Federal eDiscovery Rules

Spoliation and Defensible Deletion: What’s the Difference?

Spoliation and Sanctions

Spoliation, the destruction or manipulation of ESI, has become a prevalent issue in e-discovery. As evidenced by Atalian US New England, LLC v. Navarro, spoliation is often done deliberately. In response to allegations of fraud, the defendant deleted mobile device data and replaced it with fabricated evidence. The judge sanctioned the company for intending to deprive the opposing counsel of relevant information.[1] Negligence is another cause for spoliation. In McCoy v. Transdev Svc., Inc., Transdev faced default judgment for “inadvertently” deleting cell phone data. Though the content was unknown, the Court upheld its relevance, maintaining that it could have supported the opposition’s claims.[2] Faulkner v. Aero Fulfillment Services demonstrates that spoliation can also be an accidental offense. Ms. Faulkner initially adhered to production requests and produced her LinkedIn data in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. But when the defendants asked for the evidence in a different format, Ms. Faulkner was unable to comply because she had deactivated her account. The court decided against sanctioning the plaintiff because she had followed the initial production request, and it was the counsel’s responsibility to inform her of preservation obligations.[3]

Per Rule 37(e) of the Federal Rules of Procedure, sanctions for irreversibly deleting ESI include:

  • Court involvement to remedy any prejudices suffered by the opposing counsel
  • Court and jury presumptions that the lost information was unfavorable to the responsible party if the deletion was intentional
  • Dismissal of the action or motion for default judgment[4]

 

Defining Defensible Deletion

Unlike spoliation, defensible deletion involves the ongoing elimination of unneeded data to reduce the costs of storage and retention. Deletion is permissible by the Federal Rules of Procedure when the ESI isn’t being held for a legal, statutory, or business purpose. Legal teams should carefully design a deletion strategy so that they can decide what to keep, archive, and eliminate.[5]

 

Things to Keep in Mind for Defensible Deletion

  • Prepare a retention policy and schedule. Defensible deletion is a slow, meticulous process. Take your time, especially when handling large amounts of big data.
  • Establish an inventory of legal preservation obligations. Within the inventory, identify which data types are currently under legal holds (or likely to be held). Proper documentation and classification of your data will simplify the retention process.
  • Properly staff the deletion project with a range of experts in various fields.[6]

 

[1] R. Thomas Dunn, “Intentional Deletion and Manipulation of Electronic Data Leads to Default Judgement,” JD Supra, August 12, 2021, https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/intentional-deletion-and-manipulation-8546367/

[2] Michael Berman, “Defendant Unsuccessfully Argued that Plaintiff Could Not Show That Data on Cell Phone That Defendant Destroyed Was Relevant,” E-Discovery LLC, August 18, 2021, http://www.ediscoveryllc.com/defendant-unsuccessfully-argued-that-plaintiff-could-not-show-that-data-on-cell-phone-that-defendant-destroyed-was-relevant/

[3] Brielle A. Basso, “In It for the Long Haul: The Duty to Preserve Social Media Accounts Is Not Terminated Upon an Initial Production,” Gibbons, June 30, 2020, https://www.gibbonslawalert.com/2020/06/30/in-it-for-the-long-haul-the-duty-to-preserve-social-media-accounts-is-not-terminated-upon-an-initial-production/

[4] “Rule 37. Failure to Make Disclosures or to Cooperate in Discovery; Sanction,” Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_37

[5] “Defensible Deletion Strategy: Getting Rid of Your Unnecessary Data,” Special Counsel, November 16, 2019, https://blog.specialcounsel.com/ediscovery/defensible-data-deletion-strategy-basics/

[6] Andrew J. Peck, Jennifer M. Feldman, Leeanne Sara Mancari, Dennis Kiker, “Defensible deletion: The proof is in the planning,” DLA Piper, February 5, 2021, https://www.dlapiper.com/en/us/insights/publications/2021/02/defensible-deletion-the-proof-is-in-the-planning/

Here’s a Webcast on How to Win the Battle on Discovery Form of Production: eDiscovery Webcasts

Yesterday, I said that (despite the current COVID-19 crisis) CloudNine is continuing to provide the full range of services and high-quality support you have come to expect, including this blog.  And, webcasts too!  We’re back and better than ever with our next webcast – in just three weeks!

Let’s face it, one of the most common disputes in discovery today has to do with the form or forms of production for the electronically stored information (ESI) in the case. There are quite a few misconceptions regarding the different production forms as well as the pros and cons of each. So, what do you need to know to request the most appropriate form of production to maximize the information available to you, at a cost you can afford and a format that supports presentation activities such as depositions and trial exhibits?

Wednesday, April 8th at noon CST (1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST), CloudNine will conduct the webcast Winning the Battle on Discovery Form of Production. In this one-hour webcast that’s CLE-approved in selected states, we will cover current rules regarding form of production, options available to you, the pros and cons of each and relevant case law regarding recent form of production disputes. Topics include:

  • History Lesson: How We Got Here
  • Federal Rules Addressing Forms of Production
  • Options for Forms of Production
  • Objections to Native File Production and Counter-Arguments
  • Considerations for ESI Protocols
  • Key Recent Case Law Opinions Regarding Form of Production
  • Recommendations and Resources for More Information

As always, I’ll be presenting the webcast, along with Tom O’Connor.  To register for it, click here.  Even if you can’t make it, go ahead and register to get a link to the slides and to the recording of the webcast (if you want to check it out later).  If you want to learn how to win the battle on form of production disputes, this webcast is for you!

