This is the second post about three events which I attended last week. There is a tenuous common theme to do with the range of subjects gathered under the broad label “eDiscovery” and the career opportunities which it offers. The article introducing the theme is here.
What set me thinking about careers was a panel which Vince Neicho of Allen & Overy and I led at ILTA Insight in London on Thursday. The three main participants were Caroline Jan of Kingsley Napley, Andreea Mohan of Taylor Wessing and Sana Naman of Allen & Overy. They are all young by the standards of those who generally sit on conference platforms and they all have roles in their respective firms which give them responsibility for the management of electronic information in disputes.
We chose them, as I have mentioned before, because last year’s panel on the near future of litigation support consisted of three people whose average age was north of 60. We wanted to hear from people whose future it is. In doing so, we paid tribute to the late Browning Marean who did more than anyone to encourage younger people to make a career out of eDiscovery / eDisclosure and to get on platforms and talk about it.
The perceived problem or, at least, the problem as perceived by me, is that law firms are slow to recognise that the world is being changed, daily, by technology. This is not one of those broad, easily-made attacks on lawyers as dinosaurs, but a more focused observation on the gap between advancing technology and daily practice. I read an article recently about the range of research and communication tools available to undergraduates at my own university – the means by which they found information, checked it, consolidated it, and communicated with others about it. Stepping from that into some law firms (not all, of course) must seem equivalent to running off tarmac into mud.
One of our panel members (I won’t say which) told a story of a partner who asked her to print several thousand pages immediately, so that he could start reviewing them urgently. There is a better way, she said, and offered to show him how to find documents in the firm’s review system and how to tag and highlight them. The point is not merely that the partner was reviewing the documents long before they could have been printed, and without the expense of printing, but that you need some confidence to do that in a way which achieves its objective without causing offence. The support staff of my day would probably have just said “Yes”, or perhaps “Yes, Sir”.
As a side-point here about ILTA, I wrote recently that ILTA is the only organisation in the world that would give me the space to moderate a Hong Kong panel on managing cultural differences in AsiaPac. It is also, I think, the only organisation which would allow us to encourage the next generation in this way.