Justice takes a bashing but litigation work goes on

April 2, 2014

To say, as I did in a recent article, that that “civil justice in the UK has plunged off a cliff” is not the same as saying that civil disputes are in decline. Litigation lawyers, at least at the mid- to high level, seem to be busy enough, as do most of the London-based eDisclosure providers. The Jackson Reforms, now a year old, have positively generated work for some, although much of the focus has been more on procedural matters than on evidence and issues. Part of this, conveniently labelled “Mitchell”, has been negative, the opposite of the “justice” which the overriding objective requires; part of it, and particularly the eDisclosure aspects, reflect the attention which the rules now require on the sources, the methods and the costs of disclosure. One can deprecate the Mitchell aspects whilst thinking it right that parties are being required to pay early attention to the evidence and to the prospective costs.

Whilst in the US recently, on a tour which embraced both eDiscovery events and a short holiday, I wrote an angry article (“blistering” was amongst the comments I received) on the state of British civil justice. If that seems an odd way to spend a holiday, well, the times are odd and it annoyed me. Better out than in as they say, so I wrote to get it off my chest. The article was headed The Jackson consultation responses pull no punches but Grayling and the MoJ will ignore them.

The article had three targets – a Lord Chancellor who seems ignorant of the basic concepts of justice, a Ministry of Justice staffed by people whom I described as “standard issue overpaid time-servers and… academics who have failed to hack it in the strenuous world of university life”, and senior judges whose understanding of the practicalities of business life is defined by their lifetime experience of working for very big firms, on very big cases, for very rich clients.

I referred to one or two of the responses to the Civil Justice Council’s consultation, mainly to show that my observations were derived from the daily experience of those who have to deal with the consequences of these things. I was at pains to draw attention to differences (identified in some responses) between Lord Justice Jackson’s original recommendations and the position in which we now find ourselves. Quite apart from the fact that he had nothing to do with (for example) the reduction in legal aid, Lord Justice Jackson specifically recommended investment in court systems; whilst he was keen to encourage compliance with the rules, it was no part of his plan that we should have the climate of fear and uncertainty which derives from Mitchell. Read the rest of this entry »

Mitchell and relief from sanctions under CPR 3.9 Part 3: eDisclosure compliance

January 10, 2014

Two preceding articles have considered the implications of the Mitchell judgment, one in general terms and one more specifically, with a look at alternative approaches which we might see from the courts.

This third post looks at what the disclosure obligations actually are by reference to rules and cases – not a rule-by-rule analysis, but pointers to sources whose primary focus is on properly reducing disclosure or on the level of competence expected of lawyers (and judges, perhaps). There is probably room for a fourth post concentrating on what might be done to avoid getting into the position where deadlines might be missed.  You have had enough words on this for now (and if you have not, I certainly have) so I will do this bit in the shortest form possible.

There is only so much value in squealing that the sky is about to fall in. Let us accept that strict enforcement of compliance with the rules is a fixed policy of the senior judiciary; what is needed is a is a cool analysis of what is required to avoid the kind of conduct which gives rise to sanctions in the first place. Consistent with my general approach, I try to look at it in more positive ways than merely “How do you avoid breaches?” – that defensive benefit is a by-product of getting it right.  “Getting it right” in disclosure terms includes producing the minimum consistent with the duty to court and client – the court calls it “proportionality”; the client calls it “value”.

Rules and cases

Do read the bloody rules – not just those added in 2013 but those which preceded them and which are still in force. Between them, they offer a code which, properly used, allows you to limit the scope of your own disclosure and to enforce limits on the disclosure of your opponents. “Allows” is actually the wrong word – these rules positively require you to reduce the scope of disclosure and require judges to police that with the “active management” which has been expected of them at least since 1999. Read the rest of this entry »

7th eDisclosure Forum in London on 15 November. Are you ready to benefit from the new eDisclosure rules?