So, what do you think?  Do you feel like you understand how to select the form of production that is the most informative and most cost-effective for your cases?  If not, please join us!  And, as always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

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

Top Ten Tips for Working with eDiscovery: eDiscovery Best Practices

I stumbled across a post in our blog that Tom O’Connor did over a year ago to conclude his series titled Will Lawyers Ever Embrace Technology?  As usual, Tom did a great job and, in this post, he offered his top ten tips for working with eDiscovery.  Tom provided a top ten list terrific enough to make David Letterman proud, but I thought the list could use some additions – in the form of links to resources for the items.  Here goes!

As a reminder, here are the top ten tips from Tom’s post:

  1. Read the Rules
  2. Read the Decisions
  3. Know the Terms
  4. Know Where Your Data Is
  5. Talk to The IT Department
  6. Talk to The Records Management People
  7. Make a Records Management Policy
  8. Make A Litigation Hold Policy
  9. Enforce the Litigation Hold Policy
  10. Meet with Your Client’s Inside Counsel

Let’s take them one (or sometimes two) at a time.

Read the Rules: As Tom notes, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) lay out the framework for your obligations in handling eDiscovery, but many states have rules that may differ from the FRCP.  Not only that, but the FRCP is comprised of a lot of rules which don’t necessarily have to do with eDiscovery.  So, which ones do you need to know?  There are two notable Rules updates that have significant eDiscovery impact: the 2006 and 2015 updates.  Fortunately, we covered them both in our webcast titled What Every Attorney Should Know About eDiscovery in 2017, which (as you can tell by the title) is three years old now (but still relevant for this topic).  You can click on the webcast to get access to the slides (via the attachments link) if you don’t want to sit through the hour-long webcast.  As for states rules, K&L Gates has a listing of states that have enacted eDiscovery rules (not all of them have), so you can check your state (and other states) here.

Read the Decisions: To find decisions related to eDiscovery, you can find plenty of those right here on the eDiscovery Daily blog – for free!  We’re up to 734 lifetime case law related posts, covering 566 unique cases since our inception back in 2010.  You can see them all here or wind them down year by year here.  If you want even more decisions (1,500 to 2,000 a year, not to mention other terrific resources), you can find those at our go to site for case law – eDiscovery Assistant.

Know the Terms: Tom notes in his post the importance of knowing the terms and even provides a terrific resource – The Sedona Conference – for a great terms list, which was just updated and we covered it and how to get it here!

Know Where Your Data Is: When it comes to knowing where your data is, a data map comes in really handy.  And, with GDPR and other factors emphasizing data privacy, that’s more important than ever.  Here are several templates to get started.

Talk to The IT Department: Tom says “You’re Lewis and Clark, they’re Sacajawea. You cannot…absolutely cannot…navigate without them.”  Knowing the terms and understanding data maps (see previous two paragraphs) will help bridge the communication gap and help here too.

Talk to the Records Management People and Make a Records Management Policy: Records Management is a term that has been around for a long time.  A more recent term that has become synonymous is Information Governance.  eDiscovery Daily has over 200 posts related to Information Governance, including this seven blog post series from Tom here.  Enjoy!

Make A Litigation Hold Policy and Enforce the Litigation Hold Policy: We’ve covered the topic of litigation holds several times as well during the almost 9 1/2 years of the blog, including these two posts (recently updated) where we discuss several things you need to consider when implementing your own litigation hold.

Meet with Your Client’s Inside Counsel: With all of the info you learned above, you’re well equipped to (as Tom puts it) “discuss all of the above”.  One more thing that can help is understanding topics that can be covered during the meet and confer that will benefit both you and your client.  Here’s a webcast that will help – again, you can click on the webcast to get access to the slides (via the attachments link) if you don’t want to sit through the hour-long webcast.

One more thing that Tom notes in his post is that “eDiscovery is a process comprised of separate distinct stages, any one of which may have specific software available for that stage” and that’s very true.  Certainly, that’s true at CloudNine, where, in addition to our Review product mentioned above, we also have a product that collects data from O365 and One Drive (CloudNine Collection Manager™), an Early Data Assessment platform (CloudNine Explore™), a processing and production platform known as the “swiss-army knife of eDiscovery” (CloudNine LAW™) and a tried and true desktop review platform (CloudNine Concordance®).  There are as many workflows as there are organizations conducting eDiscovery and getting the most out of software products available from CloudNine or other providers to maximize your own workflow is key to succeeding at eDiscovery.  Work with your software provider (whoever they are) to enable them to help maximize your workflow.  Help us help you!  :o)

So, what do you think?  Are you familiar with all of these resources?  If not, now you can be!  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

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

Need an “Assist” with Your eDiscovery Practices? Get an eDiscovery Assistant!: eDiscovery Best Practices

As someone who writes a blog daily for (part of) my living, I can attest that it can be a challenge to stay on top of eDiscovery trends and case law.  I try to do my best to provide some of that to the readers of this blog and, when it comes to case law, we provide posts on about 60 to 70 cases each year (we’re over 400 unique cases covered lifetime).  But, here’s a resource that provides access to even more case law, and several other great resources, as well.

eDiscovery Assistant™ is a site developed by ESI Attorneys that was built by attorneys and information law practitioners to provide several resources to help people get started — faster and with confidence — in eDiscovery.  Those resources include: case law, rules, checklists, forms, glossary of terms and (coming soon) a learning center with short, practical videos that explain concepts users can implement in their own eDiscovery operations.

