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Archive for the ‘Sedona Conference’ Category

Kleen Products Update: Is Technology Usage Becoming the New “Proportionality” Factor for Judges?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Readers may recall last year’s expensive battle over the use of predictive coding technology in the 7th Circuit’s Kleen Products case. Although the battle was temporarily resolved in Defendants’ favor (they were not required to redo their production using predictive coding or other “Content Based Advanced Analytics” software), a new eDiscovery battle has surfaced this year between Plaintiffs and a non-party, The Levin Group (“TLG”).

In Kleen, Plaintiffs allege anticompetitive and collusive conduct by a number of companies in the containerboard industry. The Plaintiffs served TLG with a subpoena requesting “every document relating to the containerboard industry.” TLG, a non-party retained as a financial and strategic consultant by two of the Defendants, complied by reviewing 21,000 documents comprising 82,000 pages of material.

Extraordinary Billing Rates for Manual Review?

The wheels began to fall off the bus when Plaintiffs received a $55,000 bill from TLG for the review and production of documents in response to the subpoena. TLG billed $500/hour for 110 hours of document review performed by TLG’s founder (a lawyer) and a non-lawyer employee. Although FRCP 45(c)(3)(C) authorizes “reasonable compensation” of a subpoenaed nonparty and the Court previously ordered the Plaintiffs to “bear the costs of their discovery request,” TLG and the Plaintiffs disagreed over the definition of “reasonable compensation” once the production was complete. Plaintiffs argue that the bill is excessive in light of market rates of $35-$45/hour charged by contract attorneys for review and they also claim that they never agreed to a billing rate.

Following a great deal of back and forth about the costs, the court decided to defer its decision until December 16, 2013 because discovery in the underlying antitrust action is still ongoing. Regardless of the outcome in Kleen, the current dispute feels a bit like déjà vu all over again. Both disputes highlight the importance of cooperation and role of technology in reducing eDiscovery costs. For example, better cooperation among the parties during earlier stages of discovery might have helped prevent or at least minimize some of the downstream post-production arguments that occurred last year and this year. Although the “cooperation” drum has been beaten loudly for several years by judges and think tanks like the Sedona Conference, cooperation is an issue that will never fully disappear in an adversarial system.

Judges May Increasingly Consider Technology as Part of Proportionality Analysis

A more novel and interesting eDiscovery issue in Kleen relates to the fact that judges are increasingly being asked to consider the use (or non-use) of technology when resolving discovery disputes. Last year in Kleen the issue was whether or not a producing party should be required to use advanced technology to assure a more thorough production. This year the Kleen court may be asked to consider the role of technology in the context of the disputed document review fees. For example, the court may consider whether or not TLG could have reduced the number of documents by leveraging de-duplication, domain filtering, document threading or other tools in the Litigator’s Toolbelt™ to reduce the number of documents requiring costly manual review.

Recent trends indicate that the federal bench is increasingly under pressure to consider whether or not and how parties utilize technology as factors in resolving eDiscovery disputes. For example, a 2011 Forbes article titled: “Will New Electronic Discovery Rules Save Organizations Millions or Deny Justice?” framed early discussions about amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules) as follows:

A key question that many feel has been overlooked is whether or not organizations claiming significant eDiscovery costs could have reduced those costs had they invested in better technology solutions.  Most agree that technology alone cannot solve the problem or completely eliminate costs.  However, many also believe that understanding the extent to which the inefficient or non-use of modern eDiscovery technology solutions impacts overall costs is critical to evaluating whether better practices might be needed instead of new Rules.”

Significant interest in the topic was further sparked in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Group in 2012 when Judge Andrew Peck put parties on notice that technology is increasingly important in evaluating eDiscovery disputes. In Da Silva Moore, Judge Peck famously declared that “computer-assisted review is acceptable in appropriate cases.” Judge Peck’s decision was the first to squarely address the use of predictive coding technology, and a number of cases, articles, and blogs on the topic quickly ensued in what seemed to be the opening of Pandora’s Box with respect to the technology discussion.

More recently, The Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies proposed that the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules add language to the newly proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure addressing the use of technology-assisted review (TAR). The group advocates adding the following sentence at the end of the first paragraph of the Committee Note to proposed Rule 26(b)(1) dealing with “proportionality” in eDiscovery:

“As part of the proportionality considerations, parties are encouraged, in appropriate cases, to consider the use of advanced analytical software applications and other technologies that can screen for relevant and privileged documents in ways that are at least as accurate as manual review, at far less cost.

Conclusion

The significant role technology plays in managing eDiscovery risks and costs continues to draw more and more attention from lawyers and judges alike. Although early disputes in Kleen highlight the fact that litigators do not always agree on what technology should be used in eDiscovery, most in the legal community recognize that many technology tools in the Litigator’s Toolbelt™ are available to help reduce the costs of eDiscovery. Regardless of how the court in Kleen resolves the current issue, the use or non-use of technology tools is likely to become a central issue in the Rules debate and a prominent factor in most judges’ proportionality analysis in the future.

*Blog post co-authored by Matt Nelson and Adam Kuhn

ADR Offers Unique Solutions to Address Common eDiscovery Challenges

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Much of the writing in the eDiscovery community focuses on the consequences of a party failing to adequately accomplish one of the nine boxes of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model. Breaking news posts frequently report on how spoliation and sanctions are typically issued for failure to suspend auto-deletion or to properly circulate a written litigation hold notices. This begs the question, aside from becoming perfectly adept in all nine boxes of the EDRM, how else can an organization protect themselves from discovery wars and sanctions?

One way is explore the possibilities Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has to offer. While there is no substitute for the proper implementation of information governance processes, technology, and the people who manage them; there are alternative and creative ways to minimize exposure. This is not to say that ESI is less discoverable in ADR, but it is to say with the proper agreements in place, the way ESI is handled in the event of a dispute can be addressed proactively.  That is because although parties are free to use the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in ADR proceedings, they are not constricted by them. In other words, ADR proceedings can provide parties with the flexibility to negotiate and tailor their own discovery rules to address the specific matter and issues at hand.

