This was never going to be a relaxing week, sandwiched as it was between a conference in Singapore and ILTA 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. At least I had written all my Singapore articles by the time I landed at Heathrow at dawn on Monday, with their themes of judge-led litigation processes, judicial intolerance of eDiscovery unreadiness and South East Asian business and educational ambitions.
ILTA is a fixed entry in the calendar of anyone interested in litigation technology. On the surface, it is a more relaxed event than most of the others, taking place in high summer, in casual attire rather than suits, in a resort, and spread over five days. A lot happens there, however, quite apart from the fact that Nashville is a long way from Oxford, England or, indeed, from anywhere – the journey time is the same as to Singapore with the added excitement of having to change terminals at JFK.
Like certain other things – conflicts between my sponsors, the revolting coffee on aeroplanes, and the unwanted attentions of legal PRs – these things go with the territory which I have staked out for myself, and are a small price for involvement in a global business which is worth billions, which I am passionate about, and which is occupied by interesting and likeable people. it is also a young industry, with the opportunity which that brings to make the weather and not merely to report on it.
What makes that possible is my involvement with those companies whose logos appear on the right-hand side of this page. Between them, they cover the full range of software and services used for electronic discovery in every jurisdiction in which discovery is a relevant concept. Their sponsorship does more than provide the time to write and the opportunity to go where the action is. It also gives me a direct line to the senior people in the industry, and the ability to get involved with the development of rules and the connections with judicial thinkers, things which do not of themselves create a viable business.
The addition of three new sponsors in one week may be a coincidence; I think in fact that it tells us something about the state of the eDiscovery and information governance market and the direction in which it is going.
Hobs Legal Docs is a London-based litigation support provider with its roots in print production and paper handling. It has successfully merged the paper-based business with electronic data handling, one of the few to have managed this. I have known its managing director, Terry Harrison, seemingly for ever, and you can draw your own conclusions from the fact that most of my meetings with him have taken place in the US – in case you can’t draw the right conclusion, this points to a high US-led component in the work which Hobs Legal Docs does
We have connections in common including Clearwell, Equivio, Westlaw CaseLogistix and the AD Summation products now owned by AccessData. The addition of Hobs Legal Docs to the list of sponsors is a reminder that this is called the eDisclosure Information Project, with its roots firmly in the jurisdiction of England and Wales. We may have decided to give the process a silly name but it involves the same problems needing the same solutions as electronic discovery everywhere else.
EMC² is a giant international business which has successfully added an information governance and eDiscovery business to its origins in hardware and storage. The list of countries in which it does business stretches alphabetically from Afghanistan to Zambia, and the range of product names fills a page. That includes the EMC SourceOne eDiscovery Family covering EMC SourceOne Discovery Manager and EMC SourceOne eDiscovery – Kazeon. I will be seeing these products at ILTA and will write more about them in due course.
IBM celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. It too had its roots in hardware, but a glance at its Information Life-Cycle Governance website, with its tag-line Manage the Lifespan of all your Information is what connects it with what I do. It covers the whole process from content assessment through collection and archiving, advanced classification, records management and into eDiscovery search and analytics. Whatever one’s predictions for the future, it is clear that this continuity from document creation all the way through to production for litigation, for regulatory reasons, for internal investigations or for anything else, is where the world is moving. All the judicial speeches which I have reported in the last few weeks have stressed the role of corporate information governance as part of the litigation process.
If one was in any doubt as to that last proposition, look no further than Symantec’s recent acquisition of Clearwell and at this week’s announcement that HP is acquiring Autonomy for US$10 billion as part of a complete restructure of HP’s business. Plans simultaneously to divest itself of its long-standing consumer and hardware business whilst getting in to enterprise Big Data may have attracted headline words like “bombshell”, but no one is really very surprised, at least about the Big Data bit. We have to wait to see what HP does with its new acquisition.
You may care to note that the HP announcement was preceded, just, by news that Jack Halprin, Autonomy’s VP of eDiscovery and Compliance, had resigned, with popular rumour identifying Google as his likely landing point, raising interesting questions about Google’s ambitions. Halprin is listed as a speaker at ILTA and it will be more than usually interesting to hear what he has to say – well, it may be; it is possible that his scope for talking about anything is a bit limited just now.
The timing of that may or may not be coincidental. What is entirely coincidental is the fact that IBM’s logo went up on my sites within an hour of the HP-Autonomy news breaking. This is pure chance – IBM’s sponsorship was agreed weeks ago and the timing of the logo owes more to the inevitable complexity of dealing with big companies than to anything else. Most of the many articles about HP and Autonomy have looked to IBM’s trajectory for parallels with HP’s presumed plans. The word “presumed” is important here.
Every aspect of the information governance and eDiscovery market, from rules and judges, through technology developments and on through Asian and EU markets to the decisions of major information management companies is deeply fascinating at the moment.
The rest of the week was largely filled with preparations for the future: at ILTA I am doing a panel with Alison Gaudette of Thomson Reuters / Westlaw and making a video with Steve Akers of Digital Reef; I am on a panel moderated by George Parapadakis of IBM at the Legal Week Corporate Counsel Forum Europe on 13 September; I am shortly to moderate another Virtual LegalTech webinar with Bill Belt and Daryl Shetterly of LeClairRyan. There are other events further off, but these were some of the ones which required input and discussion this week. One possible plan, which sounds bonkers but which is actually physically possible thanks to the way time zones work, involves my speaking in three countries in three days – that sounds trivial, but the first is in Singapore and the others in mainland Europe.
In between, I hope, is some time at my desk, with papers to write and my UK slides to review for the Autumn. There is Google Plus to explore or abandon, a further move towards an all-Apple office, and my accountant’s insistence that every damn hotel breakfast must be itemised in the accounts. Now, if you will excuse me, I must tip my Singapore clothes out of my bag and repack for Nashville.