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Posts Tagged ‘e-disclosure’

How to Prepare for eDiscovery under New UK Civil Procedure Rule 31.5

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Be sure to circle the month of April on your 2013 calendars. That is the projected effective date for new UK Civil Procedure Rule 31.5. CPR 31.5 is designed to modify the disclosure process and usher in a new era of proportional discovery in the UK. These changes figure to be significant, particularly as they come on the heels of new Practice Direction 31B. Between the Practice Direction and CPR 31.5, the bar is now being substantially raised for how UK lawyers handle eDiscovery. That lawyers need to take particular note of these changes and their impact on disclosure was highlighted last year when Lord Justice Jackson declared that “few solicitors and even fewer barristers really understand how to undertake e-disclosure in an effective way.

Presently, courts may order some form of standard disclosure or dispense with disclosure altogether. However, under the revised version of Rule 31.5, courts in England and Wales will have several options for addressing disclosure of all multi-track claims (except those for personal injuries). This new “menu of possible disclosure orders” will enable courts to tailor a disclosure plan to fit the specific needs of a given case. In particular, courts may provide direction regarding particular searches for documents, the phasing of disclosure in different stages, and the formats for disclosing documents.

Furthermore, new Rule 31.5 emphasizes the importance of early and efficient disclosure. For example, each party must serve a report two weeks before the first case management conference (CMC) that describes existing documents relevant to matters at issue in the case. The report must also specify the location of such documents and cost estimates for standard disclosure. Parties must then meet a week prior to the CMC to reach an agreed upon plan for disclosure that satisfies the “overriding objective.”

In addition, the provisions from the new rule are equally applicable to electronic documents. This is accomplished by having new Rule 31.5 operate in conjunction with Practice Direction 31B. As Lord Justice Jackson explained, these two provisions “fit neatly together” so as to ensure that disclosure of electronic documents meets the overriding objective.

All of which places a demand on lawyers to understand how to undertake eDiscovery in an effective way. While it is essential to understand the particulars of new Rule 31.5, deploying effective, enabling technologies will be just as critical to ensuring compliance with the new disclosure provisions. This is because both the new Rule and the Practice Direction emphasize the role of technology in meeting the overriding objective in disclosure.

In summary, new Rule 31.5 will likely represent a sea change for eDiscovery in the UK. Nevertheless, savvy lawyers who learn the rules and use effective the tools to support their disclosure process can rest assured that they will likely be prepared for the rule’s implementation in April 2013.

Gartner’s 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software Looks to Information Governance as the Future

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Gartner recently released its 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, which is its annual report analyzing the state of the electronic discovery industry. Many vendors in the Magic Quadrant (MQ) may initially focus on their position and the juxtaposition of their competitive neighbors along the Visionary – Execution axis. While a very useful exercise, there are also a number of additional nuggets in the MQ, particularly regarding Gartner’s overview of the market, anticipated rates of consolidation and future market direction.

Context

For those of us who’ve been around the eDiscovery industry since its infancy, it’s gratifying to see the electronic discovery industry mature.  As Gartner concludes, the promise of this industry isn’t off in the future, it’s now:

“E-discovery is now a well-established fact in the legal and judicial worlds. … The growth of the e-discovery market is thus inevitable, as is the acceptance of technological assistance, even in professions with long-standing paper traditions.”

The past wasn’t always so rosy, particularly when the market was dominated by hundreds of service providers that seemed to hold on by maintaining a few key relationships, combined with relatively high margins.

“The market was once characterized by many small providers and some large ones, mostly employed indirectly by law firms, rather than directly by corporations. …  Purchasing decisions frequently reflected long-standing trusted relationships, which meant that even a small book of business was profitable to providers and the effects of customary market forces were muted. Providers were able to subsist on one or two large law firms or corporate clients.”

Consolidation

The Magic Quadrant correctly notes that these “salad days” just weren’t feasible long term. Gartner sees the pace of consolidation heating up even further, with some players striking it rich and some going home empty handed.

“We expect that 2012 and 2013 will see many of these providers cease to exist as independent entities for one reason or another — by means of merger or acquisition, or business failure. This is a market in which differentiation is difficult and technology competence, business model rejuvenation or size are now required for survival. … The e-discovery software market is in a phase of high growth, increasing maturity and inevitable consolidation.”

Navigating these treacherous waters isn’t easy for eDiscovery providers, nor is it simple for customers to make purchasing decisions if they’re correctly concerned that the solution they buy today won’t be around tomorrow.  Yet, despite the prognostication of an inevitable shakeout (Gartner forecasts that the market will shrink 25% in the raw number of firms claiming eDiscovery products/services) they are still very bullish about the sector.

“Gartner estimates that the enterprise e-discovery software market came to $1 billion in total software vendor revenue in 2010. The five-year CAGR to 2015 is approximately 16%.”

This certainly means there’s a window of opportunity for certain players – particularly those who help larger players fill out their EDRM suite of offerings, since the best of breed era is quickly going by the wayside.  Gartner notes that end-to-end functionality is now table stakes in the eDiscovery space.

“We have seen a large upsurge in user requests for full-spectrum EDRM functionality. Whether that functionality will be used initially, or at all, remains an open question. Corporate buyers do seem minded to future-proof their investments in this way, by anticipating what they may wish to do with the software and the vendor in the future.”

