Information Governance, UK eDisclosure and International Discovery in three days

In an ideal world, I would keep the week before LegalTech free.  Product announcements pour out with accompanying (and welcome) invitations in advance to find out about the new developments (that is preferable, incidentally, to those who make big announcements and assume that I will pick up on them). The diary needs constant adjustment as I ditch optional LegalTech sessions in favour of fitting in meetings. My own LegalTech sessions (of which more below) require preparation. Computers, cameras, address books need preparatory attention, and reference papers must be copied somewhere accessible. A week away involves boring domestic details of shirts and shoes and suits, and you just can’t get the servants these days.

Just the week, all in all, to have a big webinar to moderate, a seminar to lead in the North of England and an invitation to speak at a conference in Brussels on three consecutive days.  And in the middle of all that, the EU commission announces a re-revised data protection regulation just as I have finished reading the 116 page leaked version.

Two consequences follow. One is this, a compendium article (which I rarely do) pulling together multiple threads as an alternative to overlooking them all. The other is that I have undoubtedly missed things which I would normally have caught. For the avoidance of doubt (and conscious as I am of a rough duty of balance in what I write) the difference between things I have covered and things I have not written about is one of timing rather than any perceived priority of importance.  if the news broke whilst I was in an aeroplane or under the Channel, then I may have missed it.

Webinar on Information Governance with Nuix

The “big webinar” was for Nuix and hosted by Inside Counsel.  What made it “big” in preparation terms  was not its sponsor, its subject matter (The Convergence of eDiscovery and Information Governance), or its big league team (Stephen Stewart of Nuix, Craig Ball and David Cowen), because I hope I treat all webinars as of high importance, but the timekeeping.  Each of these people could fill 45 minutes alone, and I am fanatical about bringing webinars in on time with every slide covered.  That makes for some tough on-the-fly editing decisions, sometimes cutting off one interesting subject to leave room for others. We finished with a couple of minutes in hand. For those who missed it, there is a link to the recording here and we are covering the same subject at 10:30am on Monday morning at LegalTech.

Manchester with Hobs Legal Docs

With the webinar in the can, it was time to turn to the next two events which were back to back in opposite directions, requiring counterintuitive things like remembering to take my passport to Manchester.  The seminar was organised by Terry Harrison of Hobs Legal Docs, the venue was HSBC’s Northern regional office and the subject was eDisclosure after Goodale and the Practice Direction.  There were more than 65 acceptances, mainly private practice solicitors and barristers.

It is relatively easy to recite the rules, outline the main provisions of the practice direction and draw dire conclusions from the cases. I like to add other elements to this – the positive messages of practice development and personal career advancement, an encouragement to focus on the real objectives of client and court, suggestions for maximising the court’s discretion to concentrate on what really matters, and facing the threat of encroachment by third-party providers, barristers and the clients themselves by riding with it rather than against it.

Terry Harrison was good at describing what providers can do to help without tainting the educational spirit with salesmanship, and the discussions in the bar afterwards suggested that thought had been provoked. The most simple message, really, is this: the use of technology, and alliances with others, allow mid-sized firms to compete with bigger ones, and regional firms to stem the flow of work to London and, indeed, to entice London work to the regions.

I declined Hobs’ kind offer of a room in a smart city centre hotel in favour of a rather more utilitarian place on the airport perimeter. The alarm was set for 5:00am so that could catch a plane to Brussels.

Computers, Data Protection and Privacy Conference in Brussels

Monique Altheim, a New York attorney and Certified Information Privacy Professional, had arranged with the organisers of the Computers, Data Protection and Privacy Conferenceto add a three-session eDiscovery track to an agenda which is otherwise as implied in the conference title. Monique also singelehandedly put all the panels and all the topics together, and ably moderated all three panels.

I opened the first session with a tour of the eDiscovery world, giving the defensive reasons for taking an interest in the subject (FRCP, other US incursions, EU regulation, the UK Bribery Act etc), and more positive reasons to do with the benefits of Information Governance. Amor Esteban of Shook, Hardy & Bacon gave a “US eDiscovery 101″, and George Rudoy of Integrated Legal Technology followed with a talk on the practical implications of eDiscovery.

A cross-border eDiscovery session followed with, amongst others, Amor Esteban again, James Daley of Daley & Fey, Senior Master Whitaker and Nigel Murray of Huron Legal. There is no avoiding the fact that US discovery obligations conflict with EU data protection and privacy restrictions. Amor Esteban emphasised that US courts, in weighing the various factors required under the Aerospatiale Opinion did not always find in favour of the party who demanded EU disclosure; there were signs, he said, that both lawyers and judges were becoming better informed about the implications and about the need to modify the scope of  the broad requests which are the norm in US domestic discovery, to place safeguards around documents with protective orders, and to distinguish between spoliation and the data modifications required for EU compliance.  Jim Daley’s experience was that almost all problems are soluble if gripped competently and early enough.

Second eDiscovery Panel at CPDP Brussels

Master Whitaker described the difference between a Hague Convention application which (in the UK at least) stood a reasonable chance of prompt success and one which did not. Nigel Murray added practical hints from Huron’s experience of managing US-EU projects, and the EU panel members drew attention to some of the differences between jurisdictional rules and practice within different EU states.

I am taking part in a double panel organised by Huron Legal and led by Nigel Murray on Tuesday at LegalTech. The Brussels panel provided some fresh ideas for that session.

In the third session, computational linguistics expert David Evans, Jim Daley (again) and Dominic Jaar of KPMG Canada described some of the technology solutions available to tackle eDisclosure volumes and costs.

CPDP Brussels Panel 3

I completed the circuit by train, going back to London by Eurostar. That was quite some variety in three days – information governance, UK eDisclosure and international and cross-border eDiscovery are three different facets of the same central issue. It was a privilege to be asked to take part in each of these sessions, even in one of the busiest weeks of the year.

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