The fact that we enjoyed ourselves at the TGCI eDisclosure event in London did not make it any less of a serious forum for discussion. The round-table format, the complete absence of PowerPoint slides, and the invitation to delegates to interrupt as they wished made it an extremely lively and useful exercise.
There are a limited number of ways in which you can organise conferences and seminars aimed at dispensing information and promoting discussion about eDisclosure / eDiscovery. The conventional approach, a series of lectures and panels delivered from a podium or platform to delegates in rows of chairs, is ideal in many ways, particularly when the intention is dispensing information from the few to the many – that is what delegates generally expect, and I am told by someone who organises events across many different sectors that lawyers are not particularly interested in alternative formats – even government delegates look for more imaginative approaches.
I am not being critical here – I have no quarrel with the conventional approach and am rarely an enthusiastic participant in those events where you are divided into tables and given a whiteboard, a set of scenarios and some poor sap who must report back to the conference. One approach I do like, which we are seeing more often, is the “led discussion” where we get down from our platforms, pull our seats into a circle and talk around a subject at the behest of a nominated group leader.
You wouldn’t want an entire conference like that though, would you? Or so I thought, until I took part this week in an event organised by the US-based Today’s General Counsel Institute at the Brewery in London’s Chiswell Street. The format is a tried and tested one in the US, and three of the co-chairmen were American – Browning Marean of DLA Piper US, George Socha of EDRM fame and David Kessler of Fulbright & Jaworski, soon to be Norton Rose Fulbright. I was the fourth co-chairman and it fell to me to open the show.
Given the number of things which the late Lady Thatcher is being blamed for anyway, it seems a bit tough to suggest that she might have chosen a different day for her funeral. As we now know, it all passed off quietly, but the fears of political riot coupled with heightened tension on the day after the Boston bombs reduced our numbers somewhat. We made a virtue of it. Our mixed group of lawyers, corporate eDiscovery / information governance people, law firm eDiscovery specialists, software and service providers and a judge gave us discussions at a deeper level than the ones we are used to at UK conferences.
We looked at the new case and costs management regime in England and Wales and at practical compliance with Rule 31.5 CPR. We considered what law firms and their clients might do to be winners in the changed landscape which the rules could bring if lawyers, clients and providers seek out the positive aspects and exploit (in the positive sense of that word) the opportunities for those who focus on what really matters without compromising their duties of candour. David Kessler led us through choosing the right technology for the job. We considered how clients can simultaneously improve the business value of their data assets whilst simultaneously complying with their eDisclosure obligations by a programme of information governance and defensible deletion, and we considered the respective roles of internal and external lawyers in achieving all this.
I loved it, and to judge by the the comments I received, so did most other people. We were lucky in our Americans – when I started in this game, US speakers would come and lecture us about compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and bang on about legal hold, spoliation, defensibility, sanctions running into millions of dollars and all sorts of words from the US eDiscovery lexicon which fell on deaf ears in a jurisdiction more concerned with proportionality, discretion and whether justice could be done. Browning, George and David brought us the best of US thinking, recognising the differences, as well as the similarities, between the two jurisdictions, and focusing on practical things which transcend jurisdictional differences.
I enjoyed it for multiple reasons. I didn’t have to prepare yet another set of bloody slides, for a start, instead beginning each of my sessions with the lightest of steers and then reacting to what came back – and we got a great deal back. The fact that we laughed a fair amount does not detract from the seriousness or usefulness of the sessions.
I hope we will do this again next year. We invited suggestions as to changes we might make, not only to the event itself but to how it is presented and marketed. I would like to extend that invitation more widely, and ask you to let us know what would bring you out for an event like this. What subjects warrant discussion as opposed to mere lecture? Should we run for just one day or more than one day? Who would you like to hear from and have discussions with? Please do tell us.
This event was free for delegates with appropriate roles. It was sponsored by UBIC, Xerox Litigation Services, HP Autonomy, Nuix, Huron Legal and Guidance Software, all companies known for their interest in moving the discussion along. Our thanks to them, as well as to those who moderated sessions, to Neil Signore and Jennifer McGovern Alonzo for organising it, and to an audience whose every member contributed to the discussions.