When you open eDiscovery Assistant, you begin with a dashboard that shows you recent case law on the left hand side and a History of your activities on the right hand side to enable you to get back to something you looked at previously.  A list of Favorites that you’ve created is listed in the lower left side of the form and cite lists of case law searches is shown in the lower right side of the form.  Along the top of the form is a menu to enable you quickly navigate to search for case law, locate Federal, State and other rules, access a resource of checklists and forms for best eDiscovery practices, access your cite lists and access a glossary of eDiscovery-related terms.  Here’s an example of what the dashboard looks like:

According to the eDiscovery Assistant site, they have a database of over 5,000 eDiscovery decisions.  Each of those is categorized by the types of issues being addressed, so if you want to click on a type of issue to see how many case decisions and opinions there are about it, simply click on the issue to pull up all of those cases.  For example, clicking on the Technology Assisted Review (TAR) issue pulls up 39 results.  You can also perform date range searches and look for specific names (such as the name of a judge in whose courtroom you may find yourself) and other terms.  The application enables you to view the case decision and download it to PDF if desired.  As somebody who does a lot of research into key eDiscovery case law, it’s nice to have it all in one place.

The Checklists and Forms page includes over 40 checklists and forms in a variety of areas ranging from identifying relevant sources of ESI to legal holds to meet & confer/Rule 26 conferences, with forms and letters including sample preservation letters, sample clawback agreement and chain of custody forms.  It’s a great resource for those who need some help in getting started in several key areas of the eDiscovery process.

I spoke to Kelly Twigger, CEO of ESI Attorneys and eDiscovery Assistant, about the goal for the platform and why she decided to build the platform in the first place:

“I built eDiscovery Assistant to be the practice tool I wanted for my practice. I wanted to find case law by issue FAST. I wanted to know what discovery decisions the judge assigned to my case has authored without sifting through everything she’s written. And I wanted the rules for all jurisdictions at my fingertips. That’s why we built a proprietary tagging structure to let you sort case law by issue, jurisdiction, judge, date and keyword. Hours of work is reduced to minutes. ROI is made with one search.”

Kelly also indicated that they are “working with eDiscovery professionals from around the country to create a community of users who want to stop reinventing the wheel and learn as technology and the law develop.”

From a pricing standpoint, Kelly indicated that pricing is available on a per seat, multiple seat or custom site basis.  You can sign up directly for per seat monthly and annual subscriptions on ediscoveryassistant.com. The annual subscription includes two free months.  For firms or organizations seeking more than five seats, you can contact them to set up multiple seats on one account.

eDiscovery Assistant also offers the ability for a firm or organization to have a separate branded site. Custom sites can also include a separate administrative backend to upload proprietary checklists and templates for sharing within the firm only.  Contact them at 720.414.6106 or at support@ediscoveryassistant.com to inquire about pricing for custom options.

I want to thank everybody at the Women in eDiscovery (WiE) Houston Chapter for inviting me to speak at the Legal Technology Showcase & Conference yesterday.  It was a terrific and very well attended conference!  I also want to thank my fellow panelists in the “State of the Industry” panel: Lana Schell from ONE Discovery (who moderated), Michele Lange of KrolLDiscovery, Lynn Frances Jae of iCONECT and Richard Dilgren of Fronteo.  We led off with the first panel of the day and discussed a variety of topics including Technology Assisted Review, the growth of cloud automation technology within eDiscovery, the impact of cybersecurity on eDiscovery and the impact of the 2015 Federal rules changes.  It was an enjoyable and informative discussion!

So, what do you think?  Do you have a go to resource for eDiscovery case law and best practices?  Besides eDiscovery Daily, of course!  :o)  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. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

This New Pilot Program Can Speed Up Discovery, Especially in Arizona and Illinois: eDiscovery Best Practices

At its meeting in September of 2016, the Judicial Conference of the United States approved a pilot program to test procedures requiring mandatory initial discovery before the commencement of party-directed discovery in civil cases.  Now, that pilot program – the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Program – is already in use in Arizona and Illinois.

The Mandatory Initial Discovery (MIDPP) Pilot Program has been designed to test whether early substantial disclosure of information can reduce litigation costs and shorten the time for case resolution consistent with the goals of Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires the court and the parties to employ the rules “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination” of every case.

As noted in the Above the Law article (Holy Early Discovery, Batman! You’ll Want To Know About This, written by Kelly Twigger), the District of Arizona (effective May 1) and the Northern District of Illinois (effective June 1) “have adopted the MID pilot project for three years. The pilot requires parties to produce all discovery in support of their case (consistent with Rule 26(a)) but ALSO all discovery that is relevant to the opposing parties’ claims and/or defenses. And wait, it gets better — responses have to be filed within 30 days of filing an answer (which everyone now has to do) and documents must be produced 40 days later.”

And, as the description “mandatory” implies, the MIDPP will apply to all civil cases in the volunteer courts, subject to certain specific exemptions.  According to Twigger, those exemptions are “pro se cases, PLSRA matters, MDL matters, and patent cases.”

