E-Discovery Certification For Litigation Support Folks?
In all of the recent discussion about creating a certification for Litigation Support professionals to measure their proficiency in working with electronic discovery, I've always felt a strong push against the idea, but could never really articulate what about it bothered me.
Today, in reading Chris Dale's blog post about it, it clicked for me. Here's the relevant part to this discussion, but you should go read all of it, and the post he links to that started this conversation as well.
My own contribution to the article goes more to the distinction between education and the need for a piece of paper to show that you have been educated. I see it as a costly barrier to entry in an area which needs recruits (nursing is the obvious parallel in the UK) and as something which aims at the wrong target. It is not the litigation support people whose actions or inaction cause the problems, but the lawyers.
I've seen Chris write about it being a barrier to entry and thought that, while I see his point, and it's something that will need to be addressed, it didn't quite hit me where my gut was on this, but the second part of this paragraph definitely does.
Here's the situation as I see it. There are folks who work in this industry who want to be taken seriously by the rest of the legal industry. Of course, other areas of the legal industry have certifications, so we should have one too. Let's put together an ediscovery certification to prove that we're experts in this new and exciting area.
There's just a couple of problems with that. Chris points out the first one, many times in a law firm, it's not the Lit Support folks who are advising clients on collection, or writing ediscovery requests, it's the lawyers. Yes, in a perfect world they are including the Litigation Support folks in that process, but we are far from a perfect world. The real world contains plenty of lawyers who don't actually know enough about ediscovery to even realize they should be looking for technical expertise. Having a certified ediscovery person working in Litigation Support doesn't mean anything if the lawyer above them is clueless about ediscovery and doesn't get them involved. From a clients perspective who do you want to deal with, the outside firm that has a Litigation Support person who's certified, or the firm that has an attorney who's an ediscovery expert? It's the attorney who's going to be appearing at conferences, writing your requests and responding to requests, advising you on proper collection, representing you to the court, etc. The Litigation Support folks may have some input into these things, but I know which one of the two I'd want to be an expert! Unfortunately, the push for certification seems mostly to be aimed at the Litigation Support people, which is not where it will have the most impact.
The second thing the post brought to mind, for me, is that ediscovery is not the end-all be-all of working in Litigation Support. In fact, how much of the day-to-day work is dealing with ediscovery can be very, very different from law firm to law firm, or between different corporate law departments. In some firms, a litigation paralegal might be much more involved with helping the attorney with case management, and the Lit Support folks may do the heavy technical lifting, while in other firms, it's the Litigation Support folks who are doing the work with ediscovery strategy while the paralegal works on more administrative things, and the IT department does more of the heavy lifting in terms of handling data. It's not a one-size fits all discipline. I know, speaking for myself, that while I do deal with handling ediscovery and getting it into review platforms and production sets put together to send to opposing sides, etc. that its not the only thing I need to know about to do my job well. My job also involves quite a bit of technical work with Excel, Acrobat, Powerpoint, etc. I do a fair amount of training, and internal marketing. I work with video and audio files, I put together presentations and setup presentation equipment. Being a certified ediscovery expert doesn't guarantee that I'd be any good at any of these other things, which are still very much part of my job as a Litigation Support Pro. Other people in this industry are responsible for some of the same things I am, and some are responsible for doing things like programming, that I don't do at all. It's a real mixed bag.
Do I need an understanding of ediscovery? Absolutely. I also need plenty of other things. Are there resources out there to educate myself about ediscovery? Tons! Does having a certification program offer me anything that these resources don't already? I'm not seeing it, outside of the piece of paper I can take back to my firm as "proof" that I have worked at being educated. Maybe that has some value, in some circumstances, but I don't see that it's a huge priority item for many of us. We're already swamped with work, and do our best to stay on top of things and keep informed. Many of us hold certifications that are directly related to the tools we use, and the way we work. I don't think adding yet another, very broad, certification is going to do more than add another expense at a time when we are cutting them every way we can. Personally, if given the choice, I'd rather spend my educational budget on something else, something specific that our firm can use right now, not on getting a certification that doesn't mean anything to our clients.
But, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that's exactly what our clients want to see, the piece of paper, even if it's not in the hands of the attorney who works directly with them!
In light of last week's announcement of changes at Blogger, I've decided to go ahead and take the plunge. I'm going to be converting this blog over to Wordpress. Of course, with over 8 years of customizations to the site, it's not going to be a simple process to convert everything, so just be aware that it's going to be going on if/when you see some things looking wonky around here. In fact, the site will probably disappear for a few hours sometime later this week, as I move it to a different server in preparation for the Wordpress install.
Of course, since I have to be in court tomorrow, nothing starts until I'm comfortable with the knowledge that I won't be spending any of my evenings and weekends working, at least long enough to see this transition through. Given the industry I work in, you'll forgive me if plans change and I have to put this off a little bit.
Last week, I was fully prepared to be working long hours for the entire month of February, and things changed suddenly. It's the nature of the business really. You never know when, or if, a case that you're preparing to go to trial, will settle. It often ends up with us doing a whole lot of prep work, only to find that it never gets used, but you still have to do all the work the same way for every case, because some of them don't settle and you have to be ready to go in court!
Anyway, consider yourselves warned, and hang on. It's going to be a bumpy ride for a bit, but I think we'll all be better off in the end for it!
Given the fact that "The findings are in contrast to those of three years ago, when most respondents believed e-discovery belonged entirely to the law department." I think what we see here is a case where legal professionals approached ESI as they have every other legal problem that they come across, mainly as one they can handle without outside assistance, and over the course of the last couple of years, have begun to realize that they might be wrong.
Certainly, electronic discovery as a legal issue is discovery just as it's always been, but in our interconnected, technological world, locating and producing data requires a bit more than a law degree. Law school doesn't teach you how networks work, how mobile devices work, how Web 2.0 technologies work, or how to access data that might be stored in SQL backends. So, in order to develop a full strategy for ediscovery, you need IT's expertise, and oh by the way, it wouldn't hurt if more lawyers had some basic technical skills in this area, hence the push for some new law school classes covering it.
Oh, and yes, I see both trends as a positive. Lawyers, in general, need much more education about technology and ESI. Maybe, armed with that knowledge, they'll also know when they need to ask for help, and where to get it, too!
I agree with all of the points Bill makes, except one. Can you guess which one?
First, create written email use policies that forbid employees from ever accessing their personal email accounts at work from employer provided equipment. Second, Include in the above mentioned policy that company related records are never to be sent or received from personal email accounts. Third, explain to employees that if they violate the policy, they could be fired. Forth, explain that if they were to violate the policy, attorneys, including opposing counsel may be reading their personal emails in discovery some day. Fifth, create a way within your infrastructure to send and receive large files so employees don’t have to fall back to using their personal email accounts to send or receive large business related files.
Here's my thought. If you do steps 2-5, you don't necessarily need to do step 1. Most employees, when they have the resources through their IT department, aren't going to bother to use their personal email account to send work information. Especially if someone explains that it means the legal department might have to go through their personal email account!
Blocking personal email accounts does add an extra level of certainty about employees sending work information, but it also adds another thing to think about. If none of your employees can access their personal email during the 8-10 or more hours they are in the office, their work email address will become their personal email address. You will be storing, archiving, and searching a whole bunch of extra stuff that you wouldn't even have to worry about if they could just use their web-based email account during that time. That can end up being a whole lot of extra ESI when it comes down to it.
It does make me wonder if it's worth it. I don't know for sure, but it's something to consider.
I mentioned the E-Discovery Reading Room site the other day and even suggested it'd be cool to have their blogroll put out as an OPML file for everyone to just load up in Google Reader or some other RSS feed reader. As it turns out, the next day I got an email from someone affiliated with the site asking about that, so I went ahead and created an OPML file for it, and passed it on to them.
Since, I was creating it, I thought I'd share it with you all as well, so go ahead and grab the OPML file and import it to your favorite RSS application.
Do note though, that it is slightly different than their blogroll list in this way. Since Craig Ball is basically blogging at EDD Update, I just have the EDD Update feed in here, knowing that would include Craig's blogging. Also, the Sedona Conference, while having a wealth of information, doesn't appear to have a feed that I could subscribe to. So, there's no way to include them in an OPML file.
Brightalk is hosting a day long series of webinars covering various aspects of electronic discovery tomorrow, Dec. 10, 2009. Looks like there's some good stuff planned, and you can't beat the price, free!
Personally, I'm going to tied up much of the day, but will be registering so I can check out the recordings afterward!
The fine folks over at the Posse List put together a website called the E-Discovery Reading room, at ediscoveryreadingroom.com which, upon first look, appears to have about the most information on ediscovery news that I've ever seen in one place!
Of special note for the RSS feedreader users among us is the E-Discovery Blogroll, featuring some of the best minds on the subject. Now if we could just get them to roll that into an OPML file or something for easy mass-subscribing!
Good stuff, and definitely a resource worth keeping an eye on!
Just a couple of quick notes from my experience working on trial presentation.
First, and this may be more difficult than it seems at first blush, try to get the attorney to communicate with the other side, not just the court, about what your plans on for using technology. Many times when we plan on using technology at court, it's assumed the other side isn't, and in most cases that's true. We go through the details of talking to the court, maybe planning with them about how we could set it up and how we could work it during the trial.
Recently, however, I came into a hearing on day one and was surprised to find the other side's trial technician already setting up a screen and tables, etc. It occurs to me that, had I known ahead of time, we could have coordinated on sharing equipment and lessened the loads of stuff we had to transport. Obviously, we would each have our own laptops to present from, but things like screens, tables, projectors, monitors, laser pointers, etc. could easily be shared, and coordinated ahead of time.
I may have to add that to my checklist of things to go over with attorneys and paralegals before going to court.
The other tip is one I wish I had thought of before I needed it. Pack a couple of energy bars, Snickers bars, or other snacks to have on hand. You never know when attorneys are going to decide to push through the lunch hour to try and finish up a trial or hearing, or if they do break for lunch, you may find yourself editing a presentation script or video clip instead of taking a lunch break. Might not hurt to have something quick to munch on during a break. You don't want a silent pause in witness testimony to be interrupted by your belly rumbling! (No, mine didn't, but I was rather hungry by the time we wrapped up the hearing and got all the equipment packed up and transported!)
I found it somewhat interesting that both of these articles came to my attention yesterday, as they both deal with something I haven't seen many people talk about, let alone firms that actually embrace the idea. They both mention the importance of non-lawyer staff of law firms in building relationships, networking, and attracting clients to the firm.
Both postsfit in to what I've been saying for a long time about Social Networking and why you should actually encourage it. It's networking, and networking, assuming you've hired good people you can trust, is always a plus for your organization. When the good people you hired go out and represent you, they make your organization attractive to potential clients, potential hires, and the public in general. In turn, during a time when it's absolutely vital that you can show your value to your organization, what better value can you bring to the table than attracting new clients or good hires to your employer?
I'm not saying this takes the place of doing a good job. Not by a long shot, but in a tight budget tough decisions about who gets promoted, or who gets a raise, or even who gets laid off, have to be made. Whenever you can bring in a little extra value, you have to try and do it!
Let me give you an example. Last year, we were facing a tough budget decision about whether I would be able to go to the ILTA Conference. No one questioned that there would be value in me going, but how much value was another question. However, when I was asked to speak, suddenly, there was no question. Now, not only was I getting the value of attending the conference and all the networking that goes with that, but I was also publicly representing the firm as a speaker. That extra value really helped clear the way to me going, and of course, that speaking opportunity was brought about by connections I've made through online networking.
Of course, I've also been heard to say that clients don't hire a law firm because their tech guy is so good, even in Litigation Support. I do still believe that in general. If a lawyer is a jerk, me being a nice guy and great at what I do isn't going to help push a client to hire us. Still, if a decision is being made between two otherwise equal attorneys, if the Lit Support person that you know you'll also have to work with to some degree is someone you have interacted with already, that can help push it in the right direction for you. Sometimes, it really is just the smallest little "extras" you bring to the table that make all the difference.
What do you think? Should firms embrace the idea that even non-lawyer staff represent them and should be encouraged to engage online? Or is that still too scary for most?
Many of you may already know this, and to some extent I'm marking this here for my own purposes, but you can download the Enron data set from the EDRM website and use it as sample data for testing purposes. Personally, I'm going to grab some of the data for testing, and for training. Never hurts to have publicly available documents to use in training for Summation, Trial Director, or whatever other litigation tools we're using.
It helps avoid the risk of showing people documents they shouldn't see this way. :)
Since I was in Indianapolis this weekend, for my niece's birthday, a stop at Fry's was on order before heading home. Turns out they were running a special on a Western Digital 1.5TB external hard drives. Until Nov. 19 they are $99.99. Naturally, I picked one up while we were in town, and immediately made plans for rearranging my backup workflow over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
A 1.5TB drive should allow me to take my current dual 250GB drives that currently act as two copies of our photos and other documents, into just the first copy, with the backups being on the 1.5TB, along with my Time Machine backup of my Macbook Pro, and perhaps some video storage. Not a bad pickup for a hundred bucks.
Of course, that was my first impression. My second thought was, of course, about the e-discovery implications of having that much storage available that cheaply. Not that I'm all that worried about being sued myself, but for small business, we've surely reached the point where the temptation to simply keep everything is going to be overwhelming. You can keep a lot of stuff on a 1TB drive, more than a typical 5-10 person office is currently using up, and then you can double that storage for very little by buying a new 1TB drive cheaply. Creating a retention policy is much more work, and maybe even much more cost, right up until they get served with a discovery request for the first time and have to try and find relevant documents.
