I have a stream of short articles coming. This is just some background noise.
I observed in a tweet last week that I had overlooked the Twitter presence of an interesting legal software development company, Neota Logic. “Might be because you are OCD about eDiscovery” came the prompt response. Although I immediately admitted the charge (or “accepted the compliment”), eDiscovery / eDisclosure is how I earn my living and one need not be obsessive, compulsive or disordered if there is a happy coincidence between the things which interest you and the things which put bread on the table. I call it good fortune myself.
The OCD suggestion gives us another set of initials to add to those nicely caught by this Times law cartoon.
The genius, as well as the authorship, of these cartoons is hereby acknowledged. You can find more here.
There has been quite a lot of it about recently; a high volume of mainstream eDiscovery stuff as well as other aspects of legal practice and justice has given me a long list of things to write about. I have three weeks of conferences coming up, with two in the US bracketing one in London, and it would be good to be shot of some of it before that begins.
A series of relatively short posts follows this one. With that done, I can turn to the the conference preparations and other things which comprise the rest of the pile in front of me.
Jackson – the phoney war
First, however, what has been keeping me busy? Directly or indirectly, the answer to that is “Jackson”. Despite 18 months of thinking time, those responsible for launching the new rules managed to make a complete hash of it. This is not necessarily the fault of the rank and file members of the Rule Committee whose work we are lucky to have (and I don’t say that just because I was at school with one of them and am on friendly terms with another). They were set a near-impossible task by the decision to amalgamate all the changes into one amending act – one can see the tidiness of this in statutory terms, and one can see also that some elements depend on others, but it does impose an immense burden on those charged with the drafting, to say nothing of weight on those who implement and those who must obey the rules.
It was unfortunate that the launch of the rules coincided with other developments which have nothing to do with them, including a brutal attack on Legal Aid and a mindless hacking at the front-line staff in the court and at the Ministry of Justice budgets generally.
I have documented the resulting mess in several articles. We have seen a late rebellion against costs management by judges who were apparently unaware that it has been planned for over 18 months and who waited until the amendments had passed through Parliament before raising the point; we have seen amendments made necessary by the failure to spot that new restraints on costs could not be applied retrospectively to costs already incurred under the old rules; the Ministry of Justice was less than clever about publishing the new rules on the web, giving rise to the possibility that parties might be punished for breach of rules they had no realistic way of discovering; the new Rule 31.5 still bears a heading unrelated to its new content.
Practitioners and, indeed, case managing judges, deserved better than this. So did those of us whose role includes writing and speaking on the subject – my own slides had to be cobbled together from the amending Act rather than from a clean, authoritative version of the rules. At one conference, I offered the audience (nearly all eDisclosure specialists) the choice between a discussion on how best to use the rules and a simple explanation of what the rules actually were; they opted for the latter in the absence of any clear official guide.
Inevitably, much of my time over the last few weeks has been spent on this subject. I have spoken in Manchester with Hobs Legal Docs, at an event in London with Huron Legal and Thomson Reuters, to a roomful of insurance specialists at the invitation of CMS Cameron McKenna, at a two-day conference organised by Today’s General Counsel and on webinars with ZyLAB and Consilio. Xerox Litigation Services have published a paper I wrote on the subject and there are other papers in draft (I will provide links to the archived versions of these things separately).
Meanwhile, as someone observed in a tweet (and I have already mentioned elsewhere) the aftermath of the Jackson launch feels like 1939. War has been declared, but there is an sense of impending menace in the air, at least for some. Others see opportunity.
Interesting stuff stacks up
Meanwhile, Evernote fills up with links to interesting articles by others, not least about US developments which I have barely mentioned in the last few weeks. Recent moves into video and audio produce material which is easily captured but immensely time-consuming to process and edit (a recent interview with Joel Tobias at CY4OR produced 30GB of data). Prospective conferences bring liaison with organisers and panel members, conference calls, flights and hotels to book.
I complain about none of it – being “OCD about eDiscovery” has its benefits; it is all interesting, and the fog is lifting.
Not just work
Nor is it all work. I want to start writing again about other things, in part as a palate cleanser – even I can have too much of eDiscovery. Recent visits to Imber, a village forcibly evacuated during the war and never given back to its inhabitants, and to Millers Dale, a once-busy railway station in the middle of Derbyshire, whose empty platforms and viaducts still stand, offer opportunities for writing about things we were privileged to visit and which others might be interested in. I am gradually upgrading my photograph and video handling – not just the hardware, but software, thanks to the Adobe Cloud rental scheme under which we have acquired every Adobe user tool – Dreamweaver, PhotoShop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Lightroom, Fireworks and the rest. This is more than merely hobby stuff – they all bring opportunities to get serious messages to wider audiences in more interesting ways, and I would love a three-month sabbatical to do just that.
Self-employment doesn’t work like that, however, and I cannot complain that my chosen patch offers near-continuous engagement. The next few articles will serve to illustrate the breadth of things which touch on a discovery/eDisclosure and which are around at the moment.
Judicial Review come close to home
Lastly, there is an interesting crossover between two of my interests. One of the subjects of the government’s attack on justice is the plan to circumscribe the rights of people and organisations to launch judicial review proceedings to bring oversight to the decisions of government and government agencies. My own local authority, the almost entirely useless Oxford City Council, has given permission to my own university, Oxford, to build a hideous block of flats on the edge of Port Meadow, where I walk every day.
Serious questions arise as to how the councillors were (mis)led into granting this planning permission, and the Council for the Protection of Rural England is launching judicial review proceedings into the decision. I have never been involved, even peripherally in a JR application, and now I find myself contributing to the cost of one which affects me closely. You never know when you need the justice system.