eDiscovery Daily Blog

Adam Losey of IT-Lex.org – eDiscovery Trends

This is the sixth of the 2014 LegalTech New York (LTNY) Thought Leader Interview series.  eDiscoveryDaily interviewed several thought leaders after LTNY this year (don’t get us started) and generally asked each of them the following questions:

  1. What significant eDiscovery trends did you see at LTNY this year and what do you see for 2014?
  2. With new amendments to discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now in the comment phase, do you see those being approved this year and what do you see as the impact of those Rules changes?
  3. It seems despite numerous resources in the industry, most attorneys still don’t know a lot about eDiscovery?  Do you agree with that and, if so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?
  4. What are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about?

Today’s thought leader is Adam Losey.  Adam is president and editor-in-chief of IT-Lex.org, a technology law not-for-profit educational and literary organization and an attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP.  Adam also served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University, where he taught electronic discovery as part of Columbia’s Information and Digital Resource Management Master’s Program.

What significant eDiscovery trends did you see at LTNY this year and what do you see for 2014?

There were several trends that I saw at the show this year.  I think there was more emphasis this year on data security and privacy.  I don’t think that anybody is doing anything all that differently when they’re hosting data.  I think that they were – hopefully – going through the same steps for security before, but they’re emphasizing security more in marketing.  There was a lot more emphasis on ease-of-use solutions.  Candidly, I was expecting for some of the providers that are in this space to merge or go away and I know some of that is happening, but I saw increased competition in the marketplace in a variety of fields, which surprised me a little bit, but is good for the market.  I also saw more dedicated web-based litigation hold management products out there than I had seen in the past.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go by every booth, so my experience is largely anecdotal and I may have missed some other trends.

As for trends for 2014, on the legal front, I expect more litigation on spoliation.  Again, my experience is anecdotal, but I happen to handle that particular issue a lot.  I’m seeing it pop up in a lot more cases; if not spoliation itself, then requests by parties to dig into their opponents’ search and review processes, just as a matter of course in the litigation if it is of any size.  In the past, I didn’t see that for any case of any size- it typically only came up in larger cases.  I don’t know if that’s decreased trust or a “trust but verify” Reagan type of approach, but it has become the norm in my world.  These days, many people want to do discovery on your eDiscovery, again just as a matter of course.  Typically, in the past, you’d only see that come up if there was any issue or deficiency with a production where someone could point to something wrong with your efforts.  But, it may not always be appropriate to do discovery about discovery, short of any issue identified with a production.

On the vendor front, I see a lot of vendors that have “click and drag” tools and solutions for small or medium sized firms or cases, which I think are really cool and I’m looking forward to playing with some of them.  From ingest to the end, a single person or lawyer can handle everything, clicking and dragging files to get them processed.  Obviously, sometimes issues come up in processing, so I’m wondering how the vendors handle those.  But, there’s a lot of cool stuff that I saw this year that I’m looking forward to playing around with.

The last trend that I see is a lot of interest and emphasis on forensic collection from mobile devices and social media collection.  That’s no surprise because in cases that I deal with, that comes up all the time.  I’ve done plenty of collections from iPhones and other devices.  The problem is that when you have those solid state drives, collections can be a little weirder and forensics can be a little more difficult.  And, social media collection is always somewhat of a “tricky bird” for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is you sometimes have a lot of layers in that onion that make it harder to collect from those sources.

With new amendments to discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure now in the comment phase, do you see those being approved this year and what do you see as the impact of those Rules changes?

Excellent question.  I see some of the rules being approved.  I would want to fact check and make sure I’ve got the changes right, but I imagine that changes related to timing of depositions and number of witnesses and other minor procedural “quirks” will be passed, though I don’t see those as having a big impact on litigation.  I think that the number of hours per deposition is trimmed by an hour or two.  In all of the depositions that I’ve been involved, time of deposition is not a major controversial point.  If you can’t work that out with the other side, that doesn’t bode well.  But, for Rule 37(e), the rule that essentially creates a new standard for the imposition of spoliation sanctions, I hope that doesn’t pass.  I think it raises a lot of issues whether or not you think it’s necessary.  There’s a big issue about whether federal or state law governs this stuff.  When you’re litigating spoliation on a diversity case, it’s presumably governed by state law.  Or, so some cases say, others say “no, it’s a procedural issue, it’s governed by federal law”.  But, if they pass that rule, you suddenly have a new standard for spoliation in federal court, which will lead to all sort of nasty issues of “forum shopping” where people who destroy things will want to be in federal court, believe it or not.  Which is unusual, because there will be a standard that makes it difficult to get spoliation sanctions.