Information Governance

Not surprisingly, it’s this “full-spectrum” functionality that most closely aligns with marrying the reactive, right side of the EDRM with the proactive, left side.  In concert, this yin and yang is referred to as information governance, and it’s this notion that’s increasingly driving buying behaviors.

“It is clear from our inquiry service that the desire to bring e-discovery under control by bringing data under control with retention management is a strategy that both legal and IT departments pursue in order to control cost and reduce risks. Sometimes the archiving solution precedes the e-discovery solution, and sometimes it follows it, but Gartner clients that feel the most comfortable with their e-discovery processes and most in control of their data are those that have put archiving systems in place …”

As Gartner looks out five years, the analyst firm anticipates more progress on the information governance front, because the “entire e-discovery industry is founded on a pile of largely redundant, outdated and trivial data.”  At some point this digital landfill is going to burst and organizations are finally realizing that if they don’t act now, it may be too late.

“During the past 10 to 15 years, corporations and individuals have allowed this data to accumulate for the simple reason that it was easy — if not necessarily inexpensive — to do so. … E-discovery has proved to be a huge motivation for companies to rethink their information management policies. The problem of determining what is relevant from a mass of information will not be solved quickly, but with a clear business driver (e-discovery) and an undeniable return on investment (deleting data that is no longer required for legal or business purposes can save millions of dollars in storage costs) there is hope for the future.”

 

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software is insightful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how it portrays the developing maturity of the electronic discovery space. In just a few short years, the niche has sprouted wings, raced to $1B and is seeing massive consolidation. As we enter the next phase of maturation, we’ll likely see the sector morph into a larger, information governance play, given customers’ “full-spectrum” functionality requirements and the presence of larger, mainstream software companies.  Next on the horizon is the subsuming of eDiscovery into both the bigger information governance umbrella, as well as other larger adjacent plays like “enterprise information archiving, enterprise content management, enterprise search and content analytics.” The rapid maturation of the eDiscovery industry will inevitably result in growing pains for vendors and practitioners alike, but in the end we’ll all benefit.

 

About the Magic Quadrant
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

APAC eDiscovery Passports: Litigation Basics for the Asia-Pacific Region

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Global economic indicators point to increased trade with and outsourcing to emerging markets around the world, specifically the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. Typical U.S. sectors transacting with the East include: manufacturing, business process outsourcing (BPO)/legal process outsourcing (LPO), call centers, and other industries. The Asian Development Bank stated last year that Asia will account for half of all global economic output by 2050 if their collective GDP stays on pace.  The next 10 years will likely bring BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and Japan) and The Four Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) into the forefront of the global economy. Combining this projected economic growth with the data explosion makes knowledge about the APAC legal system a necessity for litigators and international business people alike.

The convergence of the global economy across different privacy and data protection regimes has increased the complexity of addressing electronically stored information (ESI). Money and data in large volumes cross borders daily in order to conduct international business. This is true not only for Asian countries transacting with each other, but increasingly with Europe and the United States. Moreover, because technology continues to decrease the reliance on data in paper format, data will need to be produced and analyzed in the form in which it was created. This is important from a forensic standpoint, as well as an information management perspective.  This technical push is reason alone that organizations will need to shift their processes and technologies to focus more on ESI – not in only in how data is created, but in how those organizations store, search, retrieve, review and produce data.

Discovery Equals eDiscovery

The world of eDiscovery for the purposes of regulation and litigation is no longer a U.S. anomaly. This is not only because organizations may be subject to the federal and state rules of civil procedure governing pre-trial discovery in U.S. civil litigation, but because under existing Asian laws and regulatory schemes, the ability to search and retrieve data may be necessary.

Regardless of whether the process of searching, retrieving, reviewing and producing data (eDiscovery) is called discovery or disclosure or whether these processes occur before trial or during, the reality in litigation, especially for multinational corporations, is that eDiscovery may be required around the world. The best approach is to not only equip your organization with the best technology available for legal defensibility and cost-savings from the litigator’s tool belt, but to know the rules by which one must play.

The Passports

The knowledge level for many lawyers about how to approach a discovery request in APAC jurisdictions is often minimal, but there are resources that provide straightforward answers at no cost to the end-user. For example, Symantec has just released a series of “eDiscovery Passports™” for APAC that focus on discovery in civil litigation, the collision of data privacy laws, questions about the cross-border transfer of data, and the threat of U.S. litigation as businesses globalize.  The Passports are a basic guide that frame key components about a country including the legal system, discovery/disclosure, privacy, international considerations and data protection regulations. The Passports are useful tools to begin the process of exploring what considerations need to be made when litigating in the APAC region.

While the rules governing discovery in common law countries like Australia (UPC) and New Zealand (HCR) may be less comprehensive and require slightly different timing than that of the U.S. and U.K., they do exist under the UPC and HCR.  Countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, that also follow a traditional common law system, contain several procedural nuances that are unique to their jurisdictions.  The Philippines, for example, is a hybrid of both civil and common law legal systems, embodying similarities to California law due to history and proximity.  Below are some examples of cases that evidence trends in Asian jurisdictions that lean toward the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), Sedona Principles and that support the idea that eDiscovery is going global.