The Federal Judicial Center site provides several resources regarding the MID Pilot program here, including:

There is also a Checklist page and a Users’ Manual page that provides a general checklist and user’s manual for the MIDPP, as well as specific checklists and user’s manuals for the District of Arizona and the Northern District of Illinois.

So, what do you think?  Will the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Program lead to a speedier and more proportional discovery cycle?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you recognize the movie where the graphic came from – Copyright © Paramount Pictures.  Don’t recognize it?  Surely, you can’t be serious!

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

Court Denies Defendant’s Motion to Overrule Plaintiff’s Objections to Discovery Requests

Court Tells Litigants “NO MORE WARNINGS” When It Comes to Boilerplate Discovery Objections: eDiscovery Case Law

In Liguria Foods, Inc. v. Griffith Laboratories, Inc., C 14-3041-MWB (N.D. Iowa Mar. 13, 2017), Iowa District Judge Mark W. Bennett declined to sanction the parties for issuing boilerplate objections, but strongly warned them that the use of boilerplate objections in the future would place counsel and their clients at risk for significant sanctions.

In this case related to millions of dollars’ worth of sausage that turned rancid, it became apparent to the Judge Bennett (during a review of another discovery dispute) that both parties had submitted “obstructionist discovery responses” to each other during the discovery process.  On January 27, 2017, Judge Bennett entered an Order To Show Cause Why Counsel For Both Parties Should Not Be Sanctioned For Discovery Abuses And Directions For Further Briefing, directing the parties to file, under seal, all their written responses to each other’s discovery requests by the following day. Judge Bennett also notified counsel of his intention to impose sanctions on every attorney who signed the discovery responses, if he determined that the responses were, indeed, improper or abusive

The parties filed their written responses to discovery requests, as directed, the following day.  Based on his review of the discovery responses, Judge Bennett identified numerous discovery responses, from both sides, that he identified as improper in this ruling.  According to Judge Bennett, the improper objections included:

  • “not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence”;
  • “subject to and without waiving its general and specific objections”;
  • “to the extent they seek information that is protected from discovery under the attorney-client privilege, the attorney work-product doctrine or is otherwise privileged or protected from disclosure”; and
  • “overbroad and unduly burdensome.”

In its brief in response to the Order To Show Cause, the plaintiff acknowledged that many of its objections were not stated with specificity, but asserted that it had not interposed any objection “for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation” and that some of its objections did include explanations.  The defendant, in its brief, stated that its written responses to the plaintiff’s discovery requests were not intended for any improper purposes and that the parties had conducted the litigation in a cooperative and professional manner. The defendant also noted that a magistrate judge had reviewed various defendant responses and found no fault with them, contending that that both parties relied on standard “boilerplate” language to assure that they were not waiving their rights while they met and conferred about the scope of privileges, pertinent time periods, among other issues.

Both sets of counsel ultimately admitted that the reason they used “boilerplate” objections had a lot to do with the way they were trained, the kinds of responses that they had received from opposing parties, and the “culture” that routinely involved the use of such “standardized” responses.

Judge Bennett evaluated each boilerplate objections, identifying violations of Rule 26(d), 26(b)(5)(A)(iii) and the “specificity” requirements of Rules 33(b)(4) and 34(b)(2).  However, in part because the parties “did not try to raise frivolous defenses for their conduct when called on” the use of “boilerplate” sanctions, Judge Bennett declined to sanction the parties this time.  Instead, he provided a new Supplemental Trial Management Order, advising the lawyers for the parties that “in conducting discovery, form or boilerplate objections shall not be used and, if used, may subject the party and/or its counsel to sanctions. Objections must be specific and state an adequate individualized basis.”

Judge Bennett also concluded his order with these strong words, in caps for emphasis: “NO MORE WARNINGS. IN THE FUTURE, USING “BOILERPLATE” OBJECTIONS TO DISCOVERY IN ANY CASE BEFORE ME PLACES COUNSEL AND THEIR CLIENTS AT RISK FOR SUBSTANTIAL SANCTIONS.”

Here’s another recent case where parties were warned about “boilerplate” objections.

So, what do you think?  Will we someday get past the issue of lawyers using standard, “boilerplate” objections in discovery responses?  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. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Rule Change Could Facilitate the Government’s Ability to Access ESI in Criminal Investigations: eDiscovery Trends

A rule modification adopted by the United States Supreme Court that significantly changes the way in which the government can obtain search warrants to access computer systems and electronically stored information (ESI) of suspected hackers could go into effect on December 1.

On April 28, the Supreme Court submitted the amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that were adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States pursuant to Section 2072 of Title 28, United States Code.  One of those proposed rule changes, to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41, would enable “a magistrate judge with authority in any district where activities related to a crime may have occurred has authority to issue a warrant to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district if:”

  • “the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means; or”
  • “in an investigation of a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5), the media are protected computers that have been damaged without authorization and are located in five or more districts.”

Currently, the government can only obtain a warrant to access ESI from a magistrate in the district where the computer with the stored information is physically located.

As reported in JD Supra Business Advisor (Come Back With a Warrant: Proposed Rule Change Expands the Government’s Ability to Access Electronically Stored Information in Criminal Investigations, written by Thomas Kurland and Peter Nelson), proponents of the rule change say it is necessary to allow the government to respond quickly to cyber-attacks of unknown origin – particularly malicious “botnets” – which are becoming increasingly common as hackers become ever more sophisticated.