Arbitration is a practical and preferred way to resolve disputes because it is quick, relatively inexpensive and commonly binding. With enough foresight, parties can preemptively limit the scope of discovery in their agreements to ensure the just and speedy resolution of a matter. Practitioners who are well versed in electronic discovery will be the best positioned to counsel clients in the formation of their agreements upfront, obviating protracted discovery. While a similar type of agreement can be reached and protection can be achieved with the Meet and Confer Conference in civil litigation, ADR offers a more private forum giving the parties more contractual power and less unwanted surprises.

For example, JAMS includes this phrase in one of their model recommendations:

JAMS recognizes that there is significant potential for dealing with time and other limitations on discovery in the arbitration clauses of commercial contracts. An advantage of such drafting is that it is much easier for parties to agree on such limitations before a dispute has arisen. A drawback, however, is the difficulty of rationally providing for how best to arbitrate a dispute that has not yet surfaced. Thus, the use of such clauses may be most productive in circumstances in which parties have a good idea from the outset as to the nature and scope of disputes that might thereafter arise.

Thus, arbitration is an attractive option for symmetrical litigation where the merits of the case are high stakes and neither party wants to delve into a discovery war. A fair amount of early case assessment would be necessary as well, so parties have a full appreciation about what they are agreeing to include or not include in the way of ESI.  Absent a provision to use specific rules (American Arbitration Association or Federal Arbitration Act), the agreement between parties is the determining factor as to how extensive the scope of discovery will be.

In Mitsubishi Motors v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 625 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court has explained that the “liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements’…is at bottom a policy guaranteeing the enforcement of private contractual agreements. As such, assuming an equal bargaining position or, at least an informed judgment, courts will enforce stipulations regarding discovery, given the policy of enforcing arbitration agreements by their terms.” Please also see an excellent explanation of Discovery in Arbitration by Joseph L. Forstadt for more information.

Cooperation amongst litigants in discovery has long been a principle of the revered Sedona Conference. ADR practitioners facing complex discovery questions are looking to Sedona’s Cooperation Proclamation for guidance with an eye toward negotiation by educating themselves on ways to further minimize distractions and costs in discovery.  An example of one such event is at The Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at UC Hastings, where they are conducting a mock Meet and Confer on May 16, 2013. The event highlights the need for all practitioners, whether it be the 26 (f) conference for litigation or the preliminary hearing in the case of arbitration, to assess electronic discovery issues with the same weight they do claims and damages early on in the dispute.

It is also very important that arbitrators, especially given the power they have over a matter, to understand the consequences of their rulings. Discovery is typically under the sole control of the arbitrator in a dispute, and only in very select circumstances can relief be granted by the court. An arbitrator that knows nothing about eDiscovery could miss something material and affect the entire outcome adversely. For parties that have identified and addressed these issues proactively, there is more protection and certainty in arbitration. Typically, the primary focus of an arbitrator is enforcing the contract between parties, not to be an eDiscovery expert.

It is also important to caution against revoking rights to discovery by entering into mutual agreements to unreasonably limit discovery.  This approach is somewhat reminiscent of the days when lawyers would agree not to conduct discovery, because neither knew how. Now, while efficiency and cost savings are a priority, we must guard against a potential similar paradigm emerging as we may know too much about how to shield relevant ESI.

As we look to the future, especially for serial litigants, one can imagine a perfect world in arbitration for predictive coding. In the Federal courts, we have seen over the past two years or so an emergence of the use of predictive coding technologies. However, even when the parties agree, which they don’t always, they still struggle with achieving a meeting of the minds on the protocol. These disputes have at times overshadowed the advantage of using predictive coding because discovery disputes and attorney’s fees have overtaken any savings. In ADR there is a real opportunity for similarly situated parties to agree via contract, upfront on tools, methodologies and scope. Once these contracts are in place, both parties are bound to the same rules and a just and speedy resolution of a matter can take place.

The “Sedona Bubble” and the Top 3 TAR Trends of 2013

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

 

References to the “Sedona Bubble” are overheard more and more commonly at conferences dealing with cutting edge topics like the use of predictive coding technology in eDiscovery. The “Sedona Bubble” refers to a small number of lawyers and judges (most of whom are members of The Sedona Conference) that are fully engaged in discussions about issues that influence the evolution of modern discovery practice. Let’s face it. The fact that only a small percentage of judges and lawyers drive important eDiscovery policy decisions is more than just a belief, it is reality.

This reality stems largely from the fact that litigators are a busy lot. So busy in fact, that they are often forced to operate reactively instead of proactively because putting out unexpected fires comes with the territory in litigation practice. As a result, the Sedona Bubble has a tremendous impact on cutting edge eDiscovery issues that include topics spanning everything from cross-border litigation and cloud computing, to social media and bring your own device to work (BYOD) issues. Recognizing the heavy time demands facing most litigators is what compelled me to provide more insight into the Sedona Bubble. That is why I am sharing my top three observations about the current state of predictive coding – one of the hottest eDiscovery topics on the planet.

#1 – Plenty of confusion about TAR still exists

Technology-assisted review (TAR) is a term that often means different things to different people. Adding further confusion to the discussion is the fact that the acronym TAR is commonly used interchangeably with other terms like computer-assisted review (CAR) and predictive coding. Many believe confusion about TAR is largely the result of misinformation spread by eDiscovery providers eager to capitalize on current marketplace momentum. Regardless of the reason, many in the industry remain confused about the key differences between predictive coding and other kinds of TAR tools.

What is important to remember is that most people are referring to predictive coding technology when they use any of the aforementioned terms. Predictive coding is a type of supervised machine learning technology that relies on human input to “train” a computer to classify documents. That does not mean attorneys are abdicating their responsibility to review and classify documents during discovery. t means that attorneys can review a fraction of the documents at a fraction of the cost by training the computer system.

In recent months, more litigators and judges are beginning to understand that there are many kinds of TAR tools to choose from in the litigator’s toolbelt.™ Predictive coding is one of the tools that falls underneath the broader TAR umbrella and is arguably the most important tool in the toolbelt™ if used properly. All the tools can be helpful, however, TAR tools such as keyword searching, concept searching, clustering, email threading, and de-duplication are not supervised machine learning tools and therefore are not predictive coding tools. The rule of thumb for those being courted by predictive coding is caveat emptor.  Make sure the providers clarify what they mean when they use terms like TAR, CAR, or predictive coding.