  • Hong Kong. In Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings Ltd. v. KPMG (2010), the court held the discovery of relevant documents must apply to both paper and ESI. The court did, however, reject the argument by plaintiffs that overly broad discovery be ordered as this would be ‘tantamount to requiring the defendants to turn over the contents of their filing cabinets for the plaintiffs to rummage through.’ Takeaway: Relevance and proportionality are the key factors in determining discovery orders, not format.
  • Singapore. In Deutsche Bank AG v. Chang Tse Wen (2010), the court acknowledged eDiscovery as particularly useful when the relevant data to be discovered is voluminous.  Because the parties failed to meet and confer in this case, the court ordered parties to take note of the March 2012 Practice Direction which sets out eDiscovery protocols and guidance. Takeaway: Parties must meet and confer to discuss considerations regarding ESI and be prepared to explain why the discovery sought is relevant to the case.
  • U.S. In E.I. du Pont de Nemours v. Kolon Industries (E.D. Va. July 21, 2011), the court held that defendants failed to issue a timely litigation hold.  The resulting eDiscovery sanctions culminated in a $919 million dollar verdict against the defendant South Korean company. While exposure to the FRCP for a company doing business with the U.S. should not be the only factor in determining what eDiscovery processes and technologies are implemented, it is an important consideration in light of sanctions. Takeaway:  Although discovery requirements are not currently as expansive in Asia as they are in the U.S., if conducting business with the U.S., companies may be availed to U.S. law. U.S. law requires legal hold be deployed in when litigation is reasonably anticipated.

Asia eDiscovery Exchange

On June 6-7 at the Excelsior Hotel in Hong Kong, industry experts from the legal, corporate and technology industries gathered for the Asia eDiscovery Exchange.  Jeffrey Toh of innoXcell, the organizer of the event in conjunction with the American eDJ Group, says “this is still a very new initiative in Asia, nevertheless, regulators in Asia have taken steps to implement practice directions for electronic evidence.” Exchanges like these indicate the market is ready for comprehensive solutions for proactive information governance, as well as reactive eDiscovery.  The three themes the conference touched on were information governance, eDiscovery and forensics.  Key sessions included “Social Media is surpassing email as a means of communication; What does this mean for data collection and your Information Governance Strategy” with Barry Murphy, co-founder and principal analyst, eDiscovery Journal and Chris Dale, founder, e-Disclosure Information Project, as well as “Proactive Legal Management” (with Rebecca Grant, CEO of iCourts in Australia and Philip Rohlik, Debevoise & Plimpton in Hong Kong).

The Asian market is ripe for new technologies, and the Asia eDiscovery Exchange should yield tremendous insight into the unique drivers for the APAC region and how vendors and lawyers alike are adapting to market with their offerings.  The eDiscovery Passports™ are also timely as they coincide with a marked increase in Asian business and the proposal of new data protection laws in the region.  Because the regional differences are distinct with regard to discovery, resources like this can help litigators in Asia interregionally, as well as lawyers around the world.  Thought leaders in the APAC region have come together to discuss these differences and how technology can best address the unique requirements in each jurisdiction.  The conference has made clear that information governance, archiving and eDiscovery tools are necessary in the region, even if those needs are not necessarily motivated by litigation as in the U.S. 

The Demise of The News of the World: An Analysis of “Hackgate” Through an eDiscovery Lens

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The events surrounding the troubled News Corporation media empire, under investigation for the illegal seizure of electronic evidence (ESI), are seemingly never-ending. The Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch is chairman of the New York-based parent company, News Corporation, and as a U.S. based company with subsidiaries abroad, the litigation exposure for the company is vast. News International, a U.K. subsidiary of News Corporation, shut down one of their oldest running publications, The News of the World, in July last year amid the monumental phone hacking scandal known as Hackgate. Although the paper was dissolved, allegations beginning as early as 2002 detail unethical media practices, email/phone (voicemail)/text hacking, police bribery, and the recent Leveson inquiry. This firestorm continues to plague the company and has created one of the most complex legal debacles of the modern era.

A myriad of reasons are responsible for these legal complexities that continue to unfold, including: active civil/criminal actions in both U.S. and U.K jurisdictions, questions about how evidence has been obtained and the subsequent admissibility in differing jurisdictions, public inquiries in the U.K., as well as investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Under the FCPA, American companies are prohibited from compensating representatives of a foreign government for a commercial advantage. This is particularly poignant given the recently released text messages uncovered in the Leveson inquiry, which expose alleged illegal communications between Frederic Michel, a lobbyist for News Corporation and Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, during News Corporation’s bid to acquire BSkyB during 2010-11. The bid has since been abandoned and so have Murdoch’s attempts to create the largest media empire in the world.

eDiscovery and Hackgate

To date, there have been more than 60 civil claims brought in the U.K. derived from Hackgate (many have been privately settled), not including any U.S. litigation, Operation Weeting, the Leveson inquiry, and other various concurrent investigations. Several key disclosure orders from the High Court in these civil cases have resulted in extensive discovery that points to not only a conspiracy, but to the willful destruction of evidence. The High Court judge presiding over the civil lawsuits, Geoffrey Vos, was shocked by the company’s “startling approach” to e-mail, particularly because subsequent to receiving formal requests for documents, the company still failed to preserve relevant emails. In fact, the company inquired with its email provider about how to delete those emails. Vos is quoted as saying that News International should be “treated as deliberate destroyers of evidence.”