However, others say the rule change will significantly expand the government’s power to search computers without their owners’ consent – regardless of whether those computers belong to criminals or even to the victims of a crime.  One US senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon, has called for Congress to reject the rules changes, indicating that they “will massively expand the government’s hacking and surveillance powers” and “will have significant consequences for Americans’ privacy”.  He has indicated a “plan to introduce legislation to reverse these amendments shortly, and to request details on the opaque process for the authorization and use of hacking techniques by the government”.

So, what do you think?  Will Congress reverse these amendments?  Should they?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Just a reminder that I will be moderating a panel at The Masters Conference Windy City Cybersecurity, Social Media and eDiscovery event tomorrow (we covered it here) as part of a full day of educational sessions covering a wide range of topics.  CloudNine will be sponsoring that session, titled Faster, Cheaper, Better: How Automation is Revolutionizing eDiscovery at 4:15.  Click here to register for the conference.  If you’re a non-vendor, the cost is only $100 to attend for the full day!

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

Join Me for a Panel Discussion Regarding Rule 34(b) Changes and Other Fun Stuff!: eDiscovery Best Practices

This Thursday, I’ll be in Birmingham, Alabama and I’m excited to be participating in a roundtable discussion regarding the new Rule 34(b) changes!  Here is how you can attend (and even get CLE credit) if you’re in the Birmingham area and how you can still attend via the Web if you’re remote.

The event is hosted by the ESI Roundtable , which is a grassroots, continuing legal education organization that provides eDiscovery training & workshops with practical content and local networking.  Founded by Melissa Rogozinski, ESI Roundtable has produced and hosted over 250 eDiscovery CLEs since 2008!  And, I’m excited to report that the event will be sponsored by CloudNine!

Thursday’s event is titled The New Rule 34(b):  Managing e-Discovery Requests, Objections & Other Fun Stuff .  With Rule 34(b) having been recently amended to both emphasize response time to discovery as well as require specificity of objections, it will be an interesting discussion with experienced attorneys (representing both the plaintiff and defendant points of view) about Rule 34(b), the changes to the rule and what it all means to you.

I will be moderating and adding perspective as someone who has spent over 25 years providing technology assistance and support to attorneys in the litigation process.  It should be educational and a lot of fun!

If you are in Birmingham, CLE credit is available.  You must register, purchase a ticket and attend ONSITE/IN-PERSON to receive CLE credit.  The event will be held at Adams & Reese LLP at Regions Harbert Plaza, 1901 6th Avenue North, Suite 3000, Birmingham, AL 35203 (I hear it’s got a great view of the city).  Click here and go to the bottom of the page to register for CLE credit.

If you can’t attend in person, but would still like to learn from the panelists and attend the event from the comfort of your own workstation, you can attend via WebEx.  Click here to register for the event via WebEx.  Sorry, no CLE credit available for WebEx attendees.

Regardless, it should be a lot of fun and I look forward to meeting all of the in-person attendees on Thursday!

So, what do you think?  Are you interested in learning more about the latest FRCP rules changes?  Please share any comments you might have with us or let us know 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. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Ralph Losey of Jackson Lewis, LLP: eDiscovery Trends

This is the eighth and final of the 2016 LegalTech New York (LTNY) Thought Leader Interview series.  eDiscovery Daily interviewed several thought leaders at LTNY this year to get their observations regarding trends at the show and generally within the eDiscovery industry.  Unlike previous years, some of the questions posed to each thought leader were tailored to their position in the industry, so we have dispensed with the standard questions we normally ask all thought leaders.

 

Today’s thought leader is Ralph Losey. Ralph is an attorney in private practice with the law firm of Jackson Lewis, LLP, where he is a Shareholder and the firm’s National e-Discovery Counsel. Ralph is also a prolific author of eDiscovery books and articles, the principal author and publisher of the popular e-Discovery Team® Blog, founder and owner of an online training program, e-Discovery Team Training, with attorney and technical students all over the world, founder of the new Electronic Discovery Best Practices (EDBP) lawyer-centric work flow model. Ralph is also the publisher of LegalSearchScience.com and PreSuit.com on predictive coding methods and applications.

What are your general observations about LTNY this year and about eDiscovery trends in general?

{Interviewed the second day of LTNY}

I have not been on the vendor floor yet, but I hope to get there.  I have been in several meetings and I was able to attend the keynote on cybersecurity today by Eric O’Neill, who was a terrific speaker.  They started out by showing the movie that was made of the big event in his life where they caught the biggest spy America has ever had.  He talked about that incident and cybersecurity and it was very good.  Of course, cybersecurity is something that I’m very interested in, but not so much as an expert in the field, but just as an observer.  My interest in cybersecurity is only as it relates to eDiscovery.  O’Neill was talking about the big picture of catching spies and industrial espionage and the Chinese stealing American secrets.  It was very good and the auditorium was filled.

Otherwise, the show seems quite alive and vibrant, with orange people and Star Wars characters here and there as a couple of examples of what the providers were doing to get attention here at the show.  I have been live “tweeting” during the show.  Of course, I’ve seen old friends pretty much everywhere I walk and everybody is here as usual.  LTNY remains the premier event.

