Once bitten is twice shy – but you may find that things have changed

July 31, 2009

My experience of trying voice recognition software again after a failed experiment some years ago, has messages for those who have not caught up with developments in litigation support software.

I have come back to voice recognition software after many years of assuming that it was an unwieldy and inaccurate method of transferring words from head to screen. I am immediately hooked and regret all those years spent crouched over a keyboard. Or do I? Is it possible that I have come back to it just at the point where it has reached a level of accuracy which is adequate for my needs, and just when those needs are greatest?

The e-disclosure context here is all those potential users of litigation support applications who dip their toes into the water once and retreat vowing never to try again. Some inadequacy, ranging from an outright system failure which lost their case through to a minor annoyance which became too tiresome to tolerate put them off, often with cries of “I told you so” ringing in their ears. Read the rest of this entry »

Well-justified anonymity of Jackson commentator

July 31, 2009

I am not sure what to make of an article which I have found on a blog criticising aspects of Lord Justice Jackson’s Preliminary Report on litigation costs. I have a general rule that if I do not have something pleasant to say in print, I keep my mouth shut. There are exceptions, of course, whom space does not permit me to list here but, on the whole, I reckon it is possible to comment thoughtfully and helpfully on the litigation support industry without attacking anybody, even if I have, occasionally, to grit my teeth.

I have stumbled upon this blog before, tipped off by one of my Google alerts. It seems competent, workmanlike stuff written by someone who (how shall I put this?) understands more about the technology than he does about the civil litigation context in which it is used. I have no problem with that – he knows much more than I do about file systems and data recovery – but I am put off, just a little, by the fact that the site is anonymous, with no clue as to who the author is or with what authority he writes. He calls himself 585. Do this number hold any clues as to his identity? 585 is (as I’m sure you know) the GeneID of Bardet-Biedl syndrome 4, whose symptoms I will spare you. I very much hope that this is not why he chose 585 as his alias. Perhaps it is his telephone extension. Read the rest of this entry »

Woolf v Genn: the decline of civil justice

July 30, 2009

My post’s heading, Woolf v Genn: the decline of civil justice, is taken from an article in the Times of 23 June 2009 which I missed. I do not altogether blame myself for not seeing it — the people who redesigned the Times website last year, turning it from a place of structured order into a kind of literary lucky dip, have recently turned their attentions to the print edition, and only random chance now brings me to the legal pages. Doubtless some of the alterations were for the better, but the designers could not resist throwing in some extra change-for-the-sake-of-change to ensure that we noticed that things were different now.

Much the same is said of the Civil Procedure Rules of 1999. An overhaul was overdue and some of the resulting amendments were undoubtedly for the better. The designers, however, felt obliged to make some showy changes, apparently for their own sake. If there was any logic in changing “discovery” to “disclosure” or in doing away with terms like “plaintiff”, “writ” or “Anton Piller” they were lost on me and on many others. I have already referred to an excellent article by HHJ Charles Harris QC published in The Times on 16 April (Sad and unsatisfactory — but not destroyed) who said this: Read the rest of this entry »

Lord Neuberger to be Master of the Rolls

July 24, 2009

It is good news that Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury is to be the new Master of the Rolls from 1 October (see the Times story here). The Master of the Rolls is the Head of Civil Justice and therefore the one who will be in charge of implementing the litigation costs recommendations to be made by Lord Justice Jackson at the end of this year.

His past roles include a stint as Judge in Charge of Modernisation which is a useful piece of background to bring to a civil justice system which desperately needs bringing up to date, both in its own systems and in the attitudes which the judiciary bring to court and should expect of parties.

I sat next to him at a Judicial Studies Board meeting last year when HHJ Simon Brown QC and I went with Mike Brown of Epiq Systems to talk about electronic disclosure and to show what modern litigation support systems were capable of doing. It would fair to say that not everyone in the audience got the point. Lord Neuberger certainly did.