A hard copy of an email from 2008 addressed to Mr. Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch, who at the time was a top executive of News International, is of particular interest regarding his level of knowledge about Hackgate. The email is from a thread between News Corporation’s in-house counsel to the then-editor, Colin Myler, informing James that the legal fallout from phone-hacking was imminent.  James and his father later testified that they had no knowledge of the emails and that they failed to appreciate any illegal activity regarding phone hacking at the newspaper. Apparently, the electronic copy of the email was deleted on Jan. 15, 2011 during an “e-mail stabilization and modernization program.”

As frequently discussed in the U.S., having a document retention policy is crucial to the defensible deletion of data in a corporation. That deletion must be suspended and relevant data must be place on legal hold once litigation is reasonably anticipated. Moreover, it should not be instituted in the midst of a company-wide international crisis.  What is troublesome in this scenario is that no such policy seems to have existed regarding document retention or legal hold.  If a properly deployed retention schedule existed, then the emails would have been deleted prior to 2011 as part of the normal course of business. Conversely, if there was reasonable anticipation of litigation, then given the proper issuance of legal hold, the emails surely would not have been deleted. In the U.K., case law does exist to support the need for preservation and an ESI management system that would allow for full disclosure of relevant information.

The News Corporation has both the U.S. and U.K. to contend with regarding the defensibility of their information management systems and potential sanctions. However, in either scenario, the intentional deletion of relevant evidence is an obstruction of justice (in a criminal sense). News Corporation is a prime example of a multinational corporation that is not only suffering from the repercussions of bad behavior, but one that could not mitigate these risks at the highest level due to poor information management. The need for a comprehensive information governance plan and in-house technology would have been key to any internal investigations to research and monitor alleged illegal activities of employees, as well as to responding to litigation and regulatory inquiries. A proper information management system might have obviated much of News of the World’s troubles, provided for more transparency, and potentially prevented this never-ending downward spiral.

Gartner’s “2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software” Provides a Useful Roadmap for Legal Technologists

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Gartner has just released its 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software, which is an annual report that analyzes the state of the electronic discovery industry and provides a detailed vendor-by-vendor evaluation. For many, particularly those in IT circles, Gartner is an unwavering north star used to divine software market leaders, in topics ranging from business intelligence platforms to wireless lan infrastructures. When IT professionals are on the cusp of procuring complex software, they look to analysts like Gartner for quantifiable and objective recommendations – as a way to inform and buttress their own internal decision making processes.

But for some in the legal technology field (particularly attorneys), looking to Gartner for software analysis can seem a bit foreign. Legal practitioners are often more comfortable with the “good ole days” when the only navigation aid in the eDiscovery world was provided by the dynamic duo of George Socha and Tom Gelbmanm, who (beyond creating the EDRM) were pioneers of the first eDiscovery rankings survey. Albeit somewhat short lived, their Annual Electronic Discovery[i] Survey ranked the hundreds of eDiscovery providers and bucketed the top tier players in both software and litigation support categories. The scope of their mission was grand, and they were perhaps ultimately undone by the breadth of their task (stopping the Survey in 2010), particularly as the eDiscovery landscape continued to mature, fragment and evolve.

Gartner, which has perfected the analysis of emerging software markets, appears to have taken on this challenge with an admittedly more narrow (and likely more achievable) focus. Gartner published its first Magic Quadrant (MQ) for the eDiscovery industry last year, and in the 2012 Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software report they’ve evaluated the top 21 electronic discovery software vendors. As with all Gartner MQs, their methodology is rigorous; in order to be included, vendors must meet quantitative requirements in market penetration and customer base and are then evaluated upon criteria for completeness of vision and ability to execute.

By eliminating the legion of service providers and law firms, Gartner has made their mission both more achievable and perhaps (to some) less relevant. When talking to certain law firms and litigation support providers, some seem to treat the Gartner initiative (and subsequent Magic Quadrant) like a map from a land they never plan to visit. But, even if they’re not directly procuring eDiscovery software, the Gartner MQ should still be seen by legal technologists as an invaluable tool to navigate the perils of the often confusing and shifting eDiscovery landscape – particularly with the rash of recent M&A activity.

Beyond the quadrant positions[ii], comprehensive analysis and secular market trends, one of the key underpinnings of the Magic Quadrant is that the ultimate position of a given provider is in many ways an aggregate measurement of overall customer satisfaction. Similar in ways to the net promoter concept (which is a tool to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships simply by asking how likely that customer is to recommend a product/service to a colleague), the Gartner MQ can be looked at as the sum total of all customer experiences.[iii] As such, this usage/satisfaction feedback is relevant even for parties that aren’t purchasing or deploying electronic discovery software per se. Outside counsel, partners, litigation support vendors and other interested parties may all end up interacting with a deployed eDiscovery solution (particularly when such solutions have expanded their reach as end-to-end information governance platforms) and they should want their chosen solution to used happily and seamlessly in a given enterprise. There’s no shortage of stories about unhappy outside counsel (for example) that complain about being hamstrung by a slow, first generation eDiscovery solution that ultimately makes their job harder (and riskier).

Next, the Gartner MQ also is a good short-handed way to understand more nuanced topics like time to value and total cost of ownership. While of course related to overall satisfaction, the Magic Quadrant does indirectly address the query about whether the software does what it says it will (delivering on the promise) in the time frame that is claimed (delivering the promise in a reasonable time frame) since these elements are typically subsumed in the satisfaction metric. This kind of detail is disclosed in the numerous interviews that Gartner conducts to go behind the scenes, querying usage and overall satisfaction.