After all, with storage that available, the days of an attorney coming in and reviewing documents without doing any sort of in-depth search, are gone. There's simply no way to look at everything that might be stored on a 1TB drive, let alone a few of them, at a reasonable cost in a reasonable time.
Good search is definitely the future, at least I hope so! ;)
I forgot to mention this earlier, probably because the "official" announcement came out while I was on vacation sans laptop, but I am officially certified as a Trial Director 5 trainer.
Now, since I can't really do much training outside of my own firm, the certification doesn't mean much. (It'd be a conflict of interest to train other firm's attorneys.) But, since I needed to get as much in-depth training as possible in order to put together our own attorney educational program on how we could use the software at trial, or at depositions, it makes sense to go ahead and get the certification. If nothing else, it tends to make attorneys stand up an take ever so slightly more notice when you can throw some initials on your credentials.
Then again, I'm an SCT, Summation Certified Trainer already, and I have no idea if there are initials in common use for this certification. (TDCT? Anyone?)
At any rate, it never hurts to drop the new certification on a resume or LinkedIn profile. While I don't have any plans to put that to use, you just never know!
So, now that I am armed with all of that technical know-how with Trial Director, the next step is going to be convincing our attorneys to put it to good use, and convincing our clients that the extra cost is worth it for their case. I have a feeling the certification tests are going to prove much easier than the sales job I'm about to embark on, but it's all part it. As with any tech tool, it's only powerful if it gets used. As much as I think we could use Trial Director for, I've got to convince others of that now, so if anyone out there has been through this and has some tips, I'm all ears!
Just a couple of things I saw in my email today on my return to the office, which will have to suffice for a blog post until I get back to being on Eastern Standard Time! :)
First, you should take a look at Kroll's ESI Trends Report. I haven't looked at this yet, but it usually has some good information about where we're headed with electronically stored information.
Secondly, back in September we had a statewide ILTA Lit Support meeting here in Columbus, and the sessions were videotaped. They are currently available over at ILTA's Youtube channel. There was some good information in those sessions as well, so if you weren't in the vicinity of Ohio or couldn't make it, you can check out the sessions there.
Photos from the trip to Vegas, and a return to regular blogging to come, soon!
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you're probably aware that things have been quiet here because I've been out of town. I was in Phoenix last week for 3 days of Trial Director Certification/Training, and with the hotel wifi being rather lame, I haven't been around to update the blog. :)
Anyway, the training was great. I definitely have much more understanding of how to use Trial Director and all of the available features we could use. It's a pretty powerful tool! The key is going to be figuring out how to demonstrate a few features to the attorneys so that they get a feel for what we can do in a trial setting, without overwhelming them with too much information.
The other challenge, of course, is that I think there's a ton of stuff we could do with Trial Director, not just at trial, at arbitration hearings, depositions, and even in some presentations to clients, but I'm the only one who has spent the 3 days being trained to use it all. So, either I have to find a way to start training some of our paralegals, or I'm going to be spending a lot more time working on putting on presentations with Trail Director. That may require some other changes, but that's pretty far down the road. We'll see if it comes to that.
First things first, I need to start putting together a 10 minute demonstration to start shopping to some of the attorneys in the next few weeks, and then we'll go from there!
So I managed to get an invite to Google Wave over the weekend (Thanks Kreg!), and started poking around with it last night. Not enough time to have any well-thought out opinions, but enough to have an instant reaction:
I'm optimistically underwhelmed at this point. Do I think there's some potential here for collaboration, especially among teams? Yes, absolutely. However, in it's current capacity, I have yet to find any feature that I can't use a Wiki, or even a private discussion forum, for. I'm optimistic that Google knows this and has features in the pipeline that will blow away anything we can currently do with those sorts of tools. They certainly have the resources to develop it. We shall see if it comes to fruition!
From a professional perspective, of course my mind immediately goes to the e-discovery complications that come from this tool. Yeah, it's a bit difficult to wrap your head around how you would collect, preserve and produce any of these real-time Web tools. On the other hand, they are here to stay, the industry, and the law, will just have to adjust! It usually does, eventually, and as with every technology advance, the legal world will get adapt to it, slowly. :)
In the meantime, if you're in Google Wave and want to test it out, look me up mike.mcbride at googlewave.com. I don't have any invites to give out yet, so I can't help you out there, but I'll let you know when I do!
I was approached on the LitSupport Yahoo mailing list a couple of weeks ago about writing an article to talk about social networking by none other than Mark Lieb of Ad Litem Consulting, and author of Litigation Support Department. With his help as editor, the finished article is now posted over at the LSVA forums.
Check it out and let me know your thoughts on Social Networking in the Litigation Support/Legal industries.
The opening paragraph of Kent Gibson's article rings so true to those of us who are asked to "improve" audio and video in the course of working with e-discovery. In the few short years I've worked in Litigation Support, there have already been a number of times where I'm presented with some audio or video tape and asked to "clean it up" in some way, and I don't have near the tools that a forensic audio engineer!
If only it were true, as the televised CSI seems to promise, that any audio recording could be made intelligible with a little bing from a computer. The realities of forensic audio may surprise you — amazing things are possible, but not all things.
If only I could make all of our attorney's read the whole thing.
Last week, I mentioned the seeming contradiction of law firms wanting to appear innovative, while also not spending any money on new technology, and how that might seem like a contradiction that was going to create problems when it comes to strategic planning for firms. Today, I want to talk about another one, one of the current buzz-worthy trends of the eDiscovery industry. Early Case Assessment. (ECA)
In theory, ECA seems like a brilliant idea. Get into a case early, figure out what documents you're going to need, and how you're going to locate them, and use search terms, custodian filters, concept search tools, etc. to limit the amount of data a Litigation Support provider is going to have to process and an attorney is going to have to review. Win-Win!
Except it's not quite that easy. I've spoken to many in the field, and I've even heard from some corporations about the problems they run into in dealing with outside counsel in this area. I imagine that the conversation goes something like this:
Client: "Tell us what you need, and we'll only send you that data" Lit Support vendor: "We'll come in and help you figure out how to limit the collection, and how to properly collect the data you need to send to your outside counsel" Outside Counsel: "I'm not sure what we need yet, as I'm just starting to work on this case, go ahead and send me what you have, and we'll figure out on this end what needs to be produced" Client: "No, I don't want to spend $X/hour for you to review documents that we know aren't relative" Outside Counsel: "Well, we don't know what's relative until we start reviewing what we have and putting the case together" Client: "You'll have to do better than that. We'll work with our vendor to run searches on keywords that you and opposing counsel have agreed to, on the custodians that you've agreed to, and send the results to you once we've culled the dataset internally" Counsel: "Well, we haven't made any agreements with opposing counsel. We don't want to be limited to that".
And round and round it goes. The bottom line, is that too many attorneys aren't doing the hard work of interviewing custodians, defining search terms or concepts, calling in technology and search experts, etc. They are still relying on the idea that they can just collect everything, and figure it out as they go along.
Here in the Midwest, that may still be true in many cases. The amounts of data that we see for cases here, most of the time, doesn't even compare to some of the large cases that other firms are dealing with. You might actually be able to do a first pass review and locate the relevant documents without doing any ECA now, but the amount of data in the cases is growing, and it's growing fast. On top of that, the clients are looking for ways to cut their costs, and they see the writing on the wall. They are becoming more and more aware of just how much they can save by using ECA tools themselves, and in some legal departments, doing the first pass review themselves. They're not just sending over what they have to be reviewed. That costs too much money!
Eventually, attorneys are going to have to let go of the idea that they can put eyeballs on everything. When you start getting hundreds of Gigabyte's of data, it's simply not possible to do that in any sort of reasonable time, for a reasonable cost. You have to do something different, and the good attorneys are already prepared for that. The rest will be playing catchup. I just wonder how many clients will be willing to wait for them?
Here's a good reason why law firms, even when they have qualified people in house, shouldn't get started in the business of forensic collections. You never, ever have every hard drive connector you need. With all the various types of drives in use now in laptops, (IDE, SATA, Ultra-ATA/PATA, Zif connectors, SSD drives) let alone all the various types of smartphones or netbooks on the market now, or that will be coming on the market, there's simply no way a business that doesn't have collection as it's main focus is going to be able to keep up with all the different types of equipment and know-how required to do the job.
Personally, I've had a couple of laptop drives come in over the last couple of years that I simply don't have a connector for, and had never really worked with.
Since law firm's IT personnel are not just in the forensics business, they won't be able to do every type of collection. If they have to explain why they can collect one type of drive, but not another, to an attorney who has no idea there are different types of drives, who then has to go back and explain to a client why they had to pay for a vendor for this drive, but not that one, things are not going to go smoothly. It's probably better to just avoid it altogether.
Do Vendor "Claims" Raise Unrealistic Expectations?
I attended a statewide ILTA event today, for Litigation Support Professionals, that attracted quite a few folks from around Ohio, as well as neighboring states. The sessions were good, and I may have a few blog posts inspired by a few of the things that were discussed, but one thing in particular grabbed my attention. You'll have to forgive me because I don't recall which member of the panel said it, but the idea was that as an in-house Litigation Support Professional, you need to brag about the work you do, not just so that attorneys know, but also because you need them to understand what you do so they don't get the impression that's it easy. Any attorney or paralegal involved with e-discovery is going to get emails, newsletters or phone calls from vendors, some of whom might make claims about what they can do that make it seem like processing a terabyte of data and having it ready for review in just a couple of days is easy. It might be easy for a large vendor with tons of resources, but for in-house Litigation Support with limited resources, it isn't at all!
I can't say that I had thought of that before, but I can see now where an attorney might read up on some vendor materials and get the impression that collecting and processing data is a snap, and that we should go ahead and take care of this in-house, when we might not really have the resources. It's something I'll be keeping an eye out, that's for sure!
Really, aren't the unrealistic expectations from watching CSI enough? ;-)
Today was a first for me. I tuned in to my first "video" webinar, a webinar where you could actually see the presenter as they talked, and follow along with the slides in a separate area. It was ILTA and Orange Technology's Amazing Discoveries, Amazing Results webinar with Tom O'Connor and Brett Burney. (Hit the On Demand button in the player to find it.)
My gut reaction to it being a video webinar was, why bother? Look, before I get into criticizing the idea, I want to say that this has nothing at all to do with the content. Tom and Brett were great, and the information provided was excellent. But the addition of video brought no value whatsoever. In fact, due to the greater bandwidth demands brought about not only through the use of video, but the presentation being done as a scheduled webinar, with a large one-time audience, Orange introduced a number of hurdles to the viewer, with no value added to make the obstacles worth it.
For example, since this was a mid-day webinar (12 Noon EST), I assume many viewers were tuned in from their workplace network. Most workplaces struggle with having enough bandwidth available for everyone to use, and here I am trying to stream video on the internet. The added benefit to me for the use of all that bandwidth above and beyond a normal webinar? The chance to see Tom and Brett do their best Max Headroom impressions; jerky, delayed video of them sitting at a PC, and the joy of advancing the presentation slides myself. It's not like Tom or Brett were doing something hands-on where being able to watch them would add some real value, they were just there, in video format for the sake of being in video format. The content would have been just as good with just the typical audio/shared presentation screen format.
For that matter, the content would have been just as good whether you watched it live at noon today, or watch it later. In a classic example of another pet peeve of mine, there was no Q&A, no interaction with the speakers at all. Why bother with the scheduled webinar if you're not going to provide any way for the participants to ask questions or interact in any way? Tom and Brett could have just as easily recorded this as an audio podcast and had it available for download later. The content still would have been just as good, and the folks who wanted to hear what they had to say would be able to do so in their own time, and without battling the lag/buffering issues that are brought about trying to watch a live video feed. As it was, there were a couple of spots where bandwidth issues were so bad at my office, that I have no idea what they said! I'm going to have to go back to the on-demand version and watch it again to find out. I sort of wish I had just planned to do that from the beginning.
So here is my advice to folks who want to do video webinars. Use only the technology that adds value. If there's nothing hands-on to show, don't bother me with video. You're sucking up a lot of bandwidth, show me something worth that! Also, if there's no interaction or added benefit to attending live, don't make it a live event. There's nothing wrong with putting up audio/video material for me to consume on my own schedule, in fact I might just be more likely to do that, since I don't have to worry about schedule conflicts. It does neither of us any good to build a live audience and then do nothing with that audience.
Of course, who am I to argue against the use of bright shiny things? ;)
There's one more day to the ILTA conference and though I started out well with a couple of blog posts on day one, day two and three have gone by with nothing but a few tweets! Frankly, there is just so much going on here, great educational sessions, good meetings and information gathering sessions with vendors, people to talk to, games to play, drinking, dancing, eating, etc. that it's all a little bit overwhelming!
I've picked up a ton of ideas from the sessions and talking with other folks that I want to think more about, and look into more, that I imagine they will keep me busy, and probably drive much of how I try and accomplish things through at least the rest of 2009, if not well into 2010. That's a pretty good ROI for a conference, I would think!
Above and beyond that, having the chance to speak, working with some great people in planning, and presenting, has been a tremendous experience. I never really set out to speak at ILTA, as I mentioned in the session this morning, but now that it's done, I couldn't be happier that the opportunity presented itself. Not because I love just being in front of people (I actually don't), but because I got to work closely with people I really do admire and enjoy. I have to thank Tony Hartsfield, for suggesting it in the first place and putting my name in front of the right people, Sean Luman, the Enterprise 2.0 track chair, for taking a chance on an "unknown" speaker, and of course Jenn Steele, my co-presenter, who was an absolute joy to work with.