October 30, 2012

The reforms consequent on Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations will take effect in April 2013. A conference taking place in London on 15 November will focus on those which relate to eDisclosure, stressing the benefits which will flow to lawyers and clients and not merely the risks and burdens of compliance with new rules.

It is conventional, when new laws or rules are pending, to see warnings in lurid headlines about the consequences of being unready for the coming changes. Lawyers do this with their clients, of course, urging them to seek advice (from them, obviously) about the steps which must be taken, the policies which must be drafted, the training which must be given and the other preparations which must be made if the clients are not to take the high road to Sodom and Gomorrah when the new rules take effect.

It is easy to take the same line with lawyers themselves when court rules or imminent legislation will affect the way they work. We saw this when the eDisclosure Practice Direction 31B came into force in October 2010 with its obligations to discuss with opponents the sources of their clients’ data, the scope of the search, the tools and techniques which they intend to use to identify disclosable documents, and other things all preparatory to having a meaningful discussion with the judge at the CMC.  Many were content to wait until the problem arose, to take on the chin the criticism from their opponents and the judge and to learn the ropes on the job, as it were.

The reforms consequent on Lord Justice Jackson’s report on litigation costs are all to take effect on the same day, 1 April 2013. They are so broad in scope, and some of them are so contentious, that it is easy to miss those parts of the rule changes which directly affect case management generally and eDisclosure specifically.  Since they include closer judicial control of cases and an end to the generally relaxed approach which the courts have shown hitherto towards non-compliance with rules and orders, it might be a good idea to start finding out what the changes include.

There is more to the case management regime than the risk of punishment or being made to look a prat in front of court and client. Rule changes, both those of 2010 and those which are coming in April 2013, offer real advantages to lawyers who understand the rules, and to their clients. The 7th eDisclosure Forum, taking place in London on 15 November, is a one-day summary both of the rule changes and of the parts which offer opportunities to those who are ready for them. Read the rest of this entry »

Content Obesity: an interesting parallel between human and corporate health problems

July 2, 2012

I have two reasons for referring you to an interesting pair of articles by IBM’s George Parapadakis on his personal blog For what it’s worth…. One is that they introduce an interesting parallel between growing data volumes and a medical condition affecting an ever-increasing number of people; the other is that it links to an article which I have recently written for IBM.

The first article Content Obesity – Part 1: Diagnosis kicks off with definitions of human obesity and content obesity which clearly identify the parallels – increased health problems for humans and increased legal and compliance risks for companies. The expression “business agility” invokes a pleasing parallel between those bloated people whom you see wobbling slowly down supermarket aisles and companies whose every action – defensive ones like compliance and eDiscovery and more positive activities aimed at business growth – is hampered by the sheer weight of data which they carry. It is important to emphasise lost benefits as well as increased risks, whether thinking of the lard mountain who has lost sight of his or her feet or the company which has lost its business intelligence in mounds of raw data.

George Parapadakis extends the medical parable well in his second article Content Obesity – Part 2: Treatment. Just as human obesity might be tackled by a combination of abstinence, treatments and positive steps, so content obesity might be reduced by reducing storage and retrieval costs and by curbing the information growth rate. Humans must distinguish between food which is good for them and that which adds nothing of value or is positively harmful; similarly, companies must distinguish between data worth keeping and the rest, and must be able to identify high-risk material.

The mere introduction of the parallel is helpful. The articles themselves are yet more so, offering ways to identify problems and some straightforward solutions.

The paper of mine to which George Parapadakis refers is called Information Governance in UK civil litigation – how to reduce legal risk and cost.  Its primary focus, as its title implies, is on UK civil litigation, but it emphasises that prospective disclosure obligations in litigation are only one reason why a company needs to keep control of the data which it collects.


Interview with James Moeskops of Millnet on Predictive Coding

April 30, 2012

In the light of Judge Peck’s Da Silva Moore Opinion approving the use of predictive coding in US Federal civil proceedings, I recently interviewed James Moeskops of Millnet about the use of this technology in English courts. The result is a podcast which you can find here.