While no navigation aid ensures that a traveler won’t get lost, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software is a useful map of the electronic discovery software world. And, particularly looking at year-over-year trends, the MQ provides a useful way for legal practitioners (beyond the typical IT users) to get a sense of the electronic discovery market landscape as it evolves and matures. After all, staying on top of the eDiscovery industry has a range of benefits beyond just software procurement.

Please register here to access the Gartner Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software.

About the Magic Quadrant
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.



[i] Note, in the good ole days folks still used two words to describe eDiscovery.

[ii] Gartner has a proprietary matrix that it uses to place the entities into four quadrants: Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players.

[iii] Under the Ability to Execute axis Gartner weighs a number of factors including “Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services or programs that enable clients to succeed with the products evaluated. Specifically, this criterion includes implementation experience, and the ways customers receive technical support or account support. It can also include ancillary tools, the existence and quality of customer support programs, availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.”

7th Circuit eDiscovery Pilot Program Tackles Technology Assisted Review With Mock Arguments

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The 7th Circuit eDiscovery Pilot Program’s Mock Argument is the first of its kind and is slated for June 14, 2012.  It is not surprising that the Seventh Circuit’s eDiscovery Pilot Program would be the first to host an event like this on predictive coding, as the program has been a progressive model across the country for eDiscovery protocols since 2009.  The predictive coding event is open to the public (registration required) and showcases the expertise of leading litigators, technologists and experts from all over the United States.  Speakers include: Jason R. Baron, Director of Litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration; Maura R. Grossman, Counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Dr. David Lewis, Technology Expert and co-founder of the TREC Legal Track; Ralph Losey, Partner at Jackson Lewis; Matt Nelson, eDiscovery Counsel at Symantec; Lisa Rosen, President of Rosen Technology ResourcesJeff Sharer, Partner at Sidley Austin; and Tomas Thompson, Senior Associate at DLA Piper.

The eDiscovery 2.0 blog has extensively covered the three recent predictive coding cases currently being litigated, and while real court cases are paramount to the direction of predictive coding, the 7th Circuit program will proactively address a scenario that has not yet been considered by a court.  In Da Silva Moore, the parties agreed to the use of predictive coding, but couldn’t subsequently agree on the protocol.  In Kleen, plaintiffs want defendants to redo their review process using predictive coding even though the production is 99% complete.  And, in Global Aerospace the defendant proactively petitioned to use predictive coding over plaintiff’s objections.  By contrast, in the 7th Circuit’s hypothetical, the mock argument predicts another likely predictive coding scenario; the instance where a defendant has a deployed in-house solution in place and argues against the use of predictive coding before discovery has begun.

Traditionally, courts have been reticent to bless or admonish technology, but rather rule on the reasonableness of an organization’s process and depend on expert testimony for issues beyond that scope.  It is expected that predictive coding will follow suit; however, because so little is understood about how the technology works, interest has been generated in a way the legal technology industry has not seen before, as evidenced by this tactical program.

* * *

The hypothetical dispute is a complex litigation matter pending in a U.S. District Court involving a large public corporation that has been sued by a smaller high-tech competitor for alleged anticompetitive conduct, unfair competition and various business torts.  The plaintiff has filed discovery requests that include documents and communications maintained by the defendant corporation’s vast international sales force.  To expedite discovery and level the playing field in terms of resources and costs, the Plaintiff has requested the use of predictive coding to identify and produce responsive documents.  The defendant, wary of the latest (and untested) eDiscovery technology trends, argues that the organization already has a comprehensive eDiscovery program in place.  The defendant will further argue that the technological investment and defensible processes in-house are more than sufficient for comprehensive discovery, and in fact, were designed in order to implement a repeatable and defensible discovery program.  The methodology of the defendant is estimated to take months and result in the typical massive production set, whereas predictive coding would allegedly make for a shorter discovery period.  Because of the burden, the defendant plans to shift some of these costs to the plaintiff.

Ralph Losey’s role will be as the Magistrate Judge, defense counsel will be Martin T. Tully (partner Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP), with Karl Schieneman (of Review Less/ESI Bytes) as the litigation support manager for the corporation and plaintiff’s counsel will be Sean Byrne (eDiscovery solutions director at Axiom) with Herb Roitblat (of OrcaTec) as plaintiff’s eDiscovery consultant.

As the hottest topic in the eDiscovery world, the promises of predictive coding include: increased search accuracy for relevant documents, decreased cost and time spent for manual review, and possibly greater insight into an organization’s corpus of data allowing for more strategic decision making with regard to early case assessment.  The practical implications of predictive coding use are still to be determined and programs like this one will flesh out some of those issues before they get to the courts, which is good for practitioners and judges alike.  Stay tuned for an analysis of the arguments, as well as a link to the video.

Courts Increasingly Cognizant of eDiscovery Burdens, Reject “Gotcha” Sanctions Demands

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Courts are becoming increasingly cognizant of the eDiscovery burdens that the information explosion has placed on organizations. Indeed, the cases from 2012 are piling up in which courts have rejected demands that sanctions be imposed for seemingly reasonable information retention practices. The recent case of Grabenstein v. Arrow Electronics (D. Colo. April 23, 2012) is another notable instance of this trend.

