The run-up to ILTA is not a good time to give the impression that I am too busy to take note of what is going on. It is a time of product launches, when all the players in the e-discovery / e-disclosure market have something to say, so my InBox floods with press releases and every PR consultant in the market wants to make an appointment for ILTA; it is also the point when conference organisers need to get their Autumn programmes sorted out, with bullet points, flights and hotel bookings to organise.
I have been largely out of it all for a couple of weeks. I made a deliberately oblique reference in my last post to “an unexpected domestic matter …. which has much of my attention for a few days”, but it is perhaps helpful to explain what I meant, in case I have been coming across as evasive or over-stretched, neither of which is true. Besides, my wife thought that the reference to an “unexpected domestic matter” sounded as if she had run off, and although she is out as I write, I think she will be back later.
What was unexpected was that my father died a few days ago – no claim to uniqueness in that, of course, but it takes it out of you and you don’t get too much time to prepare. His transition from sounding fine to drawing stumps was very brief. Considerately, he chose the first week for months when we were all around, and gave us just enough notice to race down the motorway a couple of times to see him before he slipped off. He went down fighting – demanding his stick and his cigarettes, doing the crossword, and criticising what he found in the business pages of the paper – and I hope I make as good an end.
A busy few days both preceded and followed his going – clocking up hundred of miles, dealing with relatives, lawyers and accountants, redrafting the service sheet (how many ex-residents of Taunton have gone out with the entirely spurious hymn verse which I found in the draft and the duff punctuation which he would have hated?), grappling with The Times’ badly-designed Announcements web site, and writing a rather different speech from those which I usually give.
“I hope you have all cleaned your shoes”, I began in my valediction at the funeral and, indeed, most of those present had assumed that my Pa would be out of his box and holding a dress parade if they fell short on that score. I recalled his letters to me at school, largely taken up with critiques of my previous week’s letter – “the word you needed in connection with your membership of the Sea Cadets was ‘naval’ not ‘navel’ “; “you can only have two alternatives – use ‘options’ or ‘choices’ if you have more than two” are amongst those which I recall. I was not remotely grateful at the time, but I certainly am now – as, I think, are my own children, who got much the same from me (though I let them off on the shoes). Marketing departments and book editors get the backlash from all this, as they discover when they tamper with my punctuation or seek to “improve” on my text without asking me.
My father read all my blog posts, and was relieved to be told that solicitors born in 1926 were not expected to be au fait with the latest developments in electronic discovery. He had recently bought his first laptop, and was pretty taken with his first Skype video call, wondering what his father would have made of it. He bought me my first proper camera in about 1970 – how could we have dreamt that 40 years later I would have the pictures of his funeral party distributed within 24 hours on a world-wide network of computers?
He believed in getting his work done and would have approved, I think, of the fact that I was back at my desk finishing off an article within thirty minutes of learning of his death in the middle of the night. Some slippage was unavoidable, however, and although I have seen the many market announcements of the last few days, I have not been able to follow up even the interesting ones. This is no great issue so far as I am concerned – if a new product or development launched in August is not still worth writing about by September then it was never worth much, and I do not aspire anyway to writing hot news. I will see what still seems interesting when I get back from ILTA.
I will catch up with some of the players there, though not as many as have sent me invitations. It sounds ungrateful, I know, but my patch is an obviously defined and narrow one; a breathless request for me to see the latest developments in time recording leaves me cold. I can see why PR consultants want to fill up their clients’ calendars, but you might expect some attempt at selectivity before they mail-shot everyone on the media list.
If truth be told, I am not much interested in rushing from room to room seeing slide shows whose similarities exceed their differences. Occasionally something comes along which really is “unique and revolutionary”, and I see enough to know what the new ideas are. The technology itself, however, is a given, so far as I am concerned – the available tools far exceed the capacity of most lawyers to use them properly, and my interest lies in how we get them, their clients and the courts to be aware of the problems and the available solutions. My time at ILTA is best spent talking about that with people in a position to influence awareness; top of the list come those who already sponsor the e-Disclosure Information Project, or who might so do so, and those who share my view that the best way to expand the market is to educate it.
Much of ILTA’s value lies in the quality of its sessions, and I want to go to some of those. I also like the space to wander around bumping into people – those I know, those whom I have heard of but have never met and, not infrequently, readers of this blog who thereby convert from being mere web stats to flesh and blood. I am correspondingly reluctant to allocate all my time in advance.
For reasons which will now be clear, I am behind in planning my week. If I have not yet accepted your kind invitation to meet your clients’ CEO, that is because I have not yet fixed up all the appointments with those who have a prior call on my time, and must leave space to see them. I will be in Las Vegas all week.