ACEDS 2016 eDiscovery Conference - 'The Essence of E-Discovery Education'

Yesterday I attended a panel on “The Essence of E-Discovery Education” at the ACEDS eDiscovery conference in New York. The panel included William Hamilton, the Executive Director of the University of Florida's International Center for Automated Information Retrieval; Rachel See, the National Labor Relations Board's Lead Technology Counsel, and Judge James Francis IV, a magistrate judge with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

This was an awfully early call for me - this blog isn't called Litigation Support Tip of the Night for nothing – but I made to the Grand Hyatt on 42nd street shortly after the panel began at 8 AM, and these are my notes on what the stellar panel discussed. Bill Hamilton noted the irony of attorneys complaining about dealing with large amounts of ESI, when the data simply gives them more evidence about what happened in a matter. He recalled that before the era of electronic discovery lawyers often didn't get a handle on cases until the deposition phase. He also note that rise of electronic discovery has seen a decline in the apprenticeship model when attorneys closely trainined junior associates. Judge Francis, while joking that gaining a reputation as a techie came with the risk of judges eyes glazing over when you rose to speak, pointed out the need for lawyers to receive a common foundation in electronic issues. He notices attorneys with different levels of competence – or who have knowledge in different silos. With this comes attorneys who have significant blind spots. Lawyers may know a lot about laws concerning preservation but are unaware of the auto-deletion processes in information management systems. A litigation support analyst may be very proficient at processing data, but not be able to grasp the legal principles regarding the preservation of meta data. Mr. Hamilton's outline for the discussion categorized electronic discovery as a combination of disciples (technology, practice, and legal principles),. He talked about the pedagogy of the field and emphasized the importance of spaced practicing, and interleaving – or the mixing together of the practice of different skills at once. The student needs to elaborate (relate studying to what she already knows); generate (solve problems); reflect (review what she learned); calibrate (adjust her judgment to reality); and employ mnemonic devices (tricks to remember). The book, Make It Stick was recommended as a guide to modern teaching techniques. Rachel See noted how the use of Six Sigma principles at a law firm she worked at for tasks like the preparation of appellate briefs and so forth was mind blowing for some people. Six Sigma is a business strategy developed at Motorola and popularized by GE that aims to minimize defects and reduce variability in internal processes. George Socha, one of the founders of the EDRM, was in the audience, and described his experience advising a 60 lawyer firm that was doing an audit of its own electronic discovery practices. He found that the associates wanted more training so they could make effective use of Relativity. The panel discussed the need to teach practical skills and used the example of document database searching – a defensible search isn't simply a question of using key words in an appropriate combination. Judge Francis talked about a conference he attended for other judges, and how interested they were in in the process of document review. They wanted to practice how to code documents, and see how linear review compared with technology assisted review. He described judges as being very good at top level review and case management, but generally have a poor background in computers.