In Grabenstein, the court refused to sanction a company for eliminating emails pursuant to a good faith document retention policy. The plaintiff had argued that drastic sanctions (evidence, adverse inference and monetary) should be imposed on the company since relevant emails regarding her alleged disability were not retained in violation of both its eDiscovery duties and an EEOC regulatory retention obligation. The court disagreed, finding that sanctions were inappropriate because the emails were not deleted before the duty to preserve was triggered: “Plaintiff has not provided any evidence that Defendant deleted e-mails after the litigation hold was imposed.”

Furthermore, the court declined to issue sanctions of any kind even though it found that the company deleted emails in violation of its EEOC regulatory retention duty. The court adopted this seemingly incongruous position because the emails were overwritten pursuant to a reasonable document retention policy:

“there is no evidence to show that the e-mails were destroyed in other than the normal course of business pursuant to Defendant’s e-mail retention policy or that Defendant intended to withhold unfavorable information from Plaintiff.”

The Grabenstein case reinforces the principle that reasonable information retention and eDiscovery processes can and often do trump sanctions requests. Just like the defendant in Grabenstein, organizations should develop and follow a retention policy that eliminates data stockpiles before litigation is reasonably anticipated. Grabenstein also demonstrates the value of deploying a timely and comprehensive litigation hold process to ensure that relevant electronically stored information (ESI) is retained once a preservation duty is triggered. These principles are consistent with various other recent cases, including a decision last month in which pharmaceutical giant Pfizer defeated a sanctions motion by relying on its “good faith business procedures” to eliminate legacy materials before a duty to preserve arose.

The Grabenstein holding also spotlights the role that proportionality can play in determining the extent of a party’s preservation duties. The Grabenstein court reasoned that sanctions would be inappropriate since plaintiff managed to obtain the destroyed emails from an alternative source. Without expressly mentioning “proportionality,” the court implicitly drew on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2)(C) to reach its “no harm, no foul” approach to plaintiff’s sanctions request. Rule 2626(b)(2)(C)(i) empowers a court to limit discovery when it is “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive.” Given that plaintiff actually had the emails in question and there was no evidence suggesting other ESI had been destroyed, proportionality standards tipped the scales against the sanctions request.

The Grabenstein holding is good news for organizations looking to reduce their eDiscovery costs and burdens. By refusing to accede to a tenuous sanctions motion and by following principles of proportionality, the court sustained reasonableness over “gotcha” eDiscovery tactics. If courts adhere to the Grabenstein mantra that preservation and production should be reasonable and proportional, organizations truly stand a better chance of seeing their litigation costs and burdens reduced accordingly.

Will Predictive Coding Live Up to the eDiscovery Hype?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The myriad of published material regarding predictive coding technology has almost universally promised reduced costs and lighter burdens for the eDiscovery world. Indeed, until the now famous order was issued in the Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe case “approving” the use of predictive coding, many in the industry had parroted this “lower costs/lighter burdens” mantra like the retired athletes who chanted “tastes great/less filling” during the 1970s Miller Lite commercials. But a funny thing happened on the way to predictive coding satisfying the cost cutting mandate of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1: the same old eDiscovery story of high costs and lengthy delays are plaguing the initial outlay of this technology. The three publicized cases involving predictive coding are particularly instructive on this early, but troubling development.

Predictive Coding Cases

In Moore v. Publicis Groupe, the plaintiffs’ attempt to recuse Judge Peck has diverted the spotlight from the costs and delays associated with use of predictive coding. Indeed, the parties have been wrangling for months over the parameters of using this technology for defendant MSL’s document review. During that time, each side has incurred substantial attorney fees and other costs to address fairly routine review issues. This tardiness figures to continue as the parties now project that MSL’s production will not be complete until September 7, 2012. Even that date seems too sanguine, particularly given Judge Peck’s recent observation about the slow pace of production: “You’re now woefully behind schedule already at the first wave.” Moreover, Judge Peck has suggested on multiple occasions that a special master be appointed to address disagreements over relevance designations. Special masters, production delays, additional briefings and related court hearings all lead to the inescapable conclusion that the parties will be saddled with a huge eDiscovery bill (despite presumptively lower review costs) due to of the use of predictive coding technology.

The Kleen Products v. Packing Corporation case is also plagued by cost and delay issues. As explained in our post on this case last month, the plaintiffs are demanding a “do-over” of the defendants’ document production, insisting that predictive coding technology be used instead of keyword search and other analytical tools. Setting aside plaintiffs’ arguments, the costs the parties have incurred in connection with this motion are quickly mounting. After submitting briefings on the issues, the court has now held two hearings on the matter, including a full day of testimony from the parties’ experts. With another “Discovery Hearing” now on the docket for May 22nd, predictive coding has essentially turned an otherwise routine document production query into an expensive, time consuming sideshow with no end in sight.

Cost and delay issues may very well trouble the parties in the Global Aerospace v. Landow Aviation matter, too. In Global Aerospace, the court acceded to the defendants’ request to use predictive coding technology over the plaintiffs’ objections. Despite allowing the use of such technology, the court provided plaintiffs with the opportunity to challenge the “completeness or the contents of the production or the ongoing use of predictive coding technology.” Such a condition essentially invites plaintiffs to re-litigate their objections through motion practice. Moreover, like the proverbial “exception that swallows the rule,” the order allows for the possibility that the court could withdraw its approval of predictive coding technology. All of which could lead to seemingly endless discovery motions, production “re-dos” and inevitable cost and delay issues.