#2 – Momentum is building

In 2013, more and more attorneys and judges are dipping their toes into predictive coding waters – waters that were largely perceived as too frigid to enter only last year. One explanation for the increased usage of predictive coding technologies is the corresponding increase in judicial guidance. In the beginning of 2012, there were no known cases addressing the use of predictive coding technology. Since then, at least six different judges have addressed the use of predictive coding technology. (Moore v. Publicis Group; Kleen Products v. Packaging Corporation of America; Global Aerospace v. Landow Aviation; In re: Actos Product Liability Litigation; EOHRB v. HOA Holdings; Gabriel Technologies v. Qualcomm). Taken as whole, the court decisions are either supportive of the technology or remain neutral on the issue. In fact, an order in a new case named In Re Biomet was reported only a few days ago and continues the general trend toward judicial awareness and support of the technology.

In addition to the growing number of judicial opinions, conference attendees are sharing experiences related to the use of these technologies far more than was the case at conferences in 2012. This data point suggests that usage far exceeds the number of reported predictive coding cases. Further evidence of this momentum, and possibly even greater momentum to come, are discussions about adding comments to the proposed FRCP amendments that would encourage the use of predictive coding technology. Newly proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are expected to be published for comment in August, and predictive coding will almost certainly be part of the discussion.

#3 – Skeptics remain

Despite a significant uptick in predictive coding usage since early 2012, the technology is not without skeptics. Those less bullish cite concerns about the multitude of new predictive coding offerings that have recently come onto the market. Most realize that all predictive coding technologies are not created equally and the vast majority of tools on the market lack transparency. A key concern on this front is the lack of visibility into the underlying statistical methodology that many tools and their providers apply. Since statistics are the backbone of a viable predictive coding process, a lack of transparency into statistical methodologies by most providers has left some to perceive all predictive coding tools as “black boxes.” In reality, different tools provide different levels of transparency, but a general lack of transparency in the industry has perpetuated a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” mentality in some circles. Rumblings about the applicability of Daubert and/or Rule 702 in vetting these tools and the methodologies they rely upon are likely to gain steam.

The issue of transparency is also a common area of debate in the context of an issue known as the “discard pile.” The discard pile generally refers to documents classified as non-responsive that are used to train the predictive coding solution. The protocol established in Da Silva Moore and other cases requires the producing party to reveal the discard pile to the propounding party as part of the predictive coding training process. Proponents argue that this additional level of cooperation invites scrutiny by both parties that will help insure that training documents are properly classified. The rationale in support of this approach is that predictive coding tools are garbage-in garbage-out devices so improperly classifying training documents will lead to erroneous downstream results. The pushback by producing parties varies, but one common theme is predominant and can be summarized as follows: “I will share my non-responsive documents to the other side when they are pried from my cold, dead fingers.”

Conclusion

Although some barriers to widespread predictive coding adoption remain, it is clear that the future of predictive coding is now. Eventually best practices for using these technologies will rise to the surface and the tools themselves will improve. For example, most tools today require complex statistical calculations to be made manually. That means hiring consultants and/or statisticians to crunch the numbers in order to ensure a defensible process which increases costs. The tools themselves can also be costly because most providers charge a premium to use predictive coding solutions. However, price pressure is already afoot and some providers offer their predictive coding technology at no additional cost. In short, despite some early challenges, most of those within the Sedona Bubble believe predictive coding is here to stay.   

 

Gibson Dunn eDiscovery Report Hails Industry Advances

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

At eDiscovery 2.0, we have consistently followed the reports that Gibson Dunn has released on the state of eDiscovery. This is for good reason given its reputation as an excellent source of information on the trends affecting individual organizations and the industry as a whole.

The recently released 2012 annual report is no different, except that the overall tone is more positive. Instead of spotlighting the continuing problem of sanctions, the report showcases predictive coding and rules reform as the key eDiscovery trends leading into 2013. Describing these trends as being potential game-changers, the report also notes that “many questions remain” and warns that the impact of these trends may affect organizations in unanticipated and perhaps troubling ways.

Predictive Coding

In its report, Gibson Dunn happily indicates that unlike previous years, predictive coding technology appears to be ready for prime time. With several decisions from 2012 expressly or tacitly approving the use of predictive coding, the report speculates that many organizations and their counsel could become adopters of the technology. As the technology becomes more widespread and additional court decisions provide judicial imprimatur to the technology, the prospects increase that predictive coding could “drastically alter the way in which documents are reviewed for production.”

Nevertheless, challenges remain before this gradually increasing trend becomes a fully blown industry norm. While the promise of predictive coding is in its potential for rapid and cost effective document review, the report questions whether the technology will live up to that hype. Indeed, Gibson Dunn asks whether predictive coding is like any other review tool: “is it merely the latest review technology that, while useful, neither obtains widespread adoption nor revolutionizes the landscape?” Such questions are particularly legitimate given the substantial costs associated with most of the reported predictive coding cases. Indeed, the recent case of Gabriel Technologies v. Qualcomm exemplifies this predictive coding cost paradox.

Rules Changes

Another positive industry development that is fraught with questions concerns potential changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As the report indicates, the federal Civil Rules Advisory Committee has made significant progress on a proposed draft amendment to Rule 37(e). Designed to broaden the existing protection against sanctions, the proposal would theoretically safeguard an organization’s pre-litigation destruction of information from sanctions in most circumstances. The lone exceptions would include destruction that was “willful or in bad faith and caused substantial prejudice in the litigation” or that “irreparably deprived a party of any meaningful opportunity to present a claim or defense.” While such a rule undoubtedly could reduce the costs and risks associated with ESI preservation, ambiguities in the draft language, together with statements in the draft advisory committee note, could ultimately water down the proposal’s intended protections.

Another encouraging rule change being considered by rules-makers includes an effort to better emphasize proportionality limitations on the Rule 26(b)(1) permissible scope of discovery. While characterized by the report as an “underused” though “increasingly important” doctrine, a proportionality amendment to Rule 26(b)(1) could do much to bring the problematic costs and delays of eDiscovery under control.