One more day, and I'm sure it'll be filled with more great information, more great ideas and more great people. I've already met and chatted with so many of them, (more than I could ever try and list in this post, but trust me, if we've talked, you're on that list!) but if I've missed you, stop me and say hello tomorrow!
Tom Koulopoulus was the Monday morning keynote at ILTA09, and his message was one of innovation, and value. My quick take away was that for law firms, and for those of us who are looking to make some changes in that environment, the only way to do it is to prove the value. With the economy the way it is, everything has become about value. You maybe lost your job if you didn't bring enough value to the firm, or at least you certainly feel a whole lot safer if you have areas where you can easily identify the value you bring. Any money spent on training, or technology improvements have to show value, or be threatened by tighter budgets, and surely any adoption of new Web 2.0 technologies have to bring their own value to the table.
Unfortunately, most of us who work in an area as risk-adverse as law firms are trained to think first of the risks, and defend the risks when trying to introduce change. Perhaps we'd be better off focusing on the value added through the use of social networking, for example, and once we've proven that through our own examples of using these tools. After all, how much easier is it to defend against the risk when we're all already on the same page in terms of whether there's enough value to use the tools at our disposal?
Think of it in terms of email, surely we are all familiar with the risks that were associated with everyone in the firm having email. Eventually, though, the value proved to be so overwhelming that we accepted the risks and figured out how to deal with them. Social Networking and other Web 2.0 technologies haven't quite reached that point, but I believe they will. There's simply too much value in connecting to peers and sharing knowledge with as many people as possible, no matter the medium. We just need to share the value we've found with those who haven't.
For the e-discovery folks, there is just one question. Does that mean Office for Mac users will have a PST that is easily transferable to Windows? Does anyone know? Getting email from a Mac into a form we can work with tends to be one of our complaints, and anything that gives us one less complaint can only be good, right? ;)
I saw their article today about the results of their annual survey of the Electronic Discovery market, and found a couple of striking statements:
While two years ago every copy shop in the land became an EDD provider, today law firms nationwide purport to harbor deep EDD expertise. Much of this is a convenient fiction, useful for marketing but of questionable veracity when it comes to client service; many participants estimated that no more than 100 to 200 hundred lawyers in the entire country really "get" EDD.
This is interesting, because truly, there have to be 1000 to 2000 lawyers marketing themselves as EDD "experts", but maybe only 10% of them are correct? Are the other 90% lying? Actually, I don't think they're lying, I think it's a case of them not knowing what they don't know. They may get the legal side of the equation, that you have to collect, review, produce in a usuable form, etc. but that does not an EDD expert make. I'd be willing to bet that many of the survey respondents have encountered one too many attorney who claimed to be the EDD "expert" and then didn't understand what a PST is, or who understood their need to hold and collect data, and then asked it to be emailed to their office.
Ok, ok maybe those examples are a bit extreme, but that's sort of what it can feel like if you're an in-house IT guy, asked to cooperate with the EDD expert attorney from Big Named Firm X, only to discover that while this guy may have written some articles on litigation holds, or spoken at a CLE about the Federal Rules covering e-discovery, he doesn't know the slightest thing about the technology.
Another interesting statement was this one about finding qualified people to work on EDD:
Hiring at corporations also has been difficult. Estimates are that by now maybe 20 to 30 companies have been about to acquire or develop respectable in-house expertise, but many others are hard pressed to find someone — anyone — competent, available and capable of taking the internal EDD helm.
Almost as quickly as those people are brought on board, others leave to join the provider ranks where they believe rewards will be greater and frustrations fewer.
I read this, and thought surely this applies to law firms as well, right? Of course, the obvious solution to keeping people in house is to offer greater rewards and fewer frustrations, but in legal departments, and law firms, I'm not sure that is possible. The culture is so "attorney-specific" in terms of giving senior attorney's all the decision making power, and the rewards that come with it, that I don't think it can be changed to give a technology expert, especially one that isn't an attorney, enough authority to feel like they are doing meaningful work.
For example, go to your local bar association's CLE seminars on EDD, how many IT people are speaking? How many non-lawyers are ever invited to speak about forensics, searching, deduplication, storage technology, etc.? If these topics are covered, it's typically one of those 100 or 200 attorneys. When was the last time they offered a CLE in data storage, or understanding the basic types of email storage, and how to effectively search an email store? Wouldn't it be great to have someone who knows this stuff talk to your IT people, whether it be from your legal department or outside firm? Sure would keep those IT folks from rolling their eyes as often as they do. (And they do, I've been on that side of the fence. It's not pretty.)
But instead, the legal industry keeps insisting that attorneys are the end all and be all of legal knowledge, when EDD requires a different approach completely. This survey shows it fairly obviously to me. Your clients are crying out for someone who really "gets" the technology involved with EDD, and you keep sending them lawyers who can recite the FRCP, all while keeping your technical staff far away from view, never getting the credit they deserve.
It's the legal departments and law firms that find a way to get cooperation between the IT experts, and the legal experts, and can recognize them both as equal parts of the EDD team, who will be the true "experts" in the field.
Hope all you Sys Admins out there are getting the appreciation you deserve. It's been awhile since I was in that sort of strictly IT position, but as someone who is currently using up network resources like nobody's business, I appreciate what these folks do.
All you Litigation Support people should be especially appreciative. Do you have any idea how many network resources it takes to import/export and otherwise move around and store e-discovery data? I do, and ironically enough, I'm doing a whole lot of that this week, so I'm laying low and keeping away from our networking people. ;)
I finished up planning my week for ILTA09 the last week of Aug. As we prepared to get our presentation finished and submitted by the deadline this week, I realized that it's coming up pretty quick.
Unfortunately, as much as ILTA is pushing social networking, they dont have a way to share your itinerary on their site. So, I did the next best thing, saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to my own site. :)
On top of those sessions, (Two of which I'll even be presenting at, so I should be easiest to find there) I'll also be hitting up the Tweetup community of interest, the speakers meet and greet, the conference orientation (Yeah, I'm a newbie) and the opening reception on Sunday, and I'll be hanging around DC Friday and Saturday. Obviously, if anyone wants to say hello, you'll have ample opportunity!
I had an interesting conversation with an attorney today, who is doing something rather interesting with our document review tool, Summation. He's gotten so used to reviewing documents in it, and searching in it, and come to rely on the OCR search especially, that he's pulled together a bunch of random emails, articles, white papers, etc. that he's always wanting to keep around to refer to as part of his practice, and is having us put them into Summation.
Once there, he goes in and codes a little summary, and maybe an "issue" to make a keyword, and can search there, instead of leaving through a box of stuff he printed off to keep around.
Now, granted, he needs me to put the data into Summation, but that's not very much work, and frankly, anything I can do to encourage our attorneys to use Summation is a good thing in my book!
I'm wondering if that might not be a bad way to handle electronic discovery research as well, though I do have many of the same features in Evernote in terms of search, but I wonder just how many documents I can cram into Evernote before it is too much, especially compared to something like Summation.
I feel like a test may be coming, if I can find some free time!
What do you think? Do you have folks using something like Summation for research data? Let me know!
I caught a quick reference to an upcoming FIOS webcast that I thought might be of interest to any legal industry folks who have an interest in, but maybe not much experience working with, electronic discovery.
In fact, I think I'll pass it along to some folks at the office too.
Litigation support professionals and paralegals that are new to the world of e-Discovery will benefit from this introduction to the workings of e-Discovery. The presenters will share insights gained from over 30 years of combined litigation paralegal experience. Attendees will leave with an understanding of the basic e-Discovery process, how to approach your next project with your attorneys and clients, and a new confidence about how to manage the world of e-Discovery.
You will learn:
What e-Discovery is and how it affects overall project management.
e-Discovery terms, language
Techniques for effective communication with your e-Discovery solution provider.
Here's the scenario. We've got trial transcripts, in ASCII text format. We've got an attorney writing up a Word document in which he wants to reference certain parts of the testimony from the transcripts. He would like to use hyperlinks within his Word document, and he would really like the link to go directly to that line/page in the transcript.
So far I've found two somewhat difficult ways to do that, one to convert the ASCII files to Word documents and create bookmarks in the Word doc where I want to link to, or create PDF's of the ASCII files and convert the Word doc to HTML and follow the instructions here for creating destinations within the PDF and writing up the proper link.
Those were the only 2 ways I could get it to work, given the tools at my disposal. I assume there's actually some way to do something similar in Summation, but not necessarily in a format that could be used by someone else, who doesn't have Summation, at least in my mind.
Not very long ago I mentioned that I thought the Dublin Irish Festival's Social Planner was a great idea for the upcoming ILTA09 conference, and then at the end of last week, I got an email about the ILTA09 online planner.
Unfortunately, there's no option for sharing your itinerary, but I can print it, so perhaps, when I figure out which sessions and events I'm going to be attending, I'll just toss a PDF version up here and let anyone who wants to look me up, access it here. (With all appropriate Twitter and Facebook sharing as well...)
Who else is going to be there? Let me know and we'll be sure to grab coffee or a drink!
Well, yes, technically speaking any festival that gathers thousands of people in the same place on the same weekend is social in nature. But, I'm specifically talking about an interesting use of online social networking.
If you look at the Entertainment Schedule for the Dublin Irish Festival coming up July 31-Aug 2, you'll see the option to not only create your own agenda and either print it or save it so you can access it on a mobile device, but also an option to share it with others. If I were to create one, for example, it would show me hanging around the Celtic Rock stage from 4ish Saturday afternoon on. Since that's not exactly complicated, and I'm lazy, I didn't actually create one, but if you were doing something more complicated and hitting different shows at different stages, I could see where this would be helpful not only to keep your plans straight, but to also let other folks know where to find you.
It appears that they are using a paid service, sched.org, to provide this functionality, and I would think it's a good idea for some events. Certainly multi-stage musical events, but also multi-track conferences like TechShow or ILTA09 would be interesting places to have a similar functionality, if the budget allowed for it. You could let folks know, well ahead of time, which sessions you're planning on attending so they could find you to say hello, speakers could have a small idea of who will actually be in the audience ahead of time, and I could use it to stalk e-discovery experts. ;-)
Many of you may have noticed that it's been a bit of a quiet week around here, in terms of me writing anything of substance instead of pointing out some other stuff. I can explain. I have been writing a whole bunch of things, just not here. In fact, I finished a three-part series on the recent Sedona Conference Commentary on Achieving Quality in E-Discovery over on the firm's e-discovery blog.
Obviously, by the time I yanked all of those words out of my brain, there hasn't been much left for my own blogs, but hopefully a little R&R over the holiday weekend next week will put me back in the right frame of mind. Not that I don't have a couple of things planned for this week as well, but I'm struggling with the words for those too!
In the mean time, go check out the series, and read the Sedona Commentary itself, it's very interesting reading.
I have to admit, I've been so busy the past few days that I haven't spent nearly any time paying attention to tweets and blog posts coming out of Legal Tech West Coast the past couple of days.
Luckily, it looks like the Posse List is doing a good job of putting together the highlights. Their day-one highlights from the e-discovery side of things seem like there's some interesting presentations being done, though also think much of it is not new to anyone who's been paying attention. On the other hand, maybe some of the folks who show up to things like this conference haven't been. Either way, it's good stuff that everyone working in the legal field needs to hear, and think about!
Gabe Acevedo pointed me to a brand new blog on Twitter earlier today, e-Discovery 101, and even though there's only one post up, it really hit home with me. Their 5 easy steps to becoming an in-house electronic discovery guru matches up pretty well with some of what I've been thinking as I transition in to being the Litigation Support Manager over the next couple of months. Especially the idea of getting out of your desk/office and letting people know what you can offer them, and most importantly, listening to their past experiences and expectations. I'm just starting that process and already I'm seeing some real benefit in talking to people and seeing where some small changes might be beneficial. Hopefully, that will continue as time allows me to get out!
I know, times are tough, and budgets have gotten cut all over the place, let alone in the legal industry. That why the folks at ILTA put together a "Make the Case" page that you can present to the management of your law firm as good reasons why the expense of this year's conference (Aug 23-27 in Washington DC) is worth it.
Seriously, I'm speaking at ILTA09 on Social Networking, and the sessions are so good that my own session would have been the 3rd choice of sessions I attended during that time slot. The schedule is that good!
A global survey undertaken by HP found that less than half of business decision-makers have a high confidence level in the quality and accessibility of information within their organisations.
The survey, and the linked article seem very focused on the need to retrieve information as part of an e-discovery request, or compliance measure, but the concept that this many organizations don't really know what data they have or how to get it also dovetailed nicely with an article my boss had sent me earlier in the week about the software company Autonomy. Specifically, this quote:
"Look at the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that are driving a lot of this compliance business. That goes back to Roman law and is the basis of the discovery process and it makes sense, particularly in simpler times," Lynch said. "But imagine today the role of IT in trying to track and store and catalog and find every voice mail, every Word doc, text message, etc. It often leads to a type of legal lockdown where companies feel paralyzed because they just don't know how to get started or how to ensure they have all that unstructured data and can index it and find it.
"And we think our potential is that once companies have done that type of work for legal indexing, then they can use it afterward for many other things, primarily to get a richer and more-complete view of customers. For example, on average, large corporations today have 9,000 systems across the enterprise, and all of those represent some sort of architectural silos that resist or confound efforts to see and interact with customers in a unified way."
Solid information management isn't just about compliance and e-discovery, even if that is the primary motivation right now. It's about imagining all the things you could use that data for if you knew what it was and how to analyze it. So maybe e-discovery readiness isn't just about the costs versus risk of litigation, maybe e-discovery readiness can also be about getting to data that can grow your business? Turning a cost center into a revenue center? Priceless... ;-)
On the e-discovery 2.0 blog yesterday at least, he gets what I've been saying about social media in regards to legal risks, there's not much that's new here:
There’s talk of intellectual property being cast out, irrevocably, onto the Internet for all to see. Or slanderous things being uttered for which your company may be held liable. But, hold on a second: is there really anything new here? Anyone heard of e-mail? Web pages? Peer-to-peer? Google? Instant messaging?