Better Times Ahead?

At present, the Da Silva Moore, Kleen Products and Global Aerospace cases do not suggest that predictive coding technology will “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Nevertheless, there is room for considerable optimism that predictive coding will ultimately succeed. Technological advances in the industry will provide greater transparency into the black box of predictive coding technology that to date has not existed. Additional advances should also lead to easy-to-use workflow management consoles, which will in turn increase defensibility of the process and satisfy legitimate concerns regarding production results, such as those raised by the plaintiffs in Moore and Global Aerospace.

Technological advances that also increase the accuracy of first generation predictive coding tools should yield greater understanding and acceptance about the role predictive coding can play in eDiscovery. As lawyers learn to trust the reliability of transparent predictive coding, they will appreciate how this tool can be deployed in various scenarios (e.g., prioritization, quality assurance for linear review, full scale production) and in connection with existing eDiscovery technologies. In addition, such understanding will likely facilitate greater cooperation among counsel, a lynchpin for expediting the eDiscovery process. This is evident from the Moore, Kleen Products and Global Aerospace cases, where a lack of cooperation has caused increased costs and delays.

With the promise of transparency and simpler workflows, predictive coding technology should eventually live up to its billing of helping organizations discover their information in an efficient, cost effective and defensible manner.  As for now, the “promise” of first generation predictive coding tools appears to be nothing more than that, leaving organizations looking like the cash-strapped “Monopoly man,” wondering where there litigation dollars have gone.

Morton’s Fork, Oil Filters the Nexus with Information Governance

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Those old enough to have watched TV in the early eighties will undoubtedly remember the FRAM oil slogan where the mechanic utters his iconic catchphrase: “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”  The gist of the vintage ad was that the customer could either pay a small sum now for the replacement of oil filter, or a far greater sum later for the replacement of the car’s entire engine.

This choice between two unpleasant alternatives is sometimes called a Morton’s Fork (but typically only when both choices are equal in difficulty).  The saying (not to be confused with the equally colorful Hobson’s Choice) apparently originated with the collection of taxes by John Morton (the Archbishop of Canterbury) in the late 15th century.  Morton was apparently fond of saying that a man living modestly must be saving money and could therefore afford to pay taxes, whereas if he was living extravagantly then he was obviously rich and could still afford them.[i]

This “pay me now/pay me later” scenario perplexes many of today’s organizations as they try to effectively govern (i.e., understand, discover and retain) electronically stored information (ESI).  The challenge is similar to the oil filter conundrum, in that companies can often make rather modest up-front retention/deletion decisions that help prevent monumental, downstream eDiscovery charges.

This exponential gap has been illustrated recently by a number of surveys contrasting the cost of storage with the cost of conducting basic eDiscovery tasks (such as preservation, collection, processing, review and production).  In a recent AIIM webcast it was noted that “it costs about 20¢/day to buy 1GB of storage, but it costs around $3,500 to review that same gigabyte of storage.” And, it turns out that the $3,500 review estimate (which sounds prohibitively expensive, particularly at scale) may actually be on the conservative side.  While the review phase is roughly 70 percent of the total eDiscovery costs – there is the other 30% that includes upstream costs for preservation, collection and processing.

Similarly, in a recent Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) paper the authors noted that eDiscovery costs range anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 per gigabyte, citing the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology.  This $30,000 figure is also roughly in line with other per-gigabyte eDiscovery costs, according to a recent survey by the RAND Corporation.  In an article entitled “Where the Money Goes — Understanding Litigant Expenditures for Producing Electronic Discovery” authors Nicholas M. Pace and Laura Zakaras conducted an extensive analysis and concluded that “… the total costs per gigabyte reviewed were generally around $18,000, with the first and third quartiles in the 35 cases with complete information at $12,000 and $30,000, respectively.”

Given these range of estimates, the $18,000 per gigabyte metric is probably a good midpoint figure that advocates of information governance can use to contrast with the exponentially lower baseline costs of buying and maintaining storage.  It is this stark (and startling) gap between pure information costs and the expenses of eDiscovery that shows how important it is to calculate latent “information risk.”  If you also add in the risks for sanctions due to spoliation, the true (albeit still murky) information risk portrait comes into focus.  It is this calculation that is missing when legal goes to bat to argue about the necessity of information governance solutions, particularly when faced with the host of typical objections (“storage is cheap” … “keep everything” … “there’s no ROI for proactive information governance programs”).

The good news is that as the eDiscovery market continues to evolve, practitioners (legal and IT alike) will come to a better and more holistic understanding of the latent information risk costs that the unchecked proliferation of data causes.  It will be this increased level of transparency that permits the budding information governance trend to become a dominant umbrella concept that unites Legal and IT.



[i] Insert your own current political joke here…

Look Before You Leap! Avoiding Pitfalls When Moving eDiscovery to the Cloud

Monday, May 7th, 2012

It’s no surprise that the eDiscovery frenzy gripping the American legal system over the past decade has become increasingly expensive.  Particularly costly to organizations is the process of preserving and collecting documents, a fact repeatedly emphasized by the Advisory Committee in its report regarding the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP).  These aspects of discovery are often lengthy and can be disruptive to business operations.  Just as troubling, they increase the duration and expense of litigation.