Getting away from it all

July 23, 2009

I have never been much good at this holiday lark. I can manage the logistics of travel, and I do not suffer from any illusion that the world’s continuing rotation depends on my being at my desk. I can flit off without a qualm if the destination is a foreign conference, but disappearing voluntarily is a different matter. I blame the Protestant work ethic in which I was brought up, then on being a law firm partner just at the point in the 1980s when we moved from having drinks before lunch to missing lunch altogether, and, finally, on several years of running a business involving software support which really did depend on my being available. What I do now in fact has few geographical constraints thanks to the BlackBerry and the ubiquity of broadband. It is, I begin to realize, no bad thing to give the brain a rest from time to time.

It is never the right time, of course, but the back-to-back conjunction of an unexpected opportunity to borrow a house and two commitments (simultaneously pleasurable and inescapable) took me out for two weeks notwithstanding my backlog. I should have been in Hong Kong, speaking at the LexisNexis e-discovery conference there; they got HHJ Simon Brown QC in my place, which will not have upset them at all. I had to break off a mind-stretching correspondence with a US commentator about the implications of a particular US Opinion which filled the closing moments before I left.  A white paper was part-done when I went away; I took it with me in the vain hope of finishing it off, but it will be the better for having been unopened for a fortnight. Read the rest of this entry »

Brief service intermission

July 9, 2009

You have probably heard enough from me for a bit, and I am pushing off to the country for a few days. My wife is just back from yachting in Croatia, and I see more than enough of aeroplanes and departure lounges during the rest of the year, so England suits us well.

We have been lent a cottage on an estate with a famed garden. Back properly on 23 July.

The information war – news from the front updated

July 9, 2009

My post Cooperative hands across the sea referred to an article by Jason Baron on Ralph Losey’s e-Discovery Team blog.  Jason’s article attracted some comments, two of which are worth hiving off for comment in their own right. One concerns the “information war” and is covered here. The other is about lawyer education which I will come back to.

Dr Jochen Lardner urges the importance of having the skills to conduct searches in any area of life in an information economy. He refers to “authority/credibility, censorship, technical failure, cybercrime/disinformation/information warfare”. Regular readers will know of my strongly-held view that all of these things, with the possible exception of cybercrime, are areas where UK citizens must do battle daily with their own government, both defensively (it will record everything about you and then lose the data) and offensively (MP’s expenses, ministerial cover-ups).

It now seems likely that the Labour Government will die of weakness and internal corruption before we get to the hanging-from-lamp-posts stage of civil disturbance which seemed a real possibility earlier this year. Nevertheless, we must remain alert to the potential for government misuse (whether by carelessness, incompetence or design) of the mass of private information which is collected about us, and be able to fight fire with fire – the “disinformation/information warfare” to which Dr Lardner refers is a civil war as well as one against foreign powers. Read the rest of this entry »

Outsource edisclosure and share the load

July 9, 2009

The outsourcing of legal functions is suddenly topical as a result of Rio Tinto’s decision to set up an outsourced legal resource in India and Pinsent Masons’ plan to have first pass litigation review done in South Africa – see Do two outsourcing stories in one week presage a trend?

Those who think that this is taking outsourcing too far, as it were, should bear in mind that the principles, the potential savings and the ability to add e-disclosure skills and resources to their litigation armoury are available much closer to home. Furthermore, they need make no upfront investment beyond a little training, and can get started tomorrow.

The first generations of litigation support applications generally required that a law firm purchased the software for in-house use and that they employed staff to administer it. The world has moved on since then, and those tools and resources and are more usually brought on board by having the documents data hosted by a third party, usually the software provider. This has many advantages, not least the fact that someone else incurs the capital outlay and takes responsibility keeping the data available 24/7. The law firm simply gets a bill for the rental of the server space, the provision of the software and any consultancy or data services which are required. The bill can be passed on to the client as a disbursement. Read the rest of this entry »

Cooperative hands across the sea

July 9, 2009

My post about the increasing exchange of ideas between the US and UK on matters of electronic discovery (Preserving the old ways, protecting the new ways) followed a spate of references in US e-discovery commentaries to what is happening in the UK. I observed that “The UK’s apparently quaint approach to disclosure conceals some workmanlike rules which deserve better use and serious consideration by others as well as ourselves”. An English audience may be interested to see some of what is said about us in the US.