I'd actually go further, anyone heard of the telephone, or face to face conversations in public places? (Not to mention cell phone conversations on a commuter train, *cough*)
Any time one of the people who work for your organization is talking to someone outside of the organization, there's a risk they'll say something they shouldn't about their workplace, and yet we still actually let them do it! Shocking!
I don't know how business has survived this long, surely it's time to start requiring your workforce to live in company camps and only interact with coworkers, isn't it? I mean if you let them go out to dinner, or to a ball game, you have no idea who they might be sitting next to and who they might strike up a conversation with. Surely you can't risk them complaining about their job, or leaking confidential information, can you? These communications must be blocked! Or at the very least we should have strongly worded and specific policies regarding any and all such possibilities. Just giving employees general guidelines that apply to all such situations can't possibly be enough. We need a new policy for every new possibility!
It's June 1, the day the fine folks at ILTA released the full list of sessions and speakers for the annual conference in August. Naturally, I went looking for the session I'll be speaking in, which made the whole idea just a little bit more real, and thus scarier. :)
Seriously, though, I'm looking forward to both attending and speaking at the conference this year. I've never been before, but I hear nothing but good things, and looking at the full schedule leads me to think that I'm going to have a hard time choosing which ones to attend! Heck, even our session is up against some serious competition, specifically that judges panel on e-discovery and a panel on disruptive technologies. I'm actually sort of sorry I'm going to miss those!
Some of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen that I worked late a couple of days last week as some sort of epidemic has swept the help desk area of our firm, leaving them quite short-handed. In fact, they were left with no one available between the regular folks who work there, and the couple of usual backups to cover the phones until 6PM each evening, which is the customary procedure. Not having any immediate plans after work, I stepped in and covered them.
While I was down there, another one of our IS folks and I were discussing how much tech support has changed. Time was when he, and everyone in the IT department where he worked, had the help desk line on their phones and we expected to answer it when the regular folks were tied up, but that was when all you had to support was PC hardware and maybe MS Office apps. Now, there are dozens of apps in use, in a variety of specialties, that he doesn't even know how to use, much less support.
As we talked, I realized how much that is true. The folks who were brought in as specialists, like for Networking, Telecommunications, and DBA, simply don't have the knowledge to do general end-user support. Our firm is a little luckier than most, because some of the other IT specialist positions are folks who started out working at the help desk, like myself, and can step in. On the other hand, it's only been a bit more than 2 years since I worked there fulltime, and there have been some applications added that I don't use, and couldn't possibly support. (Luckily no one called with a question about those while I was flying solo down there!) The others who've been away for even longer, have even more apps where that is the case.
We came to realize, not just that we really only had a limited number of people who could effective backup the help desk folks, but that we had very limited backup for any of our positions. When our telecomunications guy is on vacation, there is an official "backup" person, but what can be handled in his absence is very limited. A major telephone system meltdown during his vacation is going to result in a serious problem. Now with our Litigation Support Department consisting of me, and one other person working remotely 4 days a week, on that 5th day, if I get sick, and there's someone needing trial prep work done, there's no one to do it. Same goes for our one web developer. If something needs done, and she's not there to do it, what happens?
As more and more firms try to "do more with less" in this economy, how many IT people are having to be "on call" even when they're on vacation, or over weekends, or when they're sick, because they're the only one's who can handle some tasks? What does your organization do to try and prevent this, or do you simply require them to live with this expectation? Are your IT people expected to always be reachable? Are they therefore limited in where they can go on vacation, because of this expectation that they will always be able to log in remotely and work on something at a moment's notice? Is that really fair?
Personally, I don't think it is. More importantly, if there's only one person at your firm who can fix certain issues, what do you do when that person gets hit by a bus? Or leaves? Aren't you asking for trouble if you simply ignore the fact that skills and knowledge haven't been shared among the whole team and you've simply laid these expectations at the feet of your folks as your "solution"?
So as technology gets more specialized, and budgets get tighter, what do you do to have a backup plan?
Ran across this idea from a local Blogger/Tweeter, @wyliemac, and I think it has some real intriguing possibility. I've often seen local events that I might want to help out, but because of other commitments I couldn't volunteer, or attend, and even the lowest sponsorship levels are out of the question for an individual, so I wind up not doing anything.
And other than Startup Weekend, the big institutional investors seem reluctant to sponsor small niche tech events like the ones I put on. As a thank you to my sponsors, I’d like to give back by helping tech events in Columbus find sponsors. Little sponsors. You and I. The ones with “personal brands”.
I want to put together a syndicate of people that give a little to pool their money for sponsorship. The event will have a link to a landing page with all of the individual sponsors and we’ll also set up individual pages so you can get some Google juice.
As I said, an interesting idea for local events, which are pretty niche events by their nature most of the time, especially the first event he's trying this with, which is a Ruby developer's conference. Since I'm not a developer, I'll just be watching to see how this works more than being directly involved, but I do wonder if this sort of model might work in the Legal Tech industry. Obviously, with all the vendors in the Litigation Support and e-Discovery space, there's usually pretty good sponsorship, but I wonder if we couldn't get a group of bloggers to create a cooperative effort like this? Maybe not for national events, but perhaps for some regional and local events?
What benefits, aside from the cooperative web page linked and promoted by the event, would make you consider donating $25 towards a sponsorship? What events do you want to support in that way, even without further benefit, if the opportunity was available?
This article was being passed around on the Yahoo LitSupport mailing list, and since it specifically talks about a program that we have used, albeit in very limited capacities, in trials before, it really caught my eye as something to pass around the firm.
They have some great examples of using technology as part of your case, and how it impacted some rather high profile cases recently.
Of course, if I start promoting the effectiveness of the program that probably also means I need to know it inside and out, which I currently don't. Let me add that to the list of things I want to look at more closely now that I'm managing the department.
Now that I'm in management, I've been thinking about how many hours I can get people to work...
No, not really. I have, however, been thinking a bit about the idea of working extra hours though, and not just because I was doing a little bit of that getting things ready for trials. It started when I read Jenn Steele's post On Human Sustainability:
There is a perception that human sustainability is too expensive, that we're needed to be "on" at all times for the good of our company or family. This is completely false. Why? Well, I call it "working stupid". If I'm not giving my body and mind its basic needs, it will take me much longer to do any given task, and I'm much more likely to make a mistake and have to re-do the task later.
Then, I heard a similar take during a Fios webcast about Project Managemet and Litigation, as covered by Paul Easton:
One bit of wisdom shared at the very end is that for a legal project manager, time management includes the ability to manage yourself as a resource and knowing what your personal constraints are.
I found this one to be really interesting, because I know how very easy it is to just keep going, wanting to just be done with a project. I also know there are limitations to that but we don't really think about them in regards to ourselves, usually it's about how much to ask of others. Tired people work slower, and are much more likely to make a mistake. Even in Construction cases that I've been involved in you hear about how you can't simply have everyone work 12 hour days to get a project done in 50% less time, because they don't work as effectively at hour 10-11 as they do at hour 3-4. Knowledge workers maybe don't have the physical demands, but there is definitely that same point of diminshing returns for an hour of labor.
How many of us can tell story after story of the all-nighter we pulled in order to install a new server in an emergency, and the mistakes we've made in those situations. I know I can. Configuring something at 2AM on the weekend, after being in the office for 14 hours does not lead to the most careful testing of the configuration. I've overlooked simple problems when I've worked too long, I've created problems that slowed me down when I've been rushing to finish something and go home, and I've made boneheaded choices that required me to redo a lot of work later on. I'm sure you all have similar stories. Mostly we sit around drinking a beer and laugh about them. Heck, us IT folks wear those stories of grueling hours working on a project like a badge of honor! It's all part of the job, and you know, some times I absolutely agree. Stuff happens, and every once in awhile you have to do what needs to be done, but I do wonder sometimes if it would go a lot smoother, and with less glitches, if we could get some rest too!
That's the point of my latest eDiscoTECH blog post over at the firm's blog, where I also try, probably not very successfully, to simplify the difference between keyword and concept searching for folks who aren't up on the algorithm.
If you're interested in taking a look, you can see it here.
Since it was announced at work earlier this week, and the details were officially accepted by me today, I guess it's a good time to make an announcement here.
Things are going to be changing for me, professionally, yet again. Our little 2 person Litigation Support Department is being overhauled, due to the engagement and subsequent relocation of our current Lit Support Manager. He's agreed to stay on and work remotely for a time, but he won't be in the office to run things on a day by day basis. Thus, I'm taking over as Manager and will be running the department from Columbus, while he continues to do most of the same work he's been doing remotely. It'll be nice to have somewhere to turn when I run into questions, sure beats being the old one-man IT department from back in the day!
So I guess I need to look at our work in a whole different way now, and probably listen to more Manager Tools. I do think I have a number of meetings to schedule and conversations to have over the next few weeks, sort of gathering intelligence to see how this is going to impact everyone and how to best get the work done. I'm going to strive to go with a "listen first" attitude to make sure I've got as much information as possible before making any changes.
As such, I'll also take any managerial advice you guys have as well. :)
Should be pretty interesting, and of course I'll be sharing what I learn about managing right here too!
A couple of weeks ago a rep from somewhere left a copy of Michelle Kovitch's Summ it Up! book with our office. It found it's way to me, and I've been leafing through it to see how I might adjust my training sessions with the way Michelle presents the information in her book.
I had heard positive reviews of the first edition of the book going back over the past couple of years, so I was very interested in getting a glimpse at this edition. As I went through it, I have to admit I was really impressed not just at the amount of information, but also that it is written in such a non-tech jargon kind of way. Something any attorney can pick up and get a better understanding of how Summation works, and what they can do with it, above and beyond simple document review.
On top of that, it was good to read through some of the chapters and remind myself of some of the features, and what we could do with Summation that we don't do now. It can be difficult in the midst of trying to get the day to day work done, to view the larger picture and see how we might do something differently. Michelle's book, by covering Summation so thoroughly, helped remind me of that.
If you're working in a Summation environment, I definitely recommend it!
Gabe Acevado has created the perfect page to send your boss to if you're getting flack about Twitter not being work-related. At least, if you work in the Litigation Support or eDiscovery field.
It's called TweetDiscovery, and while it's still a "very early beta", it's tracking all the conversations about e-Discovery that are taking place on Twitter, both by tracking search terms, and by tracking the tweets of some of the big names in the field.
Look through the list of folks they're tracking over there? I'm betting lots of your firms have the books they've authored on the shelves somewhere. (I know we do!) How could following these same folks on Twitter not be work-related? ;)
I was reading Josh Gilliland's post from yesterday about being careful not to break client confidentiality in your online networking status messages.
Here is how the risk of disclosure is possible: a Facebook user posts a status message they deem harmless, such as “I just landed ‘Company A’ as a client and have a bunch of back-up tapes to restore.”
Does this disclose any mental impressions or strategy about the case? Probably not, but it is flirting with disclosure. Moreover, Company A would probably not be thrilled with their lawyer announcing their actions in a lawsuit to 300 “friends.”
After reviewing data from imaged hard drives, the same individual posts the status message, “Wow, they really blew preserving their emails.”
If the client is somehow identifiable, there is a problem, because a mental impression of the client’s ESI is being disclosed. While the “friends” are probably in no way related to anyone in a lawsuit, disclosing a client confidence to one person is one too many.
As I read this, I was reminded of something I often talk about with people when it comes to social networking tools. The first rule of social networking has got to be "Don't be Stupid". In this case, anyone who works as a lawyer, or works in the legal field at all, has had client confidentiality drilled into their heads. Just because Twitter, or Facebook is easy to update and new doesn't mean those same old rules don't apply. Thinking they don't, is stupid.
With the wife leaving for Europe later this week, I'll be the only one of us at home all of next week. As luck would have it, at work we also have a trial next week that I will need to be on site for, at least for a couple of days. That will mean that for those few days, no one will be home. So, we have to kind of plan for that, as well as planning to make sure I've got a couple of suits to wear to court, a bag to pack my stuff in, and maybe some food/drink to take with me.
On the other hand, as those of you in the Legal field know, the trial could very easily settle at the last minute, or get delayed for any number of reasons. So, I have to also plan for the possibility that I will be home, and will be wearing my regular business casual stuff to work all week, and eating at home all week.
As we ran our various errands this week, and stocked up at the grocery store, naturally, we were keeping both of those possibilities in mind, which is sort of a weird thing to do, I admit.
Of course, I've already learned that I may get a request to do some work at a trial at any moment, so I'm always a little prepared for that possibility, but it's a very different planning routine when I know Angela won't be home. Now things like getting the mail, checking the answering machine, etc. become a bit more important, as opposed to when she's home taking care of those things. Alas, as her job requires her to travel, this sort of thing is going to happen from time to time. I don't think when I signed up for this I knew how much you would have to be prepared for numerous possibilities all at the same time, but it seems to be very much part of working in litigation. Oh well, it keeps you on your toes!
Now you know why we can't be bothered with keeping pets, or plants that require much care. ;-)
Training Blog and My Latest Blog Post for the Firm
I spotted this on a link from one of the many people I follow on Twitter this evening, The Lit Support Trainer's Blog. It's relatively new, but I'm interested in seeing something dedicated to training others to do Lit Support work. As a Certified Summation Trainer, I've done a bit of training in our firm on using Summation, and am always interested in hearing how others manage to get training done, so I'll be keeping an eye on it, for sure!
