I believe that it was a coincidence that almost the entire UK litigation support industry gathered at the Larder in Clerkenwell on the evening before eDisclosure Practice Direction 31B passed into the rules. I do not mean that the presence of dozens of EDD people in one pub simultaneously was the result of random chance – Bill Onwusah of Hogan Lovells and Jack Bond of Dewey & LeBoeuf fixed the venue and sent out the invitations at about the same time last year. What I mean is that the date was not fixed with the PD’s launch in mind.
The PD was, nevertheless, a recurring topic of conversation, as you might expect. Most of those present were busy and had been increasingly so for some time – as you know, I like to see the whites of their eyes when they are asked how business is going, and I believe that there is plenty of work around. I don’t think this is directly related to the practice direction – that (as I keep saying) is a reaction to the existence of electronic documents, not the cause of them. It is generally felt that the PD will encourage more people to handle their clients’ electronic documents electronically, but that it is because it has engendered more knowledge about cost-effective ways of doing the job, not because it is driving lawyers to do it against their better judgement just because that is what the court expects.
There are a few like that, of course, and I heard reports last night of lawyers muttering about more upfront burdens. I have come across at least two people who carry a copy of my article Over-estimating both costs and risks in the eDisclosure Practice Direction to hand over when this argument is heard. That is what I wrote it for.
The other thing I am hearing about is a vindication of something which I illustrate in my presentations in a section about the lawyers’ own businesses. The traditional approach to managing litigation is that the client instructs the solicitors who instruct the technology provider. That is evolving into a model in which the client separately instructs their preferred technology provider and their lawyers, often in that order. At parties like this I hear enough to know that is moving from a prediction to reality. It is almost superfluous to say that my slides give as their third stage the model in which the lawyer has become merely a bit player in someone else’s show. An old article of mine called Who needs a bridge when the river goes away? remains relevant in this context.
As I write this, the Practice Direction has just appeared on the Ministry of Justice CPR web site. I must go and update my links to it on my web site. That, incidentally, has moved to www.edisclosureinformation.co.uk which I intend to be a more active resource than its predecessor. The old site will remain in place because of the links into it, but will gradually fade away. Amongst the resources is a window into Twitter showing all tweets with my name @chrisdaleoxford in them – my own tweets and retweets, retweets by others of my tweets, and tweets which mention my name. That will be my quick route to updates, which I can do from anywhere.
That becomes more relevant over the next few weeks – I am off to Washington tomorrow for the Masters Conference to do two panels – one on international parallels, with Senior Master Whitaker and Justice Einstein from Australia, and one on early case assessment with Craig Ball and Nuix. That is not the only trip which is coming up – other venues range from Singapore to Manchester.