The report also sounded a note of caution on the proportionality front. Referring to the Sedona Conference’s recently updated Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery, the report observes that technology will be a key aspect in any proportionality analysis. With that background, Gibson Dunn cautions against misusing the efficiencies of cutting edge eDiscovery technologies to increase the scope of production under the guise that such discovery will comport with proportionality principles:

Litigants and courts will therefore need to be vigilant in preventing the use of such technologies from becoming a justification for expanding the scope of discovery beyond an appropriate focus on documents relevant to the issues in dispute, and thereby exacerbating the very problems that technologies seek to address.

Other Industry Trends

Gibson Dunn spotlighted several other key trends from 2012 in its 33-page report. Among them were developments in cross-border eDiscovery, the increasing importance of foreign data protection laws, congressional attempts to bolster domestic privacy regulations, the correlation between ESI preservation and courts sanctions, and discovery of information found on social networking sites. These and other industry trends confirm that “progress is being made in addressing e-discovery’s challenges[,] [t]he dense fog that often seems to surround e-discovery appears to have lifted somewhat, and the collective anxiety lowered a little.”

Despite such sanguine observations, risks remain for organizations and their lawyers. The report concludes by raising the specter of sanctions, which will likely continue to be an unpredictable hobgoblin unless meaningful rules reform takes place. Until that time, clients and counsel alike should be proactive in adopting industry best practices to better ensure compliance with existing rules and jurisprudence.

The Global Impact of eDiscovery and Data Protection Laws in Germany

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

The acknowledged power of Continental Europe is Germany. Its steady economy and stable politics offer foreign companies an inviting prospect for investment. And yet, as organizations explore and begin developing business opportunities in Germany, they often become entangled in a web of unfamiliar legal issues. These issues, particularly eDiscovery and data protection laws, can be a costly and time consuming trap for unsuspecting companies. To avoid becoming ensnared by legal minutiae, attorney fees and lost opportunities, companies should consider gaining at least a basic understanding regarding the German eDiscovery and data protection landscape.

Discovery in Germany

By way of introduction, it should be noted that Germany, like most European countries, is a civil code country whose legal traditions are distinct from the common law notions that characterize the United States. According to its legal precepts, civil litigation in Germany is conducted in a vastly different fashion than in the U.S. For example, “discovery,” as it is known in the United States, does not exist in Germany. Interrogatories, categorical document requests and requests for admissions are simply unavailable as discovery devices. Instead, Germany only allows a limited exchange of documents, with the parties typically only disclosing information that supports their claims.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently commented on this key distinction when it observed in Heraeus Kulzer v. Biomet that “the German legal system . . . does not authorize discovery in the sense of Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” The court went on to explain that “[a] party to a German lawsuit cannot demand categories of documents from his opponent. All he can demand are documents that he is able to identify specifically—individually, not by category.”

Another key distinction to discovery in Germany is the lack of rules or case law requiring the preservation of ESI or paper documents. This stands in sharp contrast to American jurisprudence, which typically requires organizations to preserve information as soon as they “reasonably anticipate” litigation.

Data Protection in Germany

Another critical, distinguishing characteristic of Germany’s legal traditions are its notions of data protection and individual privacy. Unlike the mostly laissez-faire approach in the U.S. to data protection, Germany has adopted a comprehensive framework to secure personal information from unreasonable government and corporate intrusions. To guard against such intrusions, Germany has strict requirements that govern any “processing” of personal information. In addition, corporate data processing in Germany must satisfy company Works Councils, which represent the interests of employees and protect their privacy rights. Those protections extend to domestic litigation and international data transfers, to which Works Councils and company Data Protection Officers may object.

Another important aspect to German data protection laws are the restrictions they place on transferring personal information across international borders. Companies with offices in Germany must ensure that the country where such data will be transferred has enacted laws that meet EU data protection standards. Transfers of personal data to countries that do not meet those standards are generally forbidden, with substantial fines imposed for non-compliance.

This backdrop of complexity suggests that companies exploring business opportunities in Germany should obtain a better understanding of its discovery and data protection laws. There are various resources that provide straightforward answers to these issues at no cost to the end-user. For example, global legal expert James Daley recently recorded two podcasts that discuss the challenges associated with German discovery and data privacy laws. Think tanks such as The Sedona Conference have also made available materials that provide significant detail on these issues, including its “International Overview of Discovery, Data Privacy, and Disclosure Requirements.”

By obtaining a greater awareness of the legal workings inside Germany, organizations can more capably develop a cooperative, proactive process for how they will address data preservation and production for cross-border litigation. By so doing, organizations can be better prepared to address potential eDiscovery and data protection snares that are inextricably intertwined with globalization.

Mission Impossible? The eDiscovery Implications of the ABA’s New Ethics Rules

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently announced changes to its Model Rules of Professional Conduct that are designed to address digital age challenges associated with practicing law in the 21st century. These changes emphasize that lawyers must understand the ins and outs of technology in order to provide competent representation to their clients. From an eDiscovery perspective, such a declaration is particularly important given the lack of understanding that many lawyers have regarding even the most basic supporting technology needed to effectively satisfy their discovery obligations.

With respect to the actual changes, the amendment to the commentary language from Model Rule 1.1 was most significant for eDiscovery purposes. That rule, which defines a lawyer’s duty of competence, now requires that attorneys discharge that duty with an understanding of the “benefits and risks” of technology:

To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

This rule certainly restates the obvious for experienced eDiscovery counsel. Indeed, the Zubulake series of opinions from nearly a decade ago laid the groundwork for establishing that competence and technology are irrevocably and inextricably intertwined. As Judge Scheindlin observed in Zubulake V, “counsel has a duty to effectively communicate to her client its discovery obligations so that all relevant information is discovered, retained, and produced.” This includes being familiar with client retention policies, in addition to its “data retention architecture;” communicating with the “client’s information technology personnel” and arranging for the “segregation and safeguarding of any archival media (e.g., backup tapes) that the party has a duty to preserve.”

Nevertheless, Model Rule 1.1 is groundbreaking in that it formally requires lawyers in those jurisdictions following the Model Rules to be up to speed on the impact of eDiscovery technology. In 2012, that undoubtedly means counsel should become familiar with the benefits and risks of predictive coding technology. With its promise of reduced document review costs and decreased legal fees, counsel should closely examine predictive coding solutions to determine whether they might be deployed in some phase of the document review process (e.g., prioritization, quality assurance for linear review, full scale production). Yet caution should also be exercised given the risks associated with this technology, particularly the well-known limitations of early generation predictive coding tools.