One trend that I’ll comment on is the new rules.  I didn’t think the rules would make that much difference.  Maybe they would be somewhat helpful.  But, what I’m seeing in practice is that they’ve been very helpful.  They really seem to help lawyers to “get it”.  Proportionality is not a new message for me, but having it in the rules, I have found more helpful than I thought.  So far, so good, knock on wood – that has been a pleasant surprise.  I’m upbeat about that and the whole notion of proportionality, which we’ve really needed.  I’ve been talking about proportionality for at least five years and, finally, it really seems to have caught on now, particularly with having the rules, so I’m upbeat about that.

I’ve observed that there seems to be a drop off in sessions this year discussing predictive coding and technology assisted review (TAR).  Do you agree and, if so, why do you think that is?

I read that too, but it seems like I’ve seen several sessions that are discussing TAR.  I’ve noticed at least four, maybe five sessions that are covering it.  I noticed that FTI was sponsoring sessions related to TAR and Kroll was as well.  So, I’m not sure that I agree with that 100%.  I think that the industry’s near obsession with it in some of the prior shows is maybe not a fair benchmark in terms of how much attention it is getting.  Since it’s my area of special expertise, I would probably always want to see it get more attention, but I realize that there are a number of other concerns.  One possible reason for less coverage, if that is the case, is that TAR is less controversial than it once was.  Judges have all accepted it – nobody has said “no, it’s too risky”.  So, I think a lot of the initial “newsworthiness” of it is gone.

As I stated in my talk today, the reality is that the use of TAR requires training via the old fashioned legal apprenticeship tradition.  I teach people how to do it by their shadowing me, just like when I first learned how to try a case when I carried the briefcase of the trial lawyer.  And, after a while, somebody carried my briefcase.  Predictive coding is the same way.  People are carrying my briefcase now and learning how to do it, and pretty soon, they’ll do it on their own.  It only takes a couple of matters watching how I do it for somebody to pick it up.  After that, they might contact me if they run into something unusual and troublesome.  Otherwise, I think it’s just getting a lot simpler – the software is getting better and it’s easier to do.  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist.

My big thing is to expose the misuse of the secret control set that was making it way too complicated.  No one has stood up in defense of the secret control set, so I think I’m succeeding in getting rid of one of the last obstacles to adopting predictive coding – this nonsense about reviewing and coding 10,000 random documents before you even start looking for the evidence.  That was crazy.  I’ve shown, and others have too, that it’s just not necessary.  It overcomplicates matters and, if anything, it allows for a greater potential for error, not less as was its intent.  We’ve cleaned up predictive coding, gotten rid of some mistaken approaches, the software is getting better and people are getting more knowledgeable, so there’s just no longer the need to have every other session be about predictive coding.

One trend that I’ve observed is an increased focus on automation and considerable growth of, and investment in, eDiscovery automation providers.  What are your thoughts about that trend?

It is the trend and it will be the trend for the next 20 or 30 years.  We’re just seeing the very beginning of it.  The first way it has impacted the legal profession is through document review and the things that I’m doing.  I love artificial intelligence because I need the help of artificial intelligence to boost my own limited intelligence.  I can only remember so many things at once, I make mistakes, I’m only human.  So, I believe that AI is going to augment the lawyers that are able to use it and they are going to be able to do much, much more than before.  I can do the work of one hundred linear reviewers with no problem, by using a software AI enhancement.

It’s not going to put lawyers out of work, but it is going to reduce the volume of menial tasks in the law.  For mental tasks that a lawyer can do that require just simple logic, a computer can do those tasks better than a human can do them.  Simple rules-based applications, reviewing documents – there are many things that lawyers do that a computer can do better.  But, there are also many, many things that only a human can do.  We’re nowhere near actually replacing lawyers and I don’t think we ever will.

Just like all of the great technology doesn’t replace doctors in the medical profession – it just makes them better, makes them able to do miraculous things.  The same thing will happen in the law.  There will be lawyers, but they will be able to do what, by today’s standards, would look miraculous.  How did that lawyer know how that judge was going to rule so exactly?  That’s one of the areas we’re getting into with AI – predicting not just the coding of documents, but predicting how judges will rule.  Right now, that’s an art form, but that’s the next big step in big data.  They are already starting to do that in the patent world where they already have a pretty good idea how certain judges will rule on certain things.  So, that’s the next application of AI that is coming down the road.

I think the continued advancement of AI and automation will be good for lawyers who adapt.  For the lawyers that get technology and spend the time to learn it, the future looks good.  For those who don’t and want to keep holding on to the “buggy whip”, they will find that the cars pass them by.

It seems like acquisition and investment in the eDiscovery market is accelerating, with several acquisitions and VC investments in providers in just the past few months.  Do you feel that we are beginning to see true consolidation in the market?

Yes, I think it’s more than just beginning – I think it’s well underway.  And, I think that’s a good thing.  Why?  Because there are so many operations that are not solid, that, in a more sophisticated market, wouldn’t survive.  But, because many legal markets around the country are not sophisticated about eDiscovery, they are able to sell services to people who just don’t know any better and I don’t think these people are helping the legal profession.  So, consolidation is good.  I’m not saying that “new blood” isn’t good too, if those providers are really good at what they do.  But, I think that’s a natural result of the marketplace itself becoming more sophisticated.

