The nature of a big event like Relativity Fest is that a mass of interesting views and comments pours out at once. We all report the bits that interest us, but the waters close over it all very quickly as we move on to other things. Inevitably, some useful material disappears from sight, much of which deserves a longer shelf-life.
The website In-House Community has just published its summary of Relativity Fest 2021 with the title Data, e-discovery and Covid-19 key topics at Relativity Fest 2021. It is good to be reminded of some of the salient points.
The first part of the summary includes a range of comments from judges and former judges on the use of Zoom and similar technology to conduct hearings. The point which interests most practitioners is whether the enforced remote hearings have taught us something useful for the future when the pandemic is over. Covid-19 has had a lengthy tail, and its on-off fluctuations have led to a range of views on legal Twitter, which is my main window into what is going on. Some lawyers seemed very pleased to be back to live hearings. Others are less thrilled at being made to travel to hearings which, as they now see it more clearly, could easily have been dealt with virtually. To the extent that there is any consensus on this, people accept that different types of hearings and different circumstances warrant different approaches, quite apart from personal preference.
The Relativity Fest judges gave a range of views including convenience, accessibility, and the opportunity to observe witness demeanour. The discussion extended to points about lawyers’ grasp of technology – remote working has drawn attention to the need to know how to use new tools, as much for the conduct of litigation and hearings as for the management of evidence.
The other topic which interested me in the report is the section on the Relativity Fest International Panel, not least because I moderated it. One of the themes which emerged from the discussion is that the GDPR “is quickly becoming the global standard for data governance”. Disputes and investigations highlight the potential conflict between the individuals’ right in their data and the disclosure obligations which courts, regulators and other authorities expect. In particular, data subject access requests are forcing attention to the governance of data and information within organisations, not just in reaction to specific proceedings but in anticipation of proceedings generally and other types of formal demand. Those who did not originally understand the GDPR’s reference to “privacy by design” are probably getting the message now.
There was, of course, much more than this at Relativity Fest 2021. In-House Community just happened to highlight the subjects which match my own interests – or perhaps these are the subjects which matter most to in-house lawyers. What will 2022 bring them and us?