In addition to predictive coding, lawyers would be well served to better understand traditional eDiscovery technology tools such as keyword search, concept search, email threading and data clustering. Indeed, there is significant confusion regarding the continued viability of keyword searching given some prominent judicial opinions frowning on so-called blind keyword searches. However, most eDiscovery jurisprudence and authoritative commentators confirm the effectiveness of keyword searches that involve some combination of testing, sampling and iterative feedback.

Whether the technology involves predictive coding, keyword searching, attorney client privilege reviews or other areas of eDiscovery, the revised Model Rules appear to require counsel to understand the benefits and risks of these tools. Moreover, this is not simply a one-time directive. Because technology is always changing, lawyers should continue to stay abreast of changes and developments. This continuing duty of competence is well summarized in The Sedona Conference Best Practices Commentary on the Use of Search & Retrieval Methods in E-Discovery:

Parties and the courts should be alert to new and evolving search and information retrieval methods. What constitutes a reasonable search and information retrieval method is subject to change, given the rapid evolution of technology. The legal community needs to be vigilant in examining new and emerging techniques and methods which claim to yield better search results.

While the challenge of staying abreast of these complex technological changes is difficult, it is certainly not “mission impossible.” Lawyers untrained in the areas of technology have often developed tremendous skill sets required for dealing with other areas of complexities in the law. Perhaps the wise but encouraging reminder from Anthony Hopkins to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible II will likewise spur reluctant attorneys to accept this difficult, though not impossible task: “Well this is not Mission Difficult, Mr. Hunt, it’s Mission Impossible. Difficult should be a walk in the park for you.”

Proportionality Demystified: How Organizations Can Get eDiscovery Right by Following Four Key Principles

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Talk to most any organization about legal issues and invariably the subject of eDiscovery will be raised. The skyrocketing costs and lengthy delays associated with data preservation and document review provide ample justification for organizations to be on the alert about eDiscovery. While these costs and delays tend to make the eDiscovery landscape appear bleak, a positive development on this front is emerging for organizations. That development is the emphasis that many courts are now placing on “proportionality” for addressing eDiscovery disputes.

Though initially embraced by only a few cognoscenti after 1983 and 2000 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), proportionality standards are now being championed by various district and circuit courts. As more opinions are issued which analyze proportionality, several key principles are now becoming apparent in this developing body of jurisprudence. To better understand these principles, it is instructive to review some of the top proportionality cases issued this year and last. These cases provide a roadmap of best practices that, if followed, will help courts, clients and counsel reduce the costs and burdens connected with eDiscovery.

1. Discourage Unnecessary Discovery

Case: Bottoms v. Liberty Life Assur. Co. of Boston (D. Colo. Dec. 13, 2011)

Summary: The court dramatically curtailed the written discovery that plaintiff sought to propound on the defendant. Plaintiff had requested leave in this ERISA action to serve “sweeping” interrogatories and document requests to resolve the limited issue of whether the defendant had improperly denied her long term disability benefits. Drawing on the proportionality standards under Federal Rule 26(b)(2)(C), the court characterized the proposed discovery as “patently overbroad” and as seeking materials that were “largely irrelevant.” The court ultimately ordered the defendant to respond to some aspects of plaintiff’s interrogatories and document demands, but not before limiting their nature and scope.

Proportionality Principle No. 1: The Bottoms case emphasizes what courts have been advocating for years: that organizations should do away with unnecessary discovery. That does not mean “robotically recycling discovery requests propounded in earlier actions.” Instead, counsel must “stop and think” to ensure that its discovery is narrowly tailored in accordance with Rule 26(b)(2)(C). As Bottoms teaches, “the responsibility for conducting discovery in a reasonable, proportionate manner rests in the first instance with the parties and their attorneys.”

2. Encourage Reasonable Discovery Efforts

Case: Larsen v. Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. (C.D. Cal. Feb. 2, 2012)

Summary: In Larsen, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ assertion that the defendants should be made to redo their production of 9,000 pages of documents. The plaintiffs had argued that re-production of the documents was necessary to address certain discrepancies – including missing emails – in the production. The court disagreed, holding instead that plaintiffs had failed to establish that such discrepancies had “prevented them in any way from obtaining information relevant to a claim or defense under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).”

The court also reasoned that a “do over” would violate the principles of proportionality codified in Rule 26(b)(2)(C). After reciting the proportionality language from Rule 26 and referencing The Sedona Principles, the court determined that “the burden and expense to Defendants in completely reproducing its entire ESI production far outweighs any possible benefit to Plaintiffs.” There were too few discrepancies identified to justify the cost of redoing the production.

Proportionality Principle No. 2: The Larsen decision provides a simple reminder that organizations’ discovery efforts must be reasonable, not perfect. This reminder bears repeating as litigants frequently use eDiscovery sideshows to leverage lucrative settlements without having to address the merits of their claims or defenses. Such a practice, liked to a “cancerous growth” given its destructive nature, emphasizes that discovery devices should be used to “facilitate litigation rather than as weapons to wage litigation.” Calcor Space Facility, Inc. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.App.4th 216, 221 (1997). Similar to the theme raised in our post regarding the predictive coding dispute in the Kleen Products case, principles of proportionality rightly emphasize the reasonable nature of parties’ obligations in discovery.

3. Discourage Dilatory Discovery Tactics

Case: Escamilla v. SMS Holdings Corporation (D. Minn. Oct. 21, 2011)

Summary: The court rejected an argument that proportionality standards should excuse the individual defendant from paying for additional discovery ordered by the court. The defendant essentially argued that Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) foreclosed the ordered discovery given his limited financial resources. This position was unavailing, however, given that “the burden and expense of this discovery was self-inflicted by [the defendant].” As it turns out, the ordered discovery was necessary to address issues created in the litigation by the defendant’s failure to preserve relevant evidence. Moreover, there were no alternative means available for obtaining the sought-after materials. Given the unique nature of the evidence and the defendant’s misconduct, the court held that the “burden of the additional discovery [did] not outweigh its likely benefit.”

