A quick eDiscovery trip to Singapore

I got back at dawn this morning from the InnoXcell eDiscovery conference in Singapore. I was only there for the two days of the conference and had only just got back from a one day trip to Toronto to attend Applied Discovery’s breakfast seminar on proportionality. My notes about both will follow, together with a catch-up on what else has been happening. The eDiscovery / eDisclosure world is simultaneously expanding and getting smaller.

In discovery as in so many other things, it is often easier to get the hard things right whilst overlooking the easy ones. In the UK Shoesmith case, for example, the documents overlooked by OFSTED lay in a clearly-labelled folder in someone’s My Documents. One of the speakers at Applied Discovery’s session in Toronto last week drew a distinction between things which can be remedied, albeit at some expense, and things which cannot be put right once the critical moment has passed.

I feel much the same about the planning for some of my foreign trips. The hard things involve rounding up panels, preparing slides, organising flights and hotels, and making sure I take all the files and equipment needed to keep working whilst I am away. Inevitably one overlooks something easy – chargers are an obvious example, and I once discovered that a visa was required only when checking in at the airport. Things like this can usually be put right. This is the first time, however, that I have set off without the only thing which is actually irreplaceable – my passport.  What could be easier to remember or to pick up? My son got it to me in time.

Someone once coined a word to describe a place so attractive and accessible that everyone goes there, so making it neither attractive nor accessible. I cannot now remember what the word is, but I have discovered an equivalent concept in preparing to go away – the work needed to pack everything for working on a long flight is so knackering that you fall asleep on the plane and do none of it. I set off with laptop and iPad loaded with sources of articles and draft papers to write, and then slept from Berlin to Burma. There was not much catch-up time on in the 48 hours which separated my arrival in Singapore and my departure.

The occasion was an eDiscovery conference organised by InnoXcell, a few months after their successful Hong Kong one (see A call to arms for ediscovery in Hong Kong).  Unlike Hong Kong, Singapore has a proper eDiscovery Practice Direction, 3/2009, which was launched last October. My first engagement, straight off the plane, was dinner with Senior Assistant Registrar Yeong Zee Kin, who was largely responsible for Singapore’s practice direction, and whose judgment in Deutsche Bank AG v Chang Tse Wen referred to Master Whitaker’s judgment in Goodale v Ministry of Justice. Master Whitaker was also at the dinner, together with Vince Neicho of Allen & Overy and Lim Seng Siew, Director of LawNet and the Singapore Academy of Law .

Singapore appears to be thriving, judging by the fact that Singapore Exchange Ltd is bidding to buy Sydney’s stock exchange, probably as part of a drive to compete with Hong Kong.  Given Singapore’s approach to both litigation and arbitration, it is reasonable to picture Singapore as competing with Hong Kong on this as well. Lawyers and software suppliers alike earn their money in part by anticipating where the next growth spots will be. It is not that long since Allen & Overy opened here in their own right, one of the first global firms to gain a licence after many years in association with Shook Lin & Bok. Abigail Farrelly, the A&O trainee solicitor I sat with at lunch at the conference, was properly discreet, but I was left with the impression that the office here is growing fast.

I suggested after my first visit a year ago that Singapore would see a growth in litigation, both domestic and as part of foreign (mainly US) litigation. It is not surprising that many litigation software providers are either in AsiaPac already (Epiq Systems, Kroll and Catalyst are in the region for example) or are testing the strength of the market.

The formal reason for my visit to Singapore was to moderate a couple of panels, one on the first day which focussed mainly on rules and practice, and one yesterday with four technology providers – Recommind, Kroll, Epiq and Nuix. Less formally, I was there for the same reason as I was in Canada a couple of weeks ago – no jurisdiction believes that it has got this subject taped, and we only find out what works and what does not work by sharing ideas. “Sharing” connotes more than just standing on platforms telling others what we do.

I will write separately about some of the sessions. The substance of them would be recognised in any of those jurisdictions. As the ediscovery market expands, the ediscovery world seems to get smaller, in the sense that those who work in it – as lawyers, suppliers, judges and corporations – are increasingly communicating with each other round the globe.

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