Anecdotally, the use of such software is increasing in the UK – I say “anecdotally” because such things rarely become the subject of published judgments in the UK, and my information is the aggregate of feedback from providers who, like Millnet, have the software and the skill to provide it.

One of the two cases covered in my article Two predictive coding case studies emphasise time and cost savings involved a UK matter in which Millnet and Eversheds used Equivio’s Relevance product, and I thought it worth following this up now that we have a US opinion on the subject.

The brief recording begins with a short introduction from me describing in simple terms what predictive coding is. I then ask James Moeskops the sort of questions which might be asked by a would-be user – when would Millnet suggest the use of predictive coding, and what questions would James ask to get a feel for the case?  I also ask James to describe the process which Millnet would go through, in conjunction with the lawyers, to apply predictive coding technology to the data.

I conclude by asking James where he sees predictive coding going over the next 12 months, specifically in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Greg Wildisen of Epiq Systems on Predictive Coding in UK eDisclosure

April 18, 2012

The Society for Computers and Law has published on its website an article by Greg Wildisen, International Managing Director at Epiq Systems with the title E-disclosure: Training Technology.

Epiq offers predictive coding through the integration of Equivio’s Relevance product into Epiq’s IQ Review, a mixture of technology and consultancy services. Greg Wildisen summarises briefly the story behind Judge Peck’s Opinion in Da Silva Moore v Publicis Groupe which approved the use of predictive coding technology in a case in which parties had agreed to use the technology, and considers the likely reaction when this type of technology is used in UK proceedings.

He focuses on the significance of analysing non-relevant as well as relevant documents and, potentially, of doing so cooperatively with opponents in order to win agreement about the validity of the process. He thinks it possible that lawyers may object to the disclosure (in the broadest sense of that term) of documents which are not strictly required in the present litigation, not least because of implications for future cases.

I am reasonably optimistic about this, partly because (as Greg Wildisen makes clear) judges have discretion to make whatever orders they think appropriate for the better conduct of the case before them, and partly because clients’ objections are likely to whither in the face of the enormous potential for cost savings – they will be willing to give a little to gain a lot or, at least, to make a proper assessment of the risks against the advantages

We shall see. Meanwhile, Greg Wildisen’s article is a good short summary of implications which UK lawyers and their clients should be thinking about.


Disclosure and eDisclosure – filming a video primer with Dominic Regan

March 29, 2012

I took part in a video webinar with LexisNexis this week, part of their rolling programme of Butterworth’s Dispute Resolution webinars.

The key fact which I want to put right at the top of this article is that 2,340 viewers from 85 firms registered to watch this webinar, either live or by downloading it across the year. There is the CPD bait and, no doubt, law firm training supremos go round with whips to compel attendance, but this is tremendous reach, and an indicator of the subject’s importance.

The session was chaired, as always, by Professor Dominic Regan. My subject was disclosure (with and without an “e” at the beginning), and barrister Shantanu Majumdar of Radcliffe Chambers covered privilege as he did for the same event last year. Privilege is a subject which needs a light touch and rarely gets it – when it comes up at litigation conferences, I usually go out and have a smoke, check my e-mails and make my calls, and this is difficult when you are shut up in a basement in front of a camera. Shantanu Majumdar, uniquely in my experience, makes the subject interesting.

Dominic  is a good chairman – he comes across more as a genial host who has invited a couple of mates round to talk about things which interest them, without diminishing at all the seriousness of the subject-matter or the importance of the content.  LexisNexis have much improved the studio, possibly as a result of my complaint last year that I had to look down and left to see the slides and up and to the right to look at the camera. The slides are now immediately under the camera, which makes engagement rather easier.  Furthermore, the remote-control does actually move the slides when you click it. Read the rest of this entry »


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