Proportionality Principle No. 3: The Escamilla decision reinforces a common refrain among proportionality cases: that proportionality is foreclosed to those parties who create their own burdens. Like the defense of unclean hands, proportionality essentially requires a litigant to approach the court with a clean slate of conduct in discovery. This is confirmed by The Sedona Conference Comment on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery, which declares that “[c]ourts should disregard any undue burden or expense that results from a responding party’s own conduct or delay.”

4. Encourage Better Information Governance Practices

Case: Salamone v. Carter’s Retail, Inc. (D.N.J. Jan. 28, 2011)

Summary: The court denied a motion for protective order that the defendant clothing retailer filed to stave off the collection and analysis of over 13,000 personnel files. The retailer had argued that proportionality precluded the search and review of the personnel files. In support of its argument, the retailer asserted that the nature, format, location and organization of the records made their review and production too burdensome: “ ‘the burden of production . . . outweigh[s] any benefit to plaintiffs’ considering the ‘disorganization of the information, the lack of accessible format, the significant amount of labor and costs involved, and defendant’s management structure’.”

In rejecting the retailer’s position, the court criticized its information retention system as the culprit for its burdens. That the retailer, the court reasoned, “maintains personnel files in several locations without any uniform organizational method,” does not exempt Defendant from reasonable discovery obligations.” After weighing the various factors that comprise the proportionality analysis under Rule 26(b)(2)(C), the court concluded that the probative value of production outweighed the resulting burden and expense on the retailer.

Proportionality Principle No. 4: Having an intelligent information governance process in place could have addressed the cost and logistics headaches that the retailer faced. Had the records at issue been digitized and maintained in a central archive, the retailer’s collection burdens would have been significantly minimized. Furthermore, integrating these “upstream” data retention protocols with “downstream” eDiscovery processes could have expedited the review process. The Salamone case teaches that an integrated information governance process, supported by effective, enabling technologies, will likely help organizations reach the objectives of proportionality by reducing the extent of discovery burdens and making them more commensurate with the demands of litigation.

Conclusion

The foregoing cases exemplify how proportionality principles can help lawyers and litigants conduct eDiscovery in an efficient and cost effective manner. And by faithfully observing these standards, courts, clients and counsel can better follow the mandate from Federal Rule 1 “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”

2012: Year of the Dragon – and Predictive Coding. Will the eDiscovery Landscape Be Forever Changed?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

2012 is the Year of the Dragon – which is fitting, since no other Chinese Zodiac sign represents the promise, challenge, and evolution of predictive coding technology more than the Dragon.  The few who have embraced predictive coding technology exemplify symbolic traits of the Dragon that include being unafraid of challenges and willing to take risks.  In the legal profession, taking risks typically isn’t in a lawyer’s DNA, which might explain why predictive coding technology has seen lackluster adoption among lawyers despite the hype.  This blog explores the promise of predictive coding technology, why predictive coding has not been widely adopted in eDiscovery, and explains why 2012 is likely to be remembered as the year of predictive coding.

What is predictive coding?

Predictive coding refers to machine learning technology that can be used to automatically predict how documents should be classified based on limited human input.  In litigation, predictive coding technology can be used to rank and then “code” or “tag” electronic documents based on criteria such as “relevance” and “privilege” so organizations can reduce the amount of time and money spent on traditional page by page attorney document review during discovery.

Generally, the technology works by prioritizing the most important documents for review by ranking them.  In addition to helping attorneys find important documents faster, this prioritization and ranking of documents can even eliminate the need to review documents with the lowest rankings in certain situations. Additionally, since computers don’t get tired or day dream, many believe computers can even predict document relevance better than their human counterparts.

Why hasn’t predictive coding gone mainstream yet?

Given the promise of faster and less expensive document review, combined with higher accuracy rates, many are perplexed as to why predictive coding technology hasn’t been widely adopted in eDiscovery.  The answer really boils down to one simple concept – a lack of transparency.

Difficult to Use

First, early predictive coding tools attempt to apply a complicated new technological approach to a document review process that has traditionally been very simple.  Instead of relying on attorneys to read each and every document to determine relevance, the success of today’s predictive coding technology typically depends on review decisions input into a computer by one or more experienced senior attorneys.  The process commonly involves a complex series of steps that include sampling, testing, reviewing, and measuring results in order to fine tune an algorithm that will eventually be used to predict the relevancy of the remaining documents.

The problem with early predictive coding technologies is that the majority of these complex steps are done in a ‘black box’.  In other words, the methodology and results are not always clear, which increases the risk of human error and makes the integrity of the electronic discovery process difficult to defend.  For example, the methodology for selecting a statistically relevant sample is not always intuitive to the end user.  This fundamental problem could result in improper sampling techniques that could taint the accuracy of the entire process.  Similarly, the process must often be repeated several times in order to improve accuracy rates.  Even if accuracy is improved, it may be difficult or impossible to explain how accuracy thresholds were determined or to explain why coding decisions were applied to some documents and not others.

Accuracy Concerns

Early predictive coding tools also tend to lack transparency in the way the technology evaluates the language contained in each document.  Instead of evaluating both the text and metadata fields within a document, some technologies actually ignore document metadata.  This omission means a privileged email sent by a client to her attorney, Larry Lawyer, might be overlooked by the computer if the name “Larry Lawyer” is only part of the “recipient” metadata field of the document and isn’t part of the document text.  The obvious risk is that this situation could lead to privilege waiver if it is inadvertently produced to the opposing party.

Another practical concern is that some technologies do not allow reviewers to make a distinction between relevant and non-relevant language contained within individual documents.  For example, early predictive coding technologies are not intelligent enough to know that only the second paragraph on page 95 of a 100-page document contains relevant language.  The inability to discern what language  led to the determination that the document is relevant could skew results when the computer tries to identify other documents with the same characteristics.  This lack of precision increases the likelihood that the computer will retrieve an over-inclusive number of irrelevant documents.  This problem is generally referred to as ‘excessive recall,’ and it is important because this lack of precision increases the number of documents requiring manual review which directly impacts eDiscovery cost.

Waiver & Defensibility

Perhaps the biggest concern with early predictive coding technology is the risk of waiver and concerns about defensibility.  Notably, there have been no known judicial decisions that specifically address the defensibility of these new technology tools even though some in the judiciary, including U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck, have opined that this kind of technology should be used in certain cases.

