There is an old expression about the retired war horse who, hearing the sound of a distant battle, paws the ground and pricks its ears, excited at the recollection of past engagements.
That is rather how I feel about Relativity Fest, due to open in Chicago on 26 October. For many years, I went every year before Covid and lockdown made that impossible. Good things came out even from Covid, as Relativity and others worked very quickly to transfer the events to a virtual format. For one thing, the potential audience widened enormously as it became possible to “attend” without needing flights and hotels. Nevertheless, something was lost for those of us who enjoy the face-to-face element of events.
Now Relativity Fest is back as a fully live event, taking place in Chicago from 26-28 October with virtual access to breakout sessions, keynotes, and networking events. The website is here.
However good the virtual access is (and Relativity is by now well practised at delivering its event content online), it cannot give the things I miss most – Chicago itself with its architecture and restaurants, meeting old friends as well as the full content in the sessions which is the main reason for bringing us all together.
There is, as always, a lot to choose from. The Sessions Catalogue has several tracks covering (among other things) Relativity product education, legal and industry education, compliance and surveillance, and developer resources. There is a focus, expanded from previous years, on community and culture and, of course, networking events.
What catches my eye as I look down the schedule? Taking them in the order in which they are listed:
The FTI-Relativity General Counsel Report
This is the fourth year in which Relativity has joined forces with FTI Consulting to produce their General Counsel Report, the output from a survey of chief legal officers conducted by Ari Kaplan. As always, the content is driven by the factors which emerge from Ari Kaplan’s interviews with GCs covering the risks and challenges which they are seeing, their interaction with outside law firms and legal service providers, and the cultural changes which they are seeing. The panel comprises, in addition to Ari Kaplan, Wendy King of FTI (who I have interviewed several times about these topics), Celia Perez of FreightCar America and, of course, David Horrigan of Relativity.
What always makes this important is that the survey results come directly from those involved. Ari Kaplan’s reports are always interesting anyway, but this panel is a good chance to hear about it live.
eDiscovery 101 and Artificial Intelligence fundamentals
The session comes with the tag “Beer and Basics”, the former referring to the refreshments on offer and the latter to the opportunity to hear about “basic questions you may have been afraid to ask”.
This promises to be entertaining as well as informative, with Tom O’Connor of Gulf Coast Legal Tech Center, Professor Bill Hamilton of University of Florida Levin College of Law, Dave Lewis of Redgrave Data, and Jigna Dalal of Squire Patton Boggs, all along with Relativity’s David Horrigan.
Relativity CEO Mike Gamson and Chief Product Officer Chris Brown bring updates on Relativity, its community, and the industry generally. There will be a focus on review and investigations workflows and on solving challenges with AI.
The eDiscovery State of the Union
This looks like a good way to challenge the conventional format of panels. It takes lawyers, journalists and industry analysts and looks at the issues affecting eDiscovery in a kind of debate format, with retired Judge James C Francis IV and Relativity’s David Horrigan as moderators. Arguments are presented on opposing sides and the moderators give their view.
The Judicial Panel
This is always one of the best-attended sessions at Relativity Fest, bringing together judges from state, federal and overseas courts (including Master Victoria McCloud from the UK).
The central theme in this session is the growing conflict between confidentiality and the transparency usually expected in the judicial system. It is a subject common to all jurisdictions and one which extends what is usually seen as eDiscovery into new and important areas.
The International Panel
This is the session which I have always enjoyed the most in previous years, as panel member or moderator. I was invited to moderate it again this year, and it is the thing I will miss most about not being there.
Topics include cross-border eDiscovery, jurisdictional choices, and comparative issues around the world. The panel will cover the GDPR, the issues arising from Brexit as between the UK and the EU, and the implications of the pandemic, with consideration of Australia, the rest of APAC and South America.
The speakers include Meribeth Banaschik of EY, Jonathan Armstrong of Cordery and Paula Fearon of McCann FitzGerald. David Horrigan of Relativity will moderate and I will watch from afar, a bit sad not to be there.
Ethical AI – a Masterclass
The session continues a theme which Relativity has built up over recent years, that of ethical AI and algorithmic bias. The speaker is Dr Timnit Gebru, who has as great a claim as anyone to speak about bias, and particularly racial discrimination, in large-scale artificial intelligence systems. Dr Gebru was included in Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people of 2022” and her session is likely to be a fascinating one.
There is much more, of course, in Relativity Fest’s crowded schedule, with something for everyone, be they lawyers, developers, technologists or those who sit at the junction between these areas. I will be very sorry not to be there.