In other news, the latest blog post I wrote for the work blog is up, titled e-discovery 2.0, it's a reminder to legal departments and lawyers that their organizations data might not end at the corporate firewall anymore, it may be in the cloud!
It's sort of different writing over there, one because there is much more of a sense of having to do it, as well as being very careful in what I say, since it's representing the firm, not just me! I definitely like writing representing myself better, but it's important to bring some value to the table in your career, so I'm more than happy to bring my years of blogging to the table there! Any extra value I can bring in this legal downturn can only be a good thing.
I consider preservation letters a gift because it gives me insight into the other side’s real intention. If it says “save all the metadata,” then I know they are an ignoramous. But if they are specific in their request, then I know that I have to have my ducks in a row because they know exactly what they’re doing.
Craig makes a great point, if you simply say "all metadata", you're asking for a bunch of back and forth between the parties, and requests of the court before you finally get to an acceptable definition of what you're actually looking for, as opposed to simply knowing what you're looking for and asking for it. As usual, Craig nails it!
I've seen a number of big names in the E-Discovery industry emphasizing the need for some basic technology education as part of the law school curriculum, especially as it relates to e-Discovery.
In the last couple of days, I've also seen a couple of articles that highlight a couple of areas where just a little bit of knowledge can help out in regards to an attorney managing e-discovery.
The first was a great overview of how virtualization can impact the process of locating relevant data. The attorney managing e-discovery doesn't need to be an expert in hardware virtualization tools, but needs to be aware enough to find out if it's being used, and realize that sitting down at a PC and doing a keyword search for documents isn't going to locate anything that might be stored in the VM. Jason Briody does a good job giving enough information so that any attorney can be a bit better educated, without getting into too much of the nitty gritty tech stuff.
The second is a post by Craig Ball about the impact of 1TB and larger hard drives being out in the wild now. Simply put, when it comes to forensic imaging, it means more time, and more cost due to the shear size of the drives. This is a concept that I find many non-techies, not just attorneys, have difficulty grasping. Larger drives take longer to image, just as larger files take longer to copy, and larger data sets take longer to process, etc. It's important to understand the size of what we're dealing with before you agree to deadlines or make promises to clients about the time/cost involved.
It might seem pretty simply to the tech folks reading, but these are important details that often get overlooked when dealing with e-discovery. Having an attorney who is educated on these somewhat simple items can make a big difference!
I've sat in on enough product demos now, and had my own experience test-driving some of the applications, to have noticed something of a theme. Further discussions, have led me to believe that there's something to this as well. Namely, that while using hosted document review tools may safe you some money on the backend, they inevitably cost you in one other area, bandwidth.
You see, I've noticed that every hosted review tool I've used is dog slow compared to our in house Summation databases when it comes to loading document images, and switching between documents, and that is all because our office internet bandwidth can't keep up.
I suppose that's to be expected, every office I've ever worked in has had issues with bandwidth getting used, that's actually one of the understandable reasons for having Internet use policies. You don't want people soaking up all the bandwidth listening to streaming audio and making it harder for others to do any work, but even with those, there are days when it's a struggle to stay afloat in the bandwidth race. As more and more businesses put out audio/video content that is job-related, and more firms start using the "cloud" to offset in house IT costs, how do you make sure you still have enough bandwidth for your attorneys connecting to a hosted review platform to be productive?
I can't say that I have an answer, if you do, I'd love to hear it. Maybe that'll make my next test drive include a little less waiting.
In the course of a conversation with a peer in the Litigation Support industry last week about best practices, a question struck me, that I don't really have an answer for. I've always believed that when it came time to process, or search, collected data that came in from a client, you should always copy that data to your network, then put the source media on the shelf, for safe keeping.
The theory, of course, is that, no matter what happens to your copied data, you always have that "clean" copy available if you need it. Surely, that's the safe thing to do, right? But what if it's not?
Doesn't the very act of copying that data introduce another point of failure? What if you make a mistake with copying the data, say leaving a switch out of your Robocopy command, thus failing to bring over an important piece of metadata, or bring it over incorrectly? Doesn't this risk intensify if the person doing the copying has more of a legal background compared to a tech one?
Now, don't get me wrong, I am not talking about forensic images here, surely I agree that if you had a hard drive copied forensically, bit by bit, you would want a second forensic copy to work from, always leaving one hard drive on the shelf, untouched, not connected to a PC or read from. That's the best way to guarantee that you have a good copy of not just the active data, but also the slack space, and recoverable deleted data of the original drive.
On the other hand, if you get a CD or DVD or even an external HD from a client that contains just the data that they copied over from their network, does it make sense to copy it again, or does it save time, and this extra risk, just to process it straight from the source? Especially when you consider that most ESI processing programs simply pull from the source location, extracting metadata and making it's own copy of the original documents?
What do you consider best practices in this area? Granted, the extra copying is a small risk, but with so many law firms being so risk averse these days, is it small enough to not worry about? Let me know your thoughts!
I know I just spent a lot of time recommending you look up Brett at Techshow, but today I was listening to the latest ESI Bytes podcast, and the more Craig Ball talked about forensics, e-discovery, and security, the more things I wanted to blog about.
In fact, there was so much good stuff in there, I decided to just tell you to go download it yourself.
Though, for highlights I love his CSI rant, the comparison of forensic requests to "If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail" , i.e. you don't always need it, explaining that requesting "all" metadata doesn't mean anything (I've seen those requests), and the warnings about unqualified forensic "experts". (Hmm, sorta reminds me of social media "experts")
Like I said, there's a lot to digest in there!
Then, if you're going to be at Techshow next week, check out Craig's presentations as well. Not only does he know his stuff, but he's a really entertaining speaker as well. (Though I don't see his E-Discovery Jeopardy on this year's schedule, that was a highlight of last year for me.)
Local ILTA Meeting: Brett Burney on Information Management
This afternoon, at the Central Ohio ILTA Lit. Tech. meeting, we started our series on the EDRM model with a presentation from Brett Burney on Information Management. If you've ever seen Brett speak, or met him, you know he can talk energetically and passionately about e-discovery and technology for hours at a time, and this was really no different. He went through the various areas of Information Management, and all the various acronyms used to discuss things like content management, or lifecycle management, etc. It was quite good, and led to a really good discussion among the group after he was done.
One of the interesting things that Brett said, was that sometimes he felt like Information Management was the "black hole" of the EDRM. Those of us working in the legal field could understand what was going on in the other areas of the EDRM, even if we didn't do that work, like forensic collections, but when it came to information management, we tried to stay out of that.
Of course we try to stay out of that, in many organizations, their information isn't exactly what you would call "managed". Trying to make sense out of an organization's data can be trying, to say the very least. So, it's maybe the least understood part of the EDRM, but the most crucial, because, as I mentioned in my Ignite Presentation, if you can get a handle of your data ahead of being involved in litigation, the rest of the EDRM workflow will be pretty smooth sailing, and if you don't, it'll look like Columbus traffic when it snows. (Those of you not familiar with the driving habits of our neighbors during snow events, trust me when I say, it is anything but smooth driving!)
Anyway, after taking us through some of the trends in this records management world, Brett had a slide that simply said that records management is a business decision, not an IT decision. I had to comment on that in the meeting, mostly because there are not a whole lot of folks with an IT background in our Lit Tech meetings, and to me, this was a huge point that Brett was making. When you do IT for a small company, you look at Information Management so differently that people from a record management or legal background.
If you had come to me back when I was the one-man IT department, my "solution" to problems with data management would have been to buy more disk space. It's easy, relatively cheap, and most of all it keeps with the one theme that was beat into our heads about redundancy. You see when you work in IT, you are constantly reminded about having backups. You have to backup, you have to test your backups, and you have to have backups to your backups, just in case of failure. In fact, the more redundancy you can build into your systems, the better! No matter what fails, we're prepared with a way for people to access their data!
That's all well and good, but it leads to IT people being the worst kind of pack rat you can imagine. We never get rid of anything, because someone might want it some day. If they want it, and I don't have it, somewhere, they're going to yell at me, and I don't like getting yelled at. So, I keep everything, somewhere. It's the antithesis to lifecycle management!
Besides, how many organizations do you know where the IT people have enough power to make management adhere to a retention and destruction policy? Yeah, that's what I thought. Let's put this responsibility on people who can get something done about it!
Overall, it was a good meeting. It was great seeing Brett again, especially since I won't have the chance to hang out with him at Techshow this year, but if you're going to be there, definitely look him up and say hello! Tell him I told you to check out his presentations. Looks like he's got a few on the schedule.
There's just so much good stuff in this conversation with Ralph Losey and Judge Shira Scheindlin that I can't even decide which parts to quote or comment on. Just go, and either read or listen to the podcast.
I will say this though, I wish I could get every attorney in our firm to read it, especially the parts where Judge Scheindlin warns of the dangers of half-doing the job:
JUDGE: But that’s the key point. You can’t use self-help. You either go for protection by coming to court or you comply. But you can’t take the middle ground and just ignore it, put your head in the sand, do it half way and then say, “Well the reason I didn’t do better is it was too expensive.” That’s what you can’t do and that’s where I think a lot of lawyers make a mistake
I do believe there's a real risk of "sort of" collecting, searching and processing in the way you're comfortable with, but which isn't actually in compliance with what was requested, all because they aren't comfortable with the technology. Which leads to the other great piece of advice she had:
I don’t think that we can turn all lawyers into computer specialists, and there are some lawyers who have a love of computers and they really do both fields – and probably Ralph Losey is one of them and there are a couple others who come to mind – but many lawyers are really lay people. They don’t have an engineering background, a science background, a math background, and they’re never going to implement technology. But what I think is important is that they at least identify when they need help, the questions they should ask, the places they should go. We just want them to be educated, conversant with the field, even though we may not expect all lawyers to become technical specialists.
Hmm, wonder where attorneys could meet up with technical experts to get the help they need when they need it? Where could they invest some time and network with some technical folks, forensic experts, etc.? Don't suppose a little investment in social networking tools would help out there, eh? ;-)
This is a bit of a follow up to a post a few days ago about whether having an open ticketing system would help with the communications between techs and the users they support.
As I mentioned there, and talked more about in the comments, when you have systemic failure to communicate, it's much more than a technical problem. It's a people problem, and in many cases, it a culture problem. If your organization sees their IT department as "those" people down in the basement, you are going to continue to have these issues with people not giving the techs enough information. Conversely, if your IT folks see the people they support as (l)users, you are going to continue to have issues with your techs no following up appropriately.
Worse yet, when these attitudes are displayed by the CEO, or the IT manager, there is no hope of it getting better, no matter what technology you put in place! If your IT department is in its own silo, you're going to have problems. If all the other departments are in their own silos, you're going to have problems that go well beyond tech support. From what I hear, this is actually pretty common in larger law firms, as each practice area tends to be in their own silo, not to mention staff departments, like IT, which exist even outside of those practice area silos!
As I've written elsewhere recently, there are some things you can do, even if you're not in management, that will help. First and foremost, do some internal networking. Get to know people in other areas, develop relationships outside of the silo. Learn about what is happening in other areas of the firm and try to find ways in which your talents, or technology, can assist them in accomplishing things that are important to them.
Don't wait for management to develop a plan to get rid of silos, do it yourself on whatever level you can. Go to lunch with someone in another area of the firm, offer to show them how to use some bit of technology during a brown bag lunch. I've had some success offering to show people how to setup an RSS reader, for example. It's not official firm-approved technology training, it's taking my own time to help teach someone how to use a technology that could help them, with their job, or with other interests.
One other area where I've only recently begun to consider is in the use of social networking tools. As I've been on Facebook for a little while now, I'm realizing just how much it's growing in use, even among the non-techie people I know. In some cases, they are joining up to keep an eye on their teenaged kids, and finding plenty of old friends/classmates on the service, or are using it to connect with family members who are far away, possibly as a way to share photos, an then finding plenty of other groups and activities they enjoy, etc. Lots of these folks are also listing their work information, including employer.
I can't help but wonder if "friending" some of these folks would help me to learn about their interests, and find common ground, or maybe increase the level of interaction with folks who I don't normally get to see on a regular basis. At this point I've only connected with a handful of folks that I work with on Facebook, and none on Twitter, but I'm wondering if I should spend some time tracking down more of them, and using the technology to develop better relationships across silos. (Doing so without coming across as creepy stalker guy from Lit Support might be a little difficult though..*L*)
To me, a lack of communication in any business is a sign of a lack of relationships within that organization. People who know each other, are familiar with each other, and heck maybe even like each other, are more likely to share important information. People who don't know each other, or who couldn't even tell you the name of the IT person who helped them, aren't.
Of course, since I met my wife at work 9 years ago, maybe my perspective on building relationships at work is a bit biased. I tend to think the better you know the people you work with, the better you are going to communicate with them, and they with you. It's worked that way for me with plenty of folks that I didn't wind up married to as well. :)
What do you guys think? Do you regularly connect with folks from within your organization outside of work? If you work in a law firm, what chance do you think an internal networking goal has of getting any sort of momentum with people who are ruled by billable hours? I will say, it's been easier to build relationships with other staff members than it has been with lawyers. That is one silo that is going to be difficult to reach across, it takes time, and that's time that isn't being billed! Share your own thoughts in the comments...
For those of you using Summation, especially service bureaus, but also law firms doing in house Summation work:
This document provides information about the CT Summation DII/eDII file to service bureaus. The Table of Contents serves as an outline of the electronic discovery (eDiscovery) workflow from the perspective of a service bureau. This document also discusses changes to the structure of the DII file that allow for the batch loading of electronic discovery, and provides a reference of new DII tokens used for email messages and electronic documents. This document assumes prior knowledge of DII files, their structure, and tokens.