The problem is that today’s predictive coding tools are difficult to use, complicated for the average attorney, and the way they work simply isn’t transparent.  All these limitations increase the risk of human error.  Introducing human error increases the risk of overlooking important documents or unwittingly producing privileged documents.  Similarly, it is difficult to defend a technological process that isn’t always clear in an era where many lawyers are still uncomfortable with keyword searches.  In short, using black box technology that is difficult to use and understand is perceived as risky, and many attorneys have taken a wait-and-see approach because they are unwilling to be the guinea pig.

Why is 2012 likely to be the year of predictive coding?

The word transparency may seem like a vague term, but it is the critical element missing from today’s predictive coding technology offerings.  2012 is likely to be the year of predictive coding because improvements in transparency will shine a light into the black box of predictive coding technology that hasn’t existed until now.  In simple terms, increasing transparency will simplify the user experience and improve accuracy which will reduce longstanding concerns about defensibility and privilege waiver.

Ease of Use

First, transparent predictive coding technology will help minimize the risk of human error by incorporating an intuitive user interface into a complicated solution.  New interfaces will include easy-to-use workflow management consoles to guide the reviewer through a step-by-step process for selecting, reviewing, and testing data samples in a way that minimizes guesswork and confusion.  By automating the sampling and testing process, the risk of human error can be minimized which decreases the risk of waiver or discovery sanctions that could result if documents are improperly coded.  Similarly, automated reporting capabilities make it easier for producing parties to evaluate and understand how key decisions were made throughout the process, thereby making it easier for them to defend the reasonableness of their approach.

Intuitive reports also help the producing party measure and evaluate confidence levels throughout the testing process until appropriate confidence levels are achieved.  Since confidence levels can actually be measured as a percentage, attorneys and judges are in a position to negotiate and debate the desired level of confidence for a production set rather than relying exclusively on the representations or decisions of a single party.  This added transparency allows the type of cooperation between parties called for in the Sedona Cooperation Proclamation and gives judges an objective tool for evaluating each party’s behavior.

Accuracy & Efficiency

2012 is also likely to be the year of transparent predictive coding technology because technical limitations that have impacted the accuracy and efficiency of earlier tools will be addressed.  For example, new technology will analyze both document text and metadata to avoid the risk that responsive or privileged documents are overlooked.  Similarly, smart tagging features will enable reviewers to highlight specific language in documents to determine a document’s relevance or non-relevance so that coding predictions will be more accurate and fewer non-relevant documents will be recalled for review.

Conclusion - Transparency Provides Defensibility

The bottom line is that predictive coding technology has not enjoyed widespread adoption in the eDiscovery process due to concerns about simplicity and accuracy that breed larger concerns about defensibility.  Defending the use of black box technology that is difficult to use and understand is a risk that many attorneys simply are not willing to take, and these concerns have deterred widespread adoption of early predictive coding technology tools.  In 2012, next generation transparent predictive coding technology will usher in a new era of computer-assisted document review that is easy to use, more accurate, and easier to defend. Given these exciting technological advancements, I predict that 2012 will not only be the year of the dragon, it will also be the year of predictive coding.

Amending the FRCP: More Questions than Answers

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Outcry from many in the legal community has caused a number of groups to consider whether the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) should be amended.  The dialogue began in earnest a year ago at the Duke Civil Litigation Conference and picked up speed following an eDiscoverymini-conference” held in Dallas last month (led by the Discovery Subcommittee –  appointed by the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules).  The rules amendment topic is so hot that the Sedona Conference (WG1) spent most of its two day annual meeting discussing the need for amendments and evaluating a range of competing proposals.

During this dialogue (which I can’t quote verbatim) a number of things became clear to me…

1.  This rules amendment quandary is a bit of a chicken and egg riddle — meaning that it’s hard to cast support wholeheartedly for a rules change if there isn’t a good consensus for what a particular change would accomplish and what the long term consequences might be as technology quickly morphs.  As an example, if there was a redefined preservation trigger that started the duty to preserve when there was a reasonable “certainty” of litigation (versus a mere “likelihood”), would this really make a material impact?  Or, would this inquiry still be as highly fact specific as it is today?  Would this still be similarly prone to the 20/20 hindsight judgment that’s inevitable as well?

2. While it is clear that preservation has become a more complex and risk laden process, it’s not clear that this “pain” is causally related to the FRCP.  In the notes from the Dallas mini-conference, a pending Sedona survey was quoted, referencing the fact that preservation challenges were overwhelmingly increasing:

“[S]ome trends can be noted. 95% (of the surveyed members) agreed that preservation issues were more frequent. 75% said that development was due to the proliferation of information.”

3. Another camp of stakeholders complain that the existing rules (as amended in 2006) aren’t being followed by practitioners or understood by the judiciary.  While this may be the case, it then begs the critical question: If folks aren’t following the amended rules (utilizing proportionality, leveraging FRE 502, etc.) is it really reasonable to think that any new rules would be followed this time around?

4. The role of technology in easing the preservation burden represents another murky area for debate.  For example, it could be argued that preservation pains (i.e., costs) are only really significant for organizations that haven’t deployed state of the art information governance solutions (e.g., legal hold solutions, email archives, records retention software, etc.) to make the requisite tasks less manual.

5. And finally, even assuming that the FRCP is magically re-jiggered to ease preservation costs, this would only impact organizations with litigation in Federal court. This leaves many still exposed to varying standards for the preservation trigger, scope and associated sanctions.

So, in the end, it’s unclear what the future holds for an amended FRCP landscape.  Given the range of divergent perspectives, differing viewpoints on potential solutions and the time necessary to navigate the Rules Enabling Act, the only thing that’s clear is that the cavalry isn’t coming to the rescue any time soon.  This means that organizations with significant preservation pains should endeavor to better utilize the rules that are on the books and deploy enabling technologies where possible.

A Judicial Perspective: Q&A With Former United States Magistrate Judge Ronald J. Hedges Regarding Possible Discovery Related Rule Changes

Friday, September 9th, 2011

If you have been following my previous posts regarding possible amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules), then you know I promised a special interview with former United States Magistrate Judge Ron Hedges.  The timing of the discussion is perfect considering that a “mini-conference” is being hosted by a Federal Rules Discovery Subcommittee today (September 9th) in Dallas, TX.  The debate will focus on whether or not the Rules should be amended to address evidence preservation and sanctions.  I am attending the mini-conference and will summarize my observations as part of my next post.  In the meantime, please enjoy reading the dialogue below for a glimpse into Judge Hedges’ perspective regarding possible Rule amendments.