However, I do think the entire industry is vulnerable someday to extreme consolidation if Google and IBM decide to take an interest in it.  I’ve long predicted that, at the end of the day, there will be three or four players.  Aside from Google and IBM, who that will be, I don’t know.  Maybe Google and IBM will never go into it.  But, I believe Google will go into it and I think IBM will do so too.  While I don’t have any inside knowledge to that effect, I think they’re probably researching it.  I think they would be silly not to research it, but I don’t think they have a big staff devoted to it.

I read about this a lot because I’m curious about IBM in particular and I think that IBM is focusing all of its resources right now on medicine and doctors.  They do have a booth here and they do have some eDiscovery focus, particularly on preservation and the left side of the EDRM model.  What they don’t have yet is “Watson, the review lawyer”.  In fact, I have said this in my Twitter account that if there ever is a “Watson, the review lawyer”, I challenge him.  They can beat Jeopardy, but when it comes to things as sophisticated as legal analysis, I don’t think they’re there yet. Several of our existing e-Discovery vendor software is better. Anybody could beat a regular human, but when it comes to beating an “automated human”, I don’t think IBM is there yet. I bet IBM will have to buy out another e-discovery vendor to enhance their Watson algorithms.  I hope I’m still practicing when they are ready, because I’d like to take them on.  Maybe I’ll get beaten, but it would be fun to try and I think I can win, unless they happen to buy the vendor I use. Regardless, I think it’s clear that technology is going to keep getting better and better, but so will the tech savvy lawyers who use the technology to augment their human abilities of search and legal analysis. The key is the combination of Man and Machine, which is what I call the “hybrid” approach.

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

I am looking into the feasibility of having an eDiscovery “hackathon”.  If you’ve heard of a regular “hackathon”, you get the idea.  This would be a 24 hour event where the technology providers who think they are the best in document review come together and compete.  It would be a fair and open content, run by scientists, where everybody has the same chance.  Scientists will compute the scores and determine who obtained the best recall and best precision to determine a winner.  It would be a way for us to generate interest the same way that cybersecurity does, using a live event to allow people to watch how high-tech lawyers do it.  I think you would be amazed how much information can be found in 24 hours, if you’re using the technology right.  It will be a proving ground for those vendors who think they have good software.  Basically, I’m saying “show me”, “put up or shut up”.

The reality is, my presentation today was on TREC and I showed up with Kroll Ontrack – the only other vendor to show up was Catalyst, nobody else showed up.  So, I’m going to make it easier and say “it’s 24 hours, compete!”  Anybody can say that they’re great, but show me – I want to see it to believe it.  Everybody loves competition – it’s fun.  My concern is all the other vendors will be too risk adverse to compete against us. They are just empty suits.

For me, it’s exciting to do document review.  I enjoy document review and if you don’t enjoy document review, you’re doing something wrong.  You’re not really harnessing the power of artificial intelligence.  Because working with a robot at your side that’s helping you find evidence can be a lot of fun.  It’s somewhat like an Easter egg hunt – it’s fun to look for things when you have the help of AI to do the heavy lifting for you.   Review a million documents?  No problem if you have a good AI robot at your side.

So, I’m thinking of ways to show the world what eDiscovery can do and, within our community, to see who are among us is really the best.  I have won before, so I think I can do it again, but you never know. There are many other great search attorneys out there. If we do pull it off with a hackathon, or something like that, there may not be one clear winner, but there may be a few that do better than others. It’s never been done before and I like to do things that have never been done before. But it will not happen unless other vendors step up to the plate and have the confidence to dare to compete. Time will tell…

Thanks, Ralph, 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. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine 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.

Craig Ball of Craig D. Ball, P.C.: eDiscovery Trends

This is the fifth of the 2016 LegalTech New York (LTNY) Thought Leader Interview series.  eDiscovery Daily interviewed several thought leaders at LTNY this year to get their observations regarding trends at the show and generally within the eDiscovery industry.  Unlike previous years, some of the questions posed to each thought leader were tailored to their position in the industry, so we have dispensed with the standard questions we normally ask all thought leaders.

Today’s thought leader is Craig Ball.  A frequent court appointed special master in electronic evidence, Craig is a prolific contributor to continuing legal and professional education programs in the United States and abroad, having delivered over 1,700 presentations and papers.  Craig’s articles on forensic technology and electronic discovery frequently appear in the national media and he teaches E-Discovery and Digital Evidence at the University of Texas School of Law.  He currently blogs on eDiscovery topics at ballinyourcourt.com.

What are your general observations emerging eDiscovery trends for 2016?

{Interviewed Craig after LTNY, as he did not make it to the show this year}

I skipped LegalTech this year – first time in twenty years – because Mardi Gras was early this year, I chose the circus on the Mississippi over the one on the Hudson.  Still, I got lots of feedback from those who attended LTNY while I was catching beads at 29 parades.  I wanted to see if I’d missed anything of note.  The only trend that emerged was lack of change in the focus of the show.  LTNY is still dominated by electronic discovery as it has been for almost a decade; but, there are continued signs of consolidation within the industry as organizations fold into one another.

Not surprisingly, we don’t see outright failure in this space.  Companies don’t disappear, but instead reach a point where whatever is left is absorbed by a national brand for its equipment or core technology.  So, we’ve seen steady consolidation within the industry, and that trend continues.  As the broader economy goes, so goes litigation and discovery.