Because these costs and delays affect the courts as well as clients, it comes as no surprise that judges have now heightened their expectation for how organizations store, manage and discover their electronically stored information (ESI).  Gone are the days when enterprises could plead ignorance for not preserving or producing their data in an efficient, cost effective and defensible manner.  Organizations must now follow best practices – both during and before litigation – if they are to safely navigate the stormy seas of eDiscovery.

The importance of deploying such practices applies acutely to those organizations that are exploring “cloud”-based alternatives to traditional methods for preserving and producing electronic information.  Under the right circumstances, the cloud may represent a fantastic opportunity to streamline the eDiscovery process for an organization.  Yet it could also turn into a dangerous liaison if the cloud offering is not properly scrutinized for basic eDiscovery functionality.  Indeed, the City of Los Angeles’s recent decision to partially disengage from its cloud service provider exemplifies this admonition to “look before you leap” to the cloud.  Thus, before selecting a cloud provider for eDiscovery, organizations should be particularly careful to ensure that a provider has the ability both to efficiently retrieve data from the cloud and to issue litigation hold notices.

Effective Data Retrieval Requires Efficient Data Storage

The hype surrounding the cloud has generally focused on the opportunity for cheap and unlimited storage of information.  Storage, however, is only one of many factors to consider in selecting a cloud-based eDiscovery solution.  To be able to meet the heightened expectations of courts and regulatory bodies, organizations must have the actual – not theoretical – ability to retrieve their data in real time.  Otherwise, they may not be able to satisfy eDiscovery requests from courts or regulatory bodies, let alone the day-to-day demands of their operations.

A key step to retrieving company data in a timely manner is to first confirm whether the cloud offering can intelligently organize that information such that organizations can quickly respond to discovery requests and other legal demands.  This includes the capacity to implement and observe company retention protocols.  Just like traditional data archiving software, the cloud must enable automated retention rules and thus limit the retention of information to a designated time period.  This will enable data to be expired once it reaches the end of that period.

The pool of data can be further decreased through single instance storage.  This deduplication technology eliminates redundant data by preserving only a master copy of each document placed into the cloud.  This will reduce the amount of data that needs to be identified, preserved, collected and reviewed as part of any discovery process.  For while unlimited data storage may seem ideal now, reviewing unlimited amounts of data will quickly become a logistical and costly nightmare.

Any viable cloud offering should also have the ability to suspend automated document retention/deletion rules to ensure the adequate preservation of relevant information.  This goes beyond placing a hold on archival data in the cloud.  It requires that an organization have the ability to identify the data sources in the cloud that may contain relevant information and then modify aspects of its retention policies to ensure that cloud-stored data is retained for eDiscovery.  Taking this step will enable an organization to create a defensible document retention strategy and be protected from court sanctions under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e) “safe harbor.”  The decision from Viramontes v. U.S. Bancorp (N.D. Ill. Jan. 27, 2011) is particularly instructive on this issue.

In Viramontes, the defendant bank defeated a sanctions motion because it timely modified aspects of its email retention policy.  The bank implemented a policy that kept emails for 90 days, after which the emails were deleted.  That policy was promptly suspended, however, once litigation was reasonably foreseeable.  Because the bank followed that procedure in good faith, it was protected from sanctions under Rule 37(e).

As the Viramontes case shows, an organization can be prepared for eDiscovery disputes by appropriately suspending aspects of its document retention policies.  By creating and then faithfully observing a policy that requires retention policies be suspended on the occurrence of litigation or other triggering event, an organization can develop a defensible retention procedure. Having such eDiscovery functionality in a cloud provider will likely facilitate an organization’s eDiscovery process and better insulate it from litigation disasters.

The Ability to Issue Litigation Hold Notices

To be effective for eDiscovery purposes, a cloud service provider must also enable an organization to deploy a litigation hold to prevent users from destroying data. Unless the cloud has litigation hold technology, the entire discovery process may very well collapse.  For electronic data to be produced in litigation, it must first be preserved.  And it cannot be preserved if the key players or data source custodians are unaware that such information must be retained.  Indeed, employees and data sources may discard and overwrite electronically stored information if they are oblivious to a preservation duty.

A cloud service provider should therefore enable automated legal hold acknowledgements.  Such technology will allow custodians to be promptly and properly notified of litigation and thereby retain information that might otherwise have been discarded.  Inadequate litigation hold technology leaves organizations vulnerable to data loss and court punishment.

Conclusion

Confirming that a cloud offering can quickly retrieve and efficiently store enterprise data while effectively deploying litigation hold notices will likely address the basic concerns regarding its eDiscovery functionality. Yet these features alone will not make that solution the model of eDiscovery cloud providers. Advanced search capabilities should also be included to reduce the amount of data that must be analyzed and reviewed downstream. In addition, the cloud ought to support load files in compatible formats for export to third party review software. The cloud should additionally provide an organization with a clear audit trail establishing that neither its documents, nor their metadata were modified when transmitted to the cloud.  Without this assurance, an organization may not be able to comply with key regulations or establish the authenticity of its data in court. Finally, ensure that these provisions are memorialized in the service level agreement governing the relationship between the organization and the cloud provider.