This document is geared toward service bureaus that deliver data and eDiscovery to the client in the form of native files, images, full-text, fielded data, or any combination thereof.
I've seen a slight increase in the number of blog posts, and tweets, talking about the upcoming ABA Techshow in Chicago. Last year's conference was a great time, but I won't be back there this year due to a limited budget, and plans to attend ILTA 09 instead.
So, much like LegalTech in February, I'll be doing my best to keep an eye on Techshow through the writing of people who are actually there. Unlike LegalTech though, I won't have to spend any time creating my own Yahoo Pipe output of searches, they already have their own at Techshow Buzz.
As it turns out, that's a very good thing for me schedule-wise. I'll be on vacation in NYC Mar 28-April 1, and will probably not even have access to do much of anything online. Techshow starts April 2. I won't have to do anything more than make sure I have the RSS feed for Techshow Buzz plugged into Google Reader, and then it'll just be a matter of catching up! Of course, someone scheduled the Twitter session for 8:30AM on Day 1, so I'll have to really get with it in the morning so I can track some of that live, if possible.
Who schedules any Social Networking session that early, don't they know who they're dealing with here? *L*
The videos are up from the Ignite Columbus 2 back in January, so now you can all see my mistake of changing what I was going to say, getting behind my slides and talking too fast in order to catch up, thus making me appear nervous, which I was, but I usually hide it better.
Anyway, here's 5 minutes of why you should be thinking about e-Discovery.
Courtesy of Tom O'Connor, who picks up the discussion about lawyers needing to get some tech skills in order to understand how to effectively deal with e-discovery:
Sharpen up those pencils kids ?. it?s time to go back to school. Or fire those luddites and hire people who will.
It's true, when your client needs to deal with ESI, and your firm doesn't have the expertise to help them out, they won't wait around for you to get some technical expertise, they'll find one that already does.
I'm not familiar with the BrightTALK service, but I may have to create an account and check it out before Thursday's online e-Discovery Summit, nine sessions covering various aspects of the e-discovery process:
Preserving Data for e-Discovery: Best Practices
o 26 Feb 2009 9:00 am o Presenting Robert Brown; Senior Director, Litigation..
E-Discovery: The Litmus Test for IT Governance
o 26 Feb 2009 10:00 am o Presenting Jeffrey Ritter
Framing the Issues in International E-Discovery
o 26 Feb 2009 11:00 am o Presenting Nicole B. Boehler and Marla Weston, Partners..
E-Discovery Uncovered: What Vendors May Not be Telling You
o 26 Feb 2009 12:00 pm o Presenting Stephanie Giammarco Partner at BDO Consulting
Protecting the Privilege in Electronic Discovery
o 26 Feb 2009 1:00 pm o Presenting David M. Simon: Partner at Wildman,..
Handle e-discovery in-house: Take control, reduce risks and costs
o 26 Feb 2009 3:00 pm o Presenting Dominic Jaar, Legal Counsel at Ledjit.
Mitigating the Potential for Sanctions
o 26 Feb 2009 5:00 pm o Presenting Mark S. Yacano, Principal, Wright Robinson
Spoilation: It's Not Always Intentional
o 26 Feb 2009 6:00 pm o Presenting Warren Kruse: VP, Data Forensics and..
After E-Discovery: Data Security & Privacy
o 26 Feb 2009 7:00 pm o Presenting Jeffrey S. Follett, Partner at Foley Hoag LLP
Tom O'Connor posted yesterday about a conversation that has bounced around the litsupport mail list, quoting John Martin in the title of his post, It's the Archer, not the Arrow.
I won't repeat what Tom has written, you can go read it yourself, and frankly, I couldn't write it as well as he did anyway.
But I do want to point out something that I've found to be true through the years, and that held true not just in the e-discovery world, but in every area of technology. It's still all about the people. There's no process, or tech tool, that can stand up to a single person not following the proper procedure. Every security policy, record retention policy, e-discovery or forensic process depends on people doing the right thing, and thus it all has one common point of vulnerability.
Unfortunately, I find far too many people continuing to try and protect this vulnerability with more technology, when the real solution lies in having people who are properly trained and motivated to do the right thing. It's not as easy as throwing more technology, or budget, at the problem, but it's a heck of a lot more efficient.
Basically, a bunch of interesting things too long for Twitter, and dumped into one post. :)
The Typical Mac User podcast this week had an interesting interview covering Mac Forensics. There was some good info regarding the general idea of how forensics works for all OSes, and lots of good stuff about Mac forensics that you don't hear as much about in the e-Discovery world, but which does come in to play!
Speaking of e-Discovery, I was asked to start blogging as part of the day job, and posted my first topic over there yesterday. It feels weird to have a blog post showing up on the firm's site with my name on it. I spent a lot more time and mental energy on that post than I normally do on things here, that's for sure, and I still published with a feeling of abject terror that I was getting something wrong and it would cost me. I guess, as much as we all need to get ourselves more visibility in this economy, actually having more is going to take some getting used to.
One way to create more visibility for yourself is networking internally in your organization. I wrote about that in terms of getting the IT department out of their silo over on Friends in Tech this week, and also heard more about in on the Career Tools Podcast entitled An Especially Important Relationship In A Downturn, referring to your boss's peers. I think there's some real validity to building good relationships within your organization and making sure people are aware of what value you are bringing to the table.
As if we didn't know things were bad all over, they're already trying to decide what to call yesterday, as law firm layoff announcements came fast and furious all in the same day! Those are just the BigLaw firm numbers too, they're not tracking small to mid-sized firms like the one I work for, and all the layoffs that occurred in most of those places lately.
On a more lighthearted note, after ranting about the utter junk that retweet this to win contests were last week, I picked up a few followers on twitter that, I suspect, are following me because of the wording I used. Unfortunately, it appears to be a case of poor use of search terms, as the context of my posts about social media and contests would normally have led people using twitter to promote contests not to follow me. However, they appear to have found the terms in my tweets and followed away!
There was an ABA Techshow Roadshow in Boston today, and I enjoyed following long with some folks on Twitter. It wasn't until much later in the day that I found out that Jared Correia was live-blogging it using Cover-It Live, and pulling in the tweets to the stream as well. You can read the full day's coverage over at the Mass LOMAP Blog.
I'm not sure I like the interface for Cover It Live, but there's no arguing that the stream being archived as you go in one place certainly makes for good live-blogging!
What do you think? Have you ever used the service, would you?
It's brand new, and it appears to be anonymous, but with so few sites dedicated to Litigation Support, other than e-discovery, when I saw this mentioned on a LinkedIn group today, I just had to share. http://litsupportman.blogspot.com/
From the site's description:
I am an individual who has held various leadership positions in the Litigation Support Industry spanning close to 20 years. This blog is an account of my life in the Litigation Support Field.
I found a copy of the premiere issue of NextGen Law sitting on my desk when I arrived at work this morning. I don't really know how I got on their mailing list, but it's not a very thick magazine so I did spend a little time skimming through it this afternoon. It's not half-bad. Yeah, it's a little on the basic side for those of us coming from an IT background, but I thought the relatively quick-read, to the point, articles are great for passing along to folks who aren't as deeply embedded in the tech world as the rest of us.
The odd thing, however, is that I can't find a website for it. According to the publisher information it's a product of DailyJournal.com, however even on that corporate site, there's nothing. It's not even on the list of Publications.
Wonder if I'll ever see another issue? Does anyone have more info about it?
A few of these cover Day 1's sessions but either they were posted after I went to bed yesterday, or today. Probably has something to do with the Wifi problems I've seen mentioned on Twitter. Can't update the blog without it! :)
If you saw my presentation at Ignite Columbus a couple of weeks ago, then this might sound familiar.
Information management is the essential starting point for reducing the risk and cost of the discovery process. Organizations that have adopted an information governance strategy that supports requirements driven by both regulatory obligations as well as the needs of the business managers inherently will have an advantage because content has been created, shared and categorized according to its purpose in a business process.
It's from one of the blog posts recapping Monday's Keynote at LegalTech. Naturally, Fred Borchardt spoke about it much more eloquently than I could, and from a much more educated legal background than I have, but I think the gist of what I said at Ignite fits:
The whole idea behind EDRM is getting from all that volume of data you have stored all over the place, to just the relevant data you need, and it all starts with Information Management.
I, of course, was not speaking to a legal audience, much more a tech one, but the best way forward is the cooperation of both audiences. Lawyers need technological solutions to records management, and IT folks need legal/compliance direction from counsel. Will they be able to work together?
Quite a lot going on today, thanks to everyone who has been blogging and twittering up a storm to keep the rest of us in the loop! If I missed anyone blogging the conference, drop a link in the comments!
Here's the feed to the Yahoo Pipe I'm using the track stuff from LegalTech this week. If you subscribe to this it'll keep up with things I might change during the next few days, for example if I add Flickr photos or some other service that I see folks are using once the conference gets started tomorrow.
Regardless of what happens with that though, as I mentioned previously, I'll be posting a link round-up of blog posts as well, so if you see any, or are writing any, let me know!
Much like I did last year with the ILTA Conference, I'm working with some search feeds to track the various things people are putting up online about the Legal Tech Conference this week. At this time, the feed is still a work in progress, pulling in lots of duplicate items, so I don't want to share that with you all until I feel like it's something worth sharing.
If I don't get it, rest assured I'll be putting up a post with links to any blog posts covering sessions each evening, and know that you can also follow along the twitter conversations on the LexTweet collection of attendees.
If you're going to be blogging about LegalTech this week, drop a link to your blog in the comments, so I can be sure to follow your blog and link to anything you have to say about your experience. Hopefully, I can pull together enough information so that those of us unable to attend, can still get something from the sessions!
It would appear that way. The IPROTech Twitter account showed up in my Twitter followers today, and they pointed to the brand new IPROTech blog. It's always interesting when the folks behind a product you use on a regular basis join the SM fray. I'm going to be paying attention, and see if they put out anything useful!
If you use any of their products, you should do the same.
My reaction? Maybe, but from my experience trying out a couple of online document repositories, there needs to be some performance improvements! We get attorneys complaining about the speed a PDF displays in Summation over a LAN, which is nothing compared to the wait for a document image to display online!
Now, I can certainly understand the move toward online repositories. If I'm a client, I love being able to deal directly with the host/vendor, let the outside counsel access the documents, and then cut off the access when the case is done, as opposed to giving my data to a law firm and hoping they delete it when they're done. That's a great way for a client to keep control of their own case and manage the outside counsel. There's promise in cloud computing to help simplify things for clients, but I don't think, at current performance levels, too many attorney's are going to be excited about that.
Those of you who subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog haven't been getting the daily summary of Del.ico.us links that is usually included in the feed, because, apparently, the new and improved Feedburner, broke that feature.
Also, the Photography and Lit Support pages, which normally incorporate those posts into the page by using the RSS feed to republish those tags, are missing them.
Hopefully, it will be working soon. In the mean time, all the things I've posted to del.ico.us are over there on the site.
I was talking just the other day with someone on Twitter about creating some sort of tracking RSS feed for the LegalTech conference Feb 2-4 in New York. Much like last year's ILTA conference, since I won't be there, I am going to try and use the resources available to me to track the online conversation as well.
Well, turns out, at least on the Twitter front, I won't have to work too hard to track it. Kevin O' Keefe and LexTweet are going to be creating a tracking group of Twitter users attending LegalTech. Nice!
Hopefully it'll have an RSS feed that I can dump into a Yahoo Pipe along with blog search terms, and track the conference pretty easily. If I get something useful, I'll be sure to share.
Tami Schiller was kind enough to present a few ideas in the comments to that last post, and I definitely agree with what she had to say.
In fact, the survey results themselves show some growth in the areas of alternative learning, with more firms using webcasts, podcasts and other time-shifted training tools. That will help with attorneys who can't take time to sit in class, and it's something firms should be experimenting with.
On the other hand, as much as we are seeing more attorneys and law firm staff embrace new technologies, like Google Docs and various other Web 2.0 tools, they are still in the minority. Most attorneys do not know anything about RSS, Twitter, or colloboration tools like Sharepoint or Wiki's. The consideration of using tools like this in the firm comes from the IT department, or from individual users who are less tech adverse than the norm.
The bottom line is still that attorneys, and staff, don't make learning a priority, because firm management does not make learning a priority. Revenue and billable hours are a priority, as well they should be, and attorneys and staff do everything they can to meet their goals in those areas. Some firms make community service a priority, or charitable giving, or practice development things like getting published, getting speaking engagments, etc. and all of those goals get met. Learning how to take advantage of technology is not a priority.
So we've got a growing number of firms starting to dedicate staff time and resources to developing training programs, but hardly any of them doing anything but pay lip service to measuring whether their users actually develop any skills because of it. Until someone comes out and says "you are going to held accountable for developing tech skills, it's a part of your professional development, and this many hours should be dedicated to it", it's never going to be a big priority for attorneys, and if it's not a big priority for attorneys, they won't be encouraging their staff to do it either.
But, the legal industry doesn't really work that way. As Tom O'Connor said today in regards to a recent decision:
No, the real problem is one that Browning Marean and I have been trying to combat for over a year and that Ralph himself so accurately pointed out in a recent column: legal education involves no computer education. Why? Because legal education still has it’s own old paradigm. The one that working with a keyboard is not “professional” and is best done by support staff and hourly employees.