Nelson: You were recently quoted in a Law Technology News (LTN) article written by Evan Koblentz as saying, “I don’t see a need to amend the rules” because these rules haven’t been around long enough to see what happens.  Isn’t almost five years long enough?

Judge Hedges: No.  For the simple reason that both attorneys and judges continue to need education on the 2006 amendments and, more particularly, they need to understand the technologies that create and store electronic information.  The amendments establish a framework within which attorneys and judges make daily decisions on discovery.  I have not seen any objective evidence that the framework is somehow failing and needs further amendment.

Nelson: You also said the “big problem” is that people don’t talk enough.  What did you mean?  Hasn’t the Sedona Cooperation Proclamation made a difference?

Judge Hedges: The centerpiece of the 2006 amendments (at least in my view) is Rule 26(f).  I think it is fair to say that the legal community’s response to 26(f) has been, to say the least, varied. Civil actions with large volumes of ESI that may be discoverable under Rule 26(b)(1) cry out for extensive 26(f) meet-and-confer discussions that may take a number of meetings and require the presence of party representatives from, for example, IT.  There is an element of trust required between adversary counsel (with the concurrence of the parties they represent) that may be difficult to establish – but some cooperation is necessary to make 26(f) work.  Overlay that reality with our adversary system and the duty of attorneys to zealously advocate on behalf of their clients and you can understand why cooperation isn’t always a top priority for some attorneys.

However, “transparency” in discussing ESI is essential, along with advocacy and the need to maintain appropriate confidentiality. That’s where the Sedona Conference Proclamation can make a big difference. Has the Proclamation done that? It’s too early to reach a conclusion on that question, but the Proclamation is often cited and, as education progresses in eDiscovery, I am confident that the Proclamation will be recognized as a means to realize the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of litigation, as articulated under Rule 1.

Nelson: You also mentioned that the Federal Rules Advisory Committee might be running afoul of the Rules Enabling Act.  Can you explain?

Judge Hedges: There is a distinction between “procedural” and “substantive” rules.  The Rules Enabling Act governs the adoption of the former.  Rule 502 of the Federal Rules of Evidence is an example of a substantive rule that was proposed by the Judicial Conference.  However, since Rule 502 is a rule dealing with substantive privilege and waiver issues, it had to be enacted into law through an Act of Congress.  I am concerned that proposals to further amend the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure may cross the line from procedural to substantive.  I am not prepared to suggest at this time, however, that anything I have seen has crossed the line.  Stay tuned.

Nelson: If you had to select one of the three options currently being considered (see page 264), which option would you select and why?

Judge Hedges: To start, I would not choose option 1, which presumes that the Rules can reach pre-litigation conduct consistent with the Rules Enabling Act.  My concern here is also that, in the area of electronic information, a too-specific rule risks “overnight” obsolescence, just as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, enacted in 1986, is considered by a number of commentators to be, at best, obsolescent.  Note also that I did not use the word “stored” when I mentioned electronic information, as courts have already required that so-called ephemeral information be preserved.  Nor would I choose option 2.  Absent seeing more than the brief description of the category on page 264, it seems to me that option 2 is likely to do nothing more than be a restatement of the existing law on when the duty to preserve is “triggered.”

So, by default, I am forced to choose option 3.  I presume a rule would say something like, “sanctions may not be imposed on a party for loss of ESI (or “EI”) if that party acted reasonably in making preservation decisions.”  There are a number of problems here. First, in a jurisdiction which allows the imposition of at least some sanction for negligence, all the rule would likely do is be interpreted to foreclose “serious” sanctions. Isn’t that correct? Or is the rule intended to supersede existing variances in the law of sanctions?  At that point, does the rule become “substantive”?   Second, how will “reasonableness” be defined?  Reasonableness supposes the existence of a duty – in this case, a duty to preserve.  For example, is there a duty to preserve ephemeral data that a party knows is relevant?  We come back full circle to where we began.

Remember, Rule 37(f) (now 37(e)) was intended to provide some level of protection against the imposition of sanctions, just as the categories are intended to.  Right?  And five years later 37(e) remains defined variously to be a “safe harbor” or a “lighthouse” by some lawyers such as Jonathan Redgrave or an “uncharted minefield” by others like me.

Nelson: What about heightened pleading standards after the Iqbal and Twombly decisions?  Do these decisions have any relevance to electronic discovery and the topic at hand?

Judge Hedges: Let me begin by saying that I am no fan of Twombly or Iqbal. The decisions, however well intended, have led to undue cost and delay all too often.  Not only is motion to dismiss practice costly for parties, but it imposes great burdens on the United States Courts and, as often as not, leads to at least one other round of motion practice as plaintiffs are given leave to re-plead.  All the while, parties have preservation obligations to fulfill and, in the hope of saving expense, discovery is often stayed until a motion is “finally” decided.  I would like to see objective evidence of the delay and cost of this motion practice (and I expect that the Administrative Office of the United States has statistical evidence already).  I would also like to see objective evidence from defendants distinguishing between the cost of motion practice and later discovery costs.

Putting all that aside, and if I had to accept one option, I would choose to allow some discovery that is integrated to the motion practice.  First, even without the filing of a responsive pleading, there should be a 26(f) meet-and-confer to discuss, if nothing else, the nature and scope of preservation and the possibility of securing a Rule 502(d) order. Second, while I have serious concerns about “pre-answer discovery” for a number of reasons, I would have the parties make 26(a)(1) disclosures while a motion to dismiss is pending or leave to re-plead has been granted in order to address the likely “asymmetry of information” between a plaintiff and a moving defendant.  Once the disclosures are made, I would allow the plaintiff to secure some information identified in the disclosures to allow re-pleading and perhaps obviate the need for continued motion practice.

All of this would, of course, require active judicial management.  And one would hope that Congress, which seems so interested in conserving resources, would recognize the vital role of the United States Courts in securing justice for everyone and give adequate funding to the Courts.