The sources referred to below are amongst those to which I pay regular visits anyway, but their common element last week was that they all linked to articles of mine (and therefore turned up on my visitor statistics list). The point of the observation is not so much pride in the quality of my audience as evidence that what happens in the UK is now of interest in the US, which you would not have found a year or so ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Preserving the old ways, protecting the new ways

July 8, 2009

This column, as you may have noticed, is deeply attached to the old principles of discovery of documents as a means of bringing evidence before the court. It is also a determined advocate of new ways of managing it. The US has tended to look on our rules and practice as rather quaint. As the gloss comes off the American way, however, there is a new appreciation of the British approach.

My title comes from a 1968 song by the Kinks. The Village Green Preservation Society included the lines

Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do?

The Kinks were past their prime by 1968, with Waterloo Sunset and Sunny Afternoon behind them. It was the year in which Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were new, and the nostalgia and sentiment of The Village Green Preservation Society were deliberately out of the mainstream, championing old virtues in a style redolent of an older (and perhaps non-existent) past. The previous year’s Summer of Love and flowers in your hair may in truth have been pretty unsophisticated concepts, but they seemed very modern compared with Ray Davies’s plea for “little shops, china cups and virginity”. Read the rest of this entry »

US-UK cross-fertilisation for discovery

July 2, 2009

Vince Neicho, litigation support expert at Allen & Overy in London, has an interesting article in Legal Week about the increasing amount of discussion and shared ideas between those interested in e-discovery / eDisclosure in the US and the UK.

The heading, The same, only different, and the graphic which merges the flags of the two countries, presage the points which Vince makes. There are a mass of differences between the way the courts of the two countries approach the obligations which the parties have to disclose documents. In many ways, the perception amongst UK lawyers and judges that the whole business is just very expensive stems from these outward differences.

What the article does, however, is to emphasise that there are also core similarities, and that these are likely to increase as each side learns more about the rules and practices in the others’ jurisdiction. Read the rest of this entry »

Autonomy integrates workflow into iManage Worksite

July 1, 2009

Those whose involvement with information management comes at the discovery end of the process have come to take for granted the immense sophistication of some of the applications available at this end of the EDRM (Electronic Discovery Reference Model). One of the reasons why this is necessary is that the clients have done little to sort, filter and classify their documents as they went along.

The lawyers can compound this potential for confusion at the inception of a matter. Things happen in a rush, with forms to complete, accounts to open, standard documents to send out and track and various forms of checks to undertake – does this client or its matter raise client conflicts? Does taking on the work conflict with some ethical position which the firm (or another big client) has taken? All this has to happen at the same time as the client is sending in the first batch of documents about the matter with the breathless request to know if they will win or lose. Some of the letters and other documents and transactions require approvals, with a corresponding need to route requests and relay the reaction. Read the rest of this entry »

Do two outsourcing stories in one week presage a trend?

July 1, 2009

The decision by Rio Tinto to send some legal work to India comes at the same time as Pinsent Masons announces its plans to send first-pass litigation review work to South Africa. Once you strip out the protectionist reactions of those who do this work now and those who make money from their work, you see the next obvious step towards globalization, and opportunities for those – lawyers and their firms – who ride the wave.

I picture Professor Richard Susskind as having a big wall chart on which he traces the progress of his various predictions over the years. Perhaps they are colour-coded according to the amount of derision they faced as he rolled them out – bright red, for example, for the idea that lawyers might communicate by e-mail or put legal information up on publicly-available web sites. I see him putting a big red tick beside them as the world catches up, or perhaps – since the adoption tends to be incremental – a graph showing the rate of adoption. This would almost always start with a gradually-rising line and then shoot upwards as the herd follows the early-adopters.

Two stories last week will have added to one of his graph lines – the idea that lawyers will distribute some of their work outside the firm to places where it can be done more cheaply. On 19 June, the Times reported (Rio Tinto’s legal switch puts pressure on London) that Rio Tinto has hired a team of lawyers in India to try to reduce its annual £60 million legal bill by 20 per cent, recruiting 12 lawyers in Delhi to work for it on tasks such as reviewing documents and drafting contracts. On 22 June, The Lawyer wrote about Pinsent Masons’ decision to outsource some of its litigation work to South Africa, becoming, the Lawyer said, the first UK firm to offshore the work of qualified lawyers (Pinsents – first firm to offshore work of qualified UK lawyers) Read the rest of this entry »


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