Read that again. Does your firm see technical skills and legal skills as two different things, or do they see technical skills as part of good lawyering? If it's the former, how does firm management, which is made up almost entirely of lawyers, even know how to measure the technical skills of their staff? And if they can't, or won't, measure those skills, what hope does a technical training program have? It's doomed from the start!
The only solutions I see are a combination of things. One, IT must get on track with not just teaching how to use the tools, but also explaining the why. Teach people what they can do with the tools, how they can use the tools to do their jobs, or to do things that they aren't doing now. Help them be innovative! Also, IT must continue to increase the number of training options. Not everyone is suited to sit in a classroom for training. Give them some other options.
Secondly, firm management must get out of the dark ages. It's 2009, technology is not going away. In fact, technology is changing the way every industry in the world works, and the legal industry is no different. Just having a law degree isn't enough any more. Good lawyers use technology to their advantage in a great many ways, to educate themselves, to network, to engage clients and to collaborate. Good firms support that, and great firms will demand it from their lawyers. If that means making technical training hours a requirement on par with CLE credit, then so be it. If that means placing less emphasis on billable hours, or even moving away from billable hours to an alternate rate structure where that makes sense, so be it.
Your firm won't be an innovative leader in the industry if management doesn't make it a priority to be there. Innovation requires developing some technical skills all across your organization, and having the leadership ability to take advantage of those skills.
Or, you can keep doing the same thing and see if you survive in the current economy. Good luck!
I briefly mentioned the woeful numbers when it comes to actually measuring the technical skills of law firm staff when I posted the link to the 2008 ILTA User Support survey.
Tonight, I'd like to dig into those thoughts a bit further. First, let's look at the top answers of some of the relevant questions to this post:
Does your firm conduct skills assessment? 65% -No
If your firm does skills assessment, who do you test? 59% -Prospective Staff
Does your firm have any ongoing technical training requirements for attorneys? 87% - No
Does your firm have any ongoing technical requirements for staff? 67% -No
What incentives are offered at your firm to support training? 52% -Food at sessions
Does your firm have an official budget for your training department? 62% -No
So, let's take those numbers and create a typical law firm staffer.
When you were hired, there's a less than 50% chance that anyone actually bothered to test your technical skills, other than looking at your resume, but there's a chance that someone would have, so let's suppose you do actually have all the requisite skills for your job, currently. Over the years, as technology changes at a great pace, you'll be given the opportunity to take some classes, mostly as part of large roll outs of new tools. There will be other opportunities for training, but no actual budget for it, and no one will be tracking whether you go to training or not. In fact, your skills will never actually be tested again, no matter how long you work with the firm. So long as you can continue to do the important stuff, you'll be fine. If, however, you decide you'd like to learn more about taking advantage of technology, and be more efficient through using it, you'll be richly rewarded, with a pastry.
Of course this is all different for the young associate attorney. For you, not only is your reward a lovely pastry, but you also get the lost hours of billable time that you'll need to make up, and, if you really learn a lot, you'll also be treated to missed billable hour minimums because your efficient use of technology allowed you to get work done quicker, and left you scrounging around for more work to make up your hours!
Which leads me to my last number:
What are the biggest challenges facing training and user support efforts? 73% -Lawyer Participation
Next, some ideas on correcting this problem. In the meantime, I'd love to hear yours!
The survey results are out, and there's a ton on information about how law firms are doing training and user support. I haven't had time to do more than give it a cursory glance, but there's definitely some interesting discussion points. Download a copy.
Also, there's a white paper available with some analysis of what these numbers might mean, and which I need to read through as well, before starting any blog posts discussing the numbers, though the fact that 65% of firms do no ongoing skills assessments, and 63% don't require ongoing technical training for staff (87% don't require it for attorneys) is a little bit mind-boggling. As much as technology changes, you don't have any requirements for people in your firms to continue learning anything technical?
It's no wonder clients think law firms are so behind the times.
This evening, I followed a link that Tom Mighell posted to Twitter, and discovered that Tom O'Connor had started a blog a few months ago! I had no idea. Tom is one of the leading speakers and experts on e-discovery so it was very exciting to see his name attached to a blog.
Coincidentally, also this evening, Josh Gilliland looked me up n Facebook and mentioned that since leaving his post at CT Summation, he had started blogging as well, at Bow Tie Law.
Needless to say, my RSS subscription numbers went up by two tonight.
But remember, all these social networking sites are just a waste of time, no serious business gets done there. ;-)
Given the (low) cost of storage, is it worth the time/hassle of keeping track of 1GB vs. 15GB? I have no idea what typical volumes of data are for your organization, but as you noted, the client will end up paying more for the larger quantity of data reviewed... does the storage and machine time really make up a large actual cost?
I started to reply to Aaron's comment in the comments, but then it occurred to me that I'd be better off making this a new post, because I want to get into some of the nuances of e-discovery in my explanation.
First off, yes the cost of storage being what it is, there's not that much cost to us to store data, especially when comparing 1GB to 15 or 20GB. Processing that much data, however, is a bit different. For example, let's take 3 cases where clients are presenting us with PST files where we will need to use processing software to extract each message, each attachment and all corresponding metadata so that we can load it into a review database. The first is a 1GB PST, the second is a group of PST's totaling 20GB, the third 100GB.
With billable hours being the determining factor in cost of in-house processing, you are going to be billed for the time I spend connecting up the external drive to our processing machine, setting up the new project parameters, labeling the appropriate information, doing a quality control check after it processes, and finally starting the export process. There's no difference in my time for 1GB or 20GB, but how long the machine is in use is vastly different. Granted, we don't have the most robust processing tools, but 1GB can be kicked out in a couple of hours, 20GB takes a couple of days! Keeping in mind that during those couple of days, anything else that comes in has to wait to be processed, there may not be a fixed "cost" of machine time, but there is definitely an opportunity cost of tying up resources that might be used to otherwise be working on billable work. Especially if it's time-sensitive and we end up having to outsource it, losing potential revenue, in the interest of getting in done on time.
The 100GB case, given our resource limitations, would almost certainly be shipped to an outside vendor, and that cost (which may very well be a per GB charge by the vendor!), is then passed directly to the client.
At the end of the day, two of the clients are billed the exact same amount for processing and the third is billed a cost that may be higher or lower because it's based on a completely different factor than the first two. Throw in the very real possibility that these are actually three different collections from the same client, coming in at different times, and what you have is a lack of clarity in billing/costs that is the essence of the argument against billable hours!
So while the firm, as a whole, really does make up the difference when it comes to the longer review process, it might be clearer to people if we simplified the process when it comes to certain tasks, and moved away from time as the factor and toward volume. My point is less about the actual cost in dollars, it's more about how to make the process clear and fair to all clients.
Secondly, the cost of storage actually works in the other way too. As organizations struggle with the amount of data they have, it's cheap and easy to "throw more storage" at the problem, as opposed to making the hard decisions about what they need to keep, what they don't, and how to enforce that policy. I call it the Gmail theory, "don't worry about deleting or organizing, just keep everything and we'll search it!". That may work great when Google is indexing everything in your email constantly, it might not work so great when you're keeping everything on servers, on shared drives, and not indexing or organizing it in any way.
When these organizations are then party to litigation, the amount of data that needs to be searched, or possibly reviewed, continously grows. There may be no real difference to our firm in the cost of a 1GB versus 15GB case right now, but when you start talking about Terabytes of data? As the cost of storage declines, the amount of data being stored by organizations grows, and the more storage we have to incorporate in order to store the relevant data to our cases. That cost will need to get passed on somehow, and right now that is through the review process, but it's an indirect method of passing the cost along. If you want something clearer and easier to understand perhaps we should have a small per GB charge for storing data? Tie the amount of data directly to their costs, and perhaps that would even encourage them toward better document retention and organizing behavior as well, in turn leaving us fewer documents to review, and attorneys more time to work on other, much more interesting, endeavors?
Possibly, but that's a discussion for another time, and one that, being a non-lawyer, I wouldn't even know where to begin with. :)
Nicole Black's new endeavor Legal Tweets is keeping track of a conversation about whether the billable hour is still feasible for law firms.
It's an interesting discussion, and I think it wouldn't hurt for you to go check it out and follow the links to the different ideas.
Now, I definitely think there are places where law firms should think about something other than the billable hour as a revenue model, but then again there are other areas that simply don't translate well. Let me give you an example from the e-discovery/lit support world.
Let's say you have two cases, one involves maybe 500MB worth of data that needs to be processed, stored and loaded into a Summation database to be reviewed, the other has 20GB of data. Since we only bill by the hour, and don't bill machine time, or network storage, your processing costs as a client are going to be basically the same for both of these cases. You'll pay for the time it takes me to setup the project in the processing software, to setup the export, and to setup the load into Summation. Obviously, all of the machine processes will take much longer in the second case, but you won't see any difference in my time, therefore you'll pay exactly the same for the processing.
That hardly seems fair, does it? Of course, the larger case is going to see many more hours billed by the attorneys for reviewing the documents, as well they should. It takes longer to review 20GB of data than it takes to review 500MB of data! That's a good example where the billable hour makes sense.
Certainly, we've seen vendors and some firms switch to a per-GB cost for processing and hosting, and that makes perfect sense, even if most firms have not recognized it yet. Does it make sense for document review to move to that model? I would say no, because all gig's of data are not equal when it comes to review. I think we can all agree 1GB of video files is not going to take near as long to review as 1GB of Word documents, can't we? Whereas a GB of data that needs to be extracted from emails, transferred and stored is a GB of data regardless of the type of information in that GB, that doesn't hold true in other areas of e-discovery.
If you're not going to use the "hour" as the measurement for review, what are you going to use that makes sense?
Certainly, the fact that the event is being put on by the Georgetown Law school adds quite a bit of legitimacy to what you're going to learn, but that $2750 price tag, in this legal industry economy? Wow.
As much as I'd love to go to Georgetown and learn, or even get a couple of attorney's to go who should know more about e-discovery, when we're looking for ways to save money every way we can, it just isn't going to happen. (There appears to be some scholarships available, but I have my doubts about anyone from here qualifying, and the deadline is today, the same day I saw a mention of the event posted to the ILTA email list.)
Of course, if someone reading this is going, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!
An interesting new tool from the fine folks at Lexblogs, LexTweet is:
Lextweet is a new website developed by LexBlog showcasing members of the legal community who are using Twitter as well as what they are tweeting.
Lextweet community members include lawyers as well as other professionals serving our legal profession. I have learned equally from marketing professionals, publishers, service providers, law students, and other professionals as from other lawyers during my time on Twitter.
Interestingly, when I first looked at LexTweet, the language on the site left me thinking it was just a list of lawyers who were on twitter, however as Kevin's blog post makes clear, and the fact that I found myself already listed on there, it is not limited to lawyers, but to everyone in the legal industry. It looks like something that is going to continue to improve and develop some new features, so I'm looking forward to watching this grow.
Jordan Furlong has an interesting look at the current economic malaise in the legal industry. He's convinced the downturn is part of a "regeneration" of law,
People will always need lawyers, and lawyers will still be here to do what we do best: counsel, advise, advocate, analyze, facilitate and connect. The legal profession will be transformed, but if we do this right — and I know we can — the transformation will be a regeneration: stripping away the obsolete and counterproductive and elevating the best of what the law and lawyers hold at their heart: service to clients, the community, and the greater good.
I don't know if that's how things will turn out at the end of the day, but there is definitely something going on. Firms with over century of history suddenly going belly-up? Associates, not to mention non-lawyer staff getting cut by the hundreds at others? This isn't just a downturn in the economy, this is something larger. I haven't been in the legal world long enough to really know what it is, but I suspect we are seeing a change in the way many other industries work, as Jordan states in the post, I don't see why the law should be any different.
Now, to be fair, I've seen this sort of thing play out at places outside of law firms as well. You have someone who's very good at their job, getting that job done properly is very important to you, so you want to do everything you can to keep them in that job. Unfortunately, that sometimes includes blocking their ability to advance, possibly into other areas that they are more interested in. Certainly, there are plenty of legal secretaries who would rather work in IT, or legal marketing, etc. but are good secretaries with partners who depend on them. That may mean the only way to advance their career is to leave the firm, which hurts the firm at the end of the day.
In another organization where I worked in the distant past, we actually had something similar, but every so slightly different. We called it being promoted to the level of your incompetence. Typically, if you were good at a specific job, they wanted you to stay there. But if you weren't very good, you'd be more likely to get promoted, and pushed out of the way of people actually getting the work done. Naturally, the more incompetent you were, the higher up the org chart you had to move in order to be out of the way of the day-to-day operations.
Obviously, this is somewhat exaggerated, but it's easy to imagine this sort of thing going on when you are constantly told how good you are at your job, but find every attempt to advance out of that job to be fruitless, especially when, as the article says, someone half-jokingly refers to blocking your attempts to leave because you are good at it!
This is really one area that shows how short-sighted people are. How much good does it do your law firm, or other organization, to try and keep someone in a job they are very good at, but ultimately not happy staying in? If you've got people looking for new challenges and different career paths, they are going to leave if they don't find them within their current place of employment. So, while blocking them may keep them in that job you depend on them to do for a little while, they'll be completely gone soon enough, and you'll be the one looking to bring in new people, and hoping they are as competent as the person you just lost.
Maybe you'd do well to have enough of a relationship with the people who work for you to know where they want to go with their careers, and help them get there?
Some of you may know, that there's another Ignite Columbus event coming up on Jan 21, and I've already submitted a talk proposal. I wanted to take 5 minutes to talk about what I do for a living, at least in terms of trying to explain electronic discovery to people who are not in the legal field. Now, granted, I am not a lawyer, so I have no plans to turn this into any sort of legal advice, (that would be very, very bad for my career) but I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what e-discovery is, and why people are so freaked out by the concept. Basically, I want to spend 5 minutes covering what happens when your stuff is discoverable from a technology stand point. What's going to happen to your PC, your phone, your data, etc.
