such cases. Those of us who drafted the questionnaire hope, however, that parties will find it useful in many more cases than those where it is formally required.