It is not often that I pay much attention to deadlines and embargoes. If the story won’t matter in a month’s time then it is not worth writing about now. Equally, I have not hitherto written much about what goes on within law firms, most of whom are merely users and consumers of electronic discovery rather than influencers and agents for change.
I make an exception today, because Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP has boosted its information governance and eDiscovery group by appointing Jason Baron as Of Counsel based in the firm’s Washington DC office. I predicted great things for the Drinker Biddle IG team, but I did not see that one coming.
Jason Baron has long been Director of Litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).The holder of that post will always be important in the eDiscovery world simply by virtue of his or her position, with its responsibility for the enormous volumes of email and other documents which government creates.
Jason has done much beyond the call of duty. He represented NARA as co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Sedona Conference Working Group on Electronic Document Retention and Production, and has served as editor-in-chief on three Sedona commentaries. He was also a founding coordinator of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology TREC Legal Track.
I have heard him speak several times, always with authority and a refreshing new angle. It is not easy to be simultaneously authoritative and challenging – authority generally equates to responsibility, and responsibility usually implies a conventional approach; Jason makes responsibility sound interesting – something which will matter in his new role.
I wrote recently (see Information Governance: the way the wind is blowing) about the growing attention being paid to information governance, covering with other things the move by Bennett Borden and Jay Brudz to Drinker Biddle because it interested me beyond the fact that I know them both. Most law firms treat eDiscovery as the management of large volumes of documents and data on a case-by-case basis, complying with the obligations expected of lawyers by the rules and by professional duty, looking for evidence and doing whatever seems necessary to reduce the risk of sanctions. Drinker Biddle do that as well as anyone, but the approach taken by the group headed by Bennett Borden and Jay Brudz has a strong proactive element, concentrating not just on solving discovery problems as they arise but anticipating them and working to reduce both the risk and the costs.
That includes defensible deletion but there is more to information governance than defensible deletion. It includes the development of policies for managing risk and reducing costs, but also for exposing and extracting value in an organisation’s data. It requires lawyers (or, as I would rather put it) gives lawyers the opportunity to take something positive to clients instead of waiting for the clients to send something negative (a litigation or regulatory problem) to them.
Drinker Biddle had a strong team for this anyway. The addition of Jason Baron in an Of Counsel role is an exciting prospect not just for the firm but any of us who are keen to see eDiscovery converted from a defensive and reactive exercise to a positive contributor to a company’s business assets.
I learnt about this just before I set off on a trip which puts me in a different plane and in a different hotel every day, so I have not had the chance to speak to Jason Baron. Barclay Blair has done so, and the result is a full interview which you can find here.