So, nearly a month out from this event, I am seeking some advice. What do you, as an IT professional, internet guru, or just personal tech geek, want to know about electronic discovery? Conversely, what do you, as a lawyer, want to know about the technology side of things? Any and all input will be considered for the talk, depending, obviously, on the ethics of me talking about it. :)
Of course, one other aspect of e-discovery that I am also contemplating presenting on is the career path from IT to Lit. Support. How much technology we deal with, how my IT background comes into play, and how important technology has become as part of the practice of law. Any thoughts on that front?
Back in November I told you about an ABA Journal Survey of lawyers regarding the impact of recession on their practice. Today, as part of the special recession issue, they've shared the results.
The numbers that jump out at me, and not just because they are front and center of the page, are that 31% of attorneys expect to see attorney layoffs at their firm, and 19% expect to lose their jobs because of the economy.
Wow, think about that for a moment, 1 out of every 5 attorneys expects their own job to be cut because of current conditions in the legal industry. That's sobering for lawyers, for legal staff that has to be more than sobering. After all, non-lawyer staff is probably more likely to see layoffs!
That's why it's so important to be out growing your network and making connections. The more people you know, the more options you have if you need to turn to your network. Get out and cultivate those relationships now, before you find yourself looking for work!
Check out all the articles in the Special Recession Issue, seems like there's a lot of good information in there that might help you deal with what's going on, including advice on what to do if you do find yourself laid off.
I had a random thought today while I was processing some e-discovery documents. I stumbled upon a resume, and noticed that the author name didn't match the name on the resume. That got me thinking.
Now, certainly there are plenty of reasons why the author name would not match the name on the resume, things like borrowing a computer, having a shared computer at home, or simply having someone else type it up for you. But still, I wondered if any hiring managers out there have ever looked at the metadata of a resume, and whether that influenced how they felt about that resume.
As the hiring manager, how would you feel about a resume with an author that's a resume writing service? Would that make you question how much you're reading the thoughts of the candidate or the words of someone else?
Or, what else could the metadata tell you? What if the author is listed as the company they currently work for? What if the edit/save information showed they were working on this document on that work PC during work hours? How would that change your thinking on a candidate, or should it? Heck for that matter, how would you feel about someone sending you a resume from their work email address during work?
Of course, speaking of email, just like you shouldn't have a questionable email address, like hotmama98@hotmail, you probably don't want to write your resume signed on as Weedsmoker, or something similar. That just might show up in the author field, and well, what are people going to think of you?
Then again, maybe most managers and HR people never even take any of this into consideration. I think I would if it was me. If Googling people is part of due diligence now days, why wouldn't something like checking out the metadata of an electronic document? Never know what it will tell you. (Especially if someone was silly enough to use track changes...)
So, anyone want to start sending resumes as PDF's? :)
In my short time working in Litigation Support, I've been through a number of product demo's from vendors and there are a couple of pet peeves of mine that could easily be avoided. I felt the need to address a couple of them here, in the hopes that someone out there will take the time to do this right!
First, and foremost, do your homework on my firm! If you have scheduled a product demo with me, you know where I work. Tthere are certain facts about the firm, facts which are easily found on the firm's website and thus I shouldn't have to tell you. Things like how many attorney's we have, how many offices, their locations, etc. If you had spent 5 minutes looking at the firm's site, you'd know these things. Lord knows I spent the 5 minutes looking at your site before the demo, please have the courtesy to do the same.
This goes double if there are any attorney's sitting through the demo with me. Again, 5 minutes on the site can tell you what area of law they practice in, wouldn't it be great if you knew what it was, and modified the demo "script" accordingly? Why yes, it really would!
Moving on to the scripted demo, it goes a long way with me if your sales guy can get through the demo without having it appear as if he's never done this before. Case in point, if your hosted review solution requires popups to be allowed from that site for a certain function, and the popup gets blocked when he/she uses that function in the live demo, I can only conclude that they've never used the product before. Is that what you want me to conclude?
Another example? I have done a lot of training in my time, both in IT and Lit. Support. Whenever I run through my training "script", I always make sure that I know exactly what is going to happen when I use a function. If I am teaching a class about Excel formulas, I make sure I know exactly what that formula will do in my training spreadsheet before I do it in front of an audience. In database training, I know exactly what my searches are going to return before I do them live. It only makes sense to do this. I don't want to have to stumble around while the people I'm training watch and wait. It's embarrassing. When you run a search to show me how the search works, and it gets no results, and you stumble around trying to get results, I'm embarrassed for you.
Lastly, if there's a feature of your product that you don't know how to use, or may not quite be ready, don't try to show it to me. If it doesn't work, that doesn't look good.
So, in short, do your homework and practice your demo. Your demonstration of the product should come across like you have done it before, in fact like you do it every day.
Edited to add: If you promise me something during the presentation, I will not follow up with you to remind you to send it to me. Waiting to see how long it takes you to follow through is part of the test...
Edited (part 2): When you create a demo case for us and provide me with a logon to test drive your tool for myself, when I login and get an email 1 minute later telling me how you saw me login and to let you know if I have any questions, followed up by a phone call when I don't immediately respond to your email, I don't find it helpful, I find it creepy. It makes me want to do anything but login and test drive the product again. Is that what you want?
I noticed today on the Lit Support Yahoo Group that the email list is celebrating it's 10th birthday. Wow, I can't even imagine what working in this field would have been like 10 years ago. So much has changed just on the tech side of things in that time that keeping up through all the changes must have been exhausting!
Of course, I doubt the pace of change will slow down much over the next 10 years either, so assuming I'm still working in this industry, I'll be one of the folks who's exhausted trying to keep up.
If you're not currently checking out the email coming in from that group, I highly recommend it, some of the best minds in Litigation Technology are over there, and it's a pretty helpful group to turn to when you're in a bind!
Hmm, so attorney's are going to want more mobility, and clients always want more responsiveness from their attorney. Let's face it, clients are not going to accept "I'll get back to you when I'm back in the office next week". They'll find a new attorney, one who can respond to their email, review a document, and send a letter on their behalf without waiting to be "in the office" to do it.
All that requires mobile technology, and the attorney's are going to demand the freedom to use whatever mobile technology is easiest and most convenient for them. That includes thumb drives, Blackberry or iPhones, VPN connections, etc. (Eventually this will probably include "cloud" storage too.)
Of course, of the other hand you have two interests on the opposite side of all this mobility and accessibility. One, obviously is data security. How do you keep confidential information, well, confidential?
The other is the possibility of electronic discovery. What happens when you're party to litigation, and the people of interest have been using a blackberry, maybe a thumb drive or two (or 3-4?), working on some documents on their personal PC? A mess is what happens, that's what.
So, the question for law firm IT folks is how to you balance these two seemingly competing interests?
To me the answer lies in policy and education. Unfortunately, that's not going to be easy. There are no shortcuts. You've got to figure out what is going to work best in your situation, and then do the hard work to find the correct balance. I'm still not sure what it would be.
I spent some office time today listening in on the 10 Things every Corporate Legal Department Should know about Discovery webinar sponsored by Mimosa Systems today, and had a few notes that I posted to Twitter, and want to talk a bit more about here.
The speaker for this webinar was Bill Savarino, Partner at Cohen Mahr LLP in Washington DC. His points were mostly aimed at corporate legal departments more than law firms, but I wanted to get a sense for what he was telling those folks, because those are the same issues facing our clients and it's good to have some idea of where they are.
The first thing Bill said was that corporations that do not have a retention policy covering their electronic documents, are already behind the curve and are keeping much more than they need to. Couldn't agree more. I saw this when I worked in IT, and I see it with clients all the time. There is just so much stuff to go through and review, simply because they've kept everything. Years worth of emails, documents, database records, backup tapes, etc. add up to quite a large legal bill for e-discovery purposes. The more "stuff" the harder it is to find the relevant documents to any litigation, and the harder it is to find, the longer it's going to take, and the more it's going to cost.
He suggested working with your legal team, and taking a look at ARMA for samples of policies.
The next point Bill made that I mentioned on Twitter was that there should be a good relationship between your legal department and IT department. It's not the first time I've heard this advice when it comes to e-discovery. This was also the tweet that got the most response, because I added that it's not something I've seen very often at all! Obviously, I'm not alone in that opinion. Of course, the importance of it is obvious whenever you stop to think about how you respond to litigation. One of the first steps your legal team is going to do, is have to figure out where the relevant Electronically Stored Information is. Who knows that better than your IT department?
Case in point, last year at another conference, speakers referred to the "IT guy with backup tapes in his trunk." Since I used to be that guy, it certainly rang a bell to me! Let's face it, when your legal department gets wind of litigation they're probably going to go to the CEO and other executives to formulate a plan. Do any of those folks know all the places where documents might be stored? I bet not. But I bet there's some random person in the IT department, who's been there forever, and knows where everything is, who no one even thinks about getting involved.
I'm not a lawyer, but I know enough about IT to know that this is probably pretty good legal advice, and I know from experience, and from what I hear in the industry, that lawyers and techies, do not get along very often. But they absolutely should. Lawyers need the techies to locate ESI quickly and correctly, and techies need lawyers to guide them when searching for and working with relevant documents, so that they do so appropriately.
One of the more "interesting" pieces of advice Bill had was for organizations to do this in-house as opposed to outsourcing the collecting and culling of e-discover because of the cost of doing so. I had a bit of a problem with that advice, simply because not every IT department has the expertise to do this correctly. Many medium sized and smaller organizations probably shouldn't be doing this on their own, they need an outside expert. Lord knows when I was a one-man IT shop at a small organization, I had no business doing this! Of course, the webinar was sponsored by a company that sells email archiving and discovery solutions, that help give you more ability to do this in house, for a price. I'm not certain that fact is unrelated to the advice, unfortunately.
He also mentioned, several times, that when it comes to technology like thumb drives, working from home computers, instant messaging, etc. "If you can't manage it, ban it". I thought to myself, that horse has already left the barn. Most of us know there are a ton of people using thumb drives to take work home, logging in from their home PC's, using personal cell phones to conduct business calls, or text messages, etc. I'm not so sure you can put that genie back in the bottle. At best, perhaps you can educate employees on the risk of their home PC's being seized and searched if the company gets involved in some investigation and they've used them to do work. I'm still not sure that would stop it.
Lastly, one suggestion I could get behind was to look for tech savvy attorney's with experience working in e-discovery when it comes time to find outside counsel. This is, of course, where I point out that I'm not an attorney, and none of the advice that I'm sharing with you from the webinar should be taken as coming from me. You should find yourself one of those attorneys with experience dealing with technology, e-discovery and retention policies and talk to them about the best way to protect your business.
The ABA Journal is asking lawyers to take a survey about the job market and the current state of the legal economy. I'm not a lawyer so I can't take it, but I'm very interested in seeing how the results work out. I think all of us have seen, at the very least, a belt-tightening in terms of expenses, but I'd be curious to see how things are in firms around the country.
If you are an attorney, you can take the short survey here:
Or rather, catch a up with the recording of a webinar put on by Anacomp featuring Browning Marean and Tom O'Connor by that name. Looks like they have a handful of webinars archived on that page that you can download or play directly from the site in exchange for some contact information.
Depending on how you feel about giving them your contact info, the webinars should prove pretty educational. I plan on checking them out soon, of course they already have my contact information from various other places. :)
Simply put, the headline of this post from Gabe's Guide to the E-Discovery Universe describes exactly what you should expect if you are party to a lawsuit at work, and use your home PC to access work information. News Flash: Yes, your home computer may not be safe from your job’s legal issues
This is yet another area where the line between work-life and home-life is a blurry mess. This crosses over in to all sorts of different areas, business risks, work-life balance, employee expectations, etc. Technology has really changed the way we work, and eliminated the idea for many of us, that we go home at 5 and that's it.
Interestingly enough, on the flight to Kansas City for my wife's cousin's wedding this past weekend, I was reading an article in the online magazine for Northwest Airlines about Best Buy's corporate headquarters ROWE approach. ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment and is based on the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It. The basic idea is that there are no schedules. If you want to go to a movie or grocery shopping in the middle of the day, or don't want to start your work day until 2PM, then so be it. So long as the work you're assigned gets done, you get your results, no one cares how you get it done.
Now, obviously, this wouldn't work everywhere. If you have customers that expect you to be available during certain hours, you kind of have to be, but how many of us work in places that expect us to be in our seats "working" for certain hours during each day regardless of how much work there actually is to do at that point, and then expect overtime during the "rush" times?
In other words, how much less would your Litigation Support staff suffer burn out if they had the freedom to schedule their lives around the workload, as opposed to having to be in the office, sitting at a desk, twiddling their thumbs until 5 every day, only to then have to put in 12-16 hour days when there is a ridiculous workload and deadlines? How much better could their quality of life be if they could leave the office for a few hours in the middle of a slower day and get some errands done?
To look at it a different way, why does your IT staff invest in technology that allows people to access network resources from anywhere, and then you expect them to make sure they spend their 40 hours in the office? Because you want them to be able to work after hours, right? What do you offer in return? That may be why your workplace sucks.
I was keeping an eye on Brett's ediscoveryinfo twitter account today. It wasn't quite the same as being here, but I certainly felt like I had a pretty good idea of what was going on.
This is the cool part of Twitter, being able to share shorts bursts of information in near real time with others. It helps us share what's going on, right now, as it happens. And it helps those of us who aren't there still take part in the conversation. I highly suggest you give it a try.