Another trend that I’ve observed is an increased focus on eDiscovery automation and considerable growth of, and investment in, eDiscovery automation providers.  What are your thoughts about that trend?

The term “automation” has gotten some play lately.  I’m trying to figure out what each usage means because it’s still in the buzzword phase as marketers deploy the term in the never-ending struggle to differentiate their products. Automated workflows are key to Cloud SaaS offerings.  Hosted systems must be capable of programmatic routines to ingest and process data, effecting ready hand-off of data across processing and review.    An automated SaaS offering should be sufficiently autonomous to facilitate workflow across multiple stages of the EDRM with little manual intervention.

Assuming “automation” means  we can put something into the hopper and it will emerge ready for review or production in forms we were expecting, then automation is a necessary precursor to growth and cost effectiveness in hosted products.  That’s positive for consumers if it means price reductions and commoditization of features of electronic discovery.  It may not be so great for the vendor community unless they can scale up the volume.

In the case Nuvasive v. Madsen Medical, the Court recently vacated an adverse inference instruction sanction previously applied against the plaintiff because of the amendment to Rule 37(e).  Do you see that as a trend for other cases and do you expect that other parties that have been sanctioned will file motions to have their sanctions re-considered?

I don’t think it signals a trend. There are relatively few cases that fall into the transition point.  I don’t expect to see a rash of sanctions being reconsidered by virtue of the latest amendments.

Nuvasive is interesting because it goes to the issue of whether it’s fundamentally fair to impose the new Rules retroactively.  The Rules speak to that issue and make it clear that they can be applied retroactively as long as they operate fairly.  The amendments to the Rules make clear that serious sanctions (such as adverse inference instructions) require proof of an intent to deprive a discovering party of the particular information.  Nuvasive involved serious sanctions, so I can see why the Court might want to weigh amended Rule 37(e).  Still, I’m not sure why the parties and the Court failed to anticipate the Rule changes, as the amendment process was pretty far along in July 2015, when sanctions were imposed.  The tenor of the Court’s opinion in reversing himself was that it was just ‘bad luck’ that the amended rules kicked in when they did.

I think that we will see judicial action once termed “sanctions” couched in less-loaded terms.  After Rule 37(e), Courts will distinguish punitive responses from remedial actions designed to rectify unwarranted failure to preserve relevant information. New Rule 37(e) won’t tie the hands of jurists determined to rectify discovery abuse.  We’re already seeing push back from jurists unwilling to surrender discretionary authority when the facts demand fairness.   As well, we’ve seen at least one case where the Court reversed himself, citing 37(e) as the basis for reconsideration.  As is apparent in Nuvasive and in Judge Francis’ recent order in Cat 3, the Rules are tools, and they can be turned this way and that in determined hands.

Sanctions aren’t going away, and that’s a good thing.  We are mired in the last century when it comes to discovery.  Lawyers need direction, and sanctions opinions supply guidance.  There is little in the way of a “carrot” for eDiscovery – all we have is the “stick.”  If courts fail to sanction incompetence and abuse, then lawyers won’t pursue competence, and parties will continue to “twiddle their thumbs” until evidence disappears.  Few lawyers maliciously hide damaging evidence; but, they’re expert at rationalizing it away or, in the case of e-discovery, content to let their ignorance serve as their armor.  “What you don’t know, can’t hurt me,” is their credo.

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

I’m going back to basics.  Last year was about trying to develop a core curriculum and re-engineer my teaching to make it an engaging foundation in information technology for lawyers.  I hope 2016 will bring an increased ability to push out more information and reach more people.  I’m doing a project for the DC Bar where I will be providing evening CLE programs by live semi-weekly webcasts.  Small groups of motivated people are my sweet spot.  As always, I’m looking forward to this year’s Georgetown University Law School eDiscovery Training Academy, during the first full week in June.  Both the faculty and the students are delightful.  I’ve come to recognize that anyone willing to work at it can learn the technology they need to be formidable in e-discovery in just three solid days.  That’s less time than most of us spend at Starbucks each year.

I’m using the California ethics decision (which we covered here when it was still a Proposed Opinion) as a jumping off point for the concept of core competencies for lawyers.  As you know, the State Bar of California issued an advisory opinion last year identifying nine areas in which lawyers must either be competent in order to accept a case involving eDiscovery or must associate competent counsel or decline representation. That courageous opinion serves as an effective touchstone for talking to lawyers– not just in California, but all over– about the skills they must embrace to be competent to accept a case involving eDiscovery.

There are virtually no cases without electronic evidence, only cases where the lawyers choose to ignore it.  And there is so much more coming!  Never in history have advocates had so much powerful evidence at their disposal, and never have they been so content to look away.  Three days per advocate could change all that—a long weekend.  But, finding the time is only half the battle.  The other half is finding the course that doesn’t give short shrift to the “e” in e-discovery.

Candidly, 2016 is also about taking some time for me.  I’ve been doing 50 to 70 presentations a year for twenty years.  I average about four flights a week; so, I’m hoping to cut all that down by half.  I’m saying “no” more and stopping to smell the roses.  That’s why I’ve gotten a second home in New Orleans, and will spend more time reading, thinking and working on fewer projects with greater focus.  Every teacher needs a sabbatical, right?

Thanks, Craig, 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. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine 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.