Judge Francis had a well-reasoned and superbly reasoned opinion addressing spoliation, where he held that “[The] sanction [of an adverse inference] should be available even for the negligent destruction of documents if that is necessary to further the remedial purpose of the inference. It makes little difference to the party victimized by the destruction of evidence whether that act was done willfully or negligently. The adverse inference provides the necessary mechanism for restoring the evidentiary balance. The inference is adverse to the destroyer not because of any finding of moral culpability, but because the risk that the evidence would have been detrimental rather than favorable should fall on the party responsible for its loss.” (Turner v. Hudson Transit Lines, Inc., 142 F.R.D. 68, 75 (S.D.N.Y. 1991)).

It does not matter whether the spoliator was a “cackling villain twirling his mustache” or an innocent employee that pressed the wrong button.  Spoliation addresses prejudice a party suffers as a result of the destruction of evidence needed to prove a case. It doesn’t really matter to the victim what the other party’s intent was.  You just want to be put in the position where you would have been if the evidence had not been destroyed.  So, the law until now in most jurisdictions (which I think had it right) said that if you have possession, custody and control of the ESI and you knew that you should have preserved it and it gets destroyed, we’re not going to shy away from leveling the playing field based on that.  The new Rule 37(e) is going to make it night impossible for some judges to keep the playing field level.

I’m not sure if that is going to pass or not, I have no special insight into that process or those committees.  But, although we do have some chaos now in that there are different standards in different jurisdictions, but I like for judges to have flexibility generally.  I think that “bright line” rules, while they may initially have some attractiveness in uniformity, take away flexibility from the good judges we have, who are smart people.  With flexibility, I think you see justice more than if you have a hard iron rule and the conflict of law issues that are going to come up as a result will be tricky.

It seems despite numerous resources in the industry, most attorneys still don’t know a lot about eDiscovery?  Do you agree with that and, if so, what do you think can be done to improve the situation?

Well, again, my observations are anecdotal.  I’ve “drank the Kool-Aid” like many people that you’re probably interviewing.  So, most of the people that I deal with have some knowledge of eDiscovery.  But, in the Bar at large, I do think things are getting a lot better.  I think that the big barrier to education in a lot of cases is that you get a lot of eyes glazed over by a certain type of person when you start to talk about eDiscovery.  Much like my eyes might glaze over if you talk about particular provisions of the partnership tax code.  Some people love tax law – I have a friend that I went to law school with that is enamored with tax law and he’s an awesome tax lawyer.  And, he really likes that, but he doesn’t like eDiscovery.  So, it’s “different strokes for different folks”

Unfortunately, unlike partnership tax law, if you’re going to be litigating, you have to know about eDiscovery.  Ironically, my first trial was in Tax Court, on a pure tax issue, and some pretty major eDiscovery issues popped up in the middle of trial in a dramatic, surprising, way – so even the tax litigator needs to know eDiscovery basics.  So, the real challenge on eDiscovery education isn’t reaching the people who already follow this and already read the blogs – they’re well versed in it.  It’s important to provide something that’s funny and entertaining, if you can, so that you can bridge that interest gap with either humor or writing or presentation skills.  I think a lot of organizations are doing that and I feel that more people know about it now.  Certainly, the judiciary does.  The judges are very well versed in a lot of eDiscovery issues, at least generally.

But, at firms, there are some folks that don’t want to learn it, but realize it’s important, so they delegate.  In most situations, I don’t see anything wrong with that.  If you have a senior trial lawyer that’s in his 80s and he’s an excellent presenter and trial lawyer, but does not want to handle the “nitty-gritty” of eDiscovery and he brings someone on to handle that for him, I don’t see anything wrong with that.  The rules of professional conduct, at least in Florida, allow that too.  In competence, we have an ethics opinion in Florida (I think it’s 0602) that says you have a duty to competence that extends to an understanding of eDiscovery.  I think 0602 talks about metadata scrubbing and emails, but one of the ways that you can make up that competence shortfall is by involving other lawyers and having them help with the things you don’t know or understand, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.  I’ve seen a lot of companies actually (and I agree with this and love doing it), have firms or individuals just to serve as eDiscovery counsel to look over the shoulder.  They may use different firms for different litigations, but they want somebody that knows how the business works really well that can look over the shoulder of outside counsel or in-house folks in every case, which I think is a good trend.

What are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about?

There are a couple of quick points that I’d like to hit on with IT-Lex.  One, for law students and young lawyers, we have the highest paid cash prize writing competition in the country.  So, if you are a law student or know a law student, by all means, check it out or send them the link.  The cash prize is big, but it’s not the biggest part of the prize – the real prize is that the winner gets to headline at the Innovate conference, which is a huge career springboard.  Plus, they get invitations to become members.  So, I really want to emphasize the writing competition.

On top of that, our Innovate conference is going to be coming up October 9 and 10 of this year, so we’d love to see people there.  If you want to sign up as a friend of IT-Lex, you can do so for free and we always welcome involvement from folks in the community with what we do.  So, look at what we do and don’t be shy to reach out is the quick message.

Thanks, Adam, for participating in the interview!

And to the readers, as always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic!

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.