Category Archives: eDiscovery California


Disclaimer:  This is a State Bar of California Opinion, and I’m Vice-Chair of the Council of California State Bar Sections (CSBS).  I want to remind you, “This blog site is published by and reflects the personal views of Perry L. Segal, in his individual capacity.  Any views expressed herein have not been adopted by the State Bar of California’s Board of Trustees or overall membership, nor are they to be construed as representing the position of the State Bar of California.”

To put it simply, the premise of CAL 2016-196 is to address when:  1) A blog post becomes a “communication”, as defined under the RPC and the State Bar Act, and 2) If it is deemed a communication, is it “attorney advertising”?

First of all, what constitutes a blog (or, as I prefer to call legal blogs, a “blawg”)?  Hmmm.  Well, if you call it a blawg, that’s probably a big hint that it’ll be legal in nature, but that’s not really what I’m getting at here.  Are your scribbles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “blogging”, for the purposes of this opinion?

You bet (if those scribbles are legal in nature and/or purport to advertise your services).  You may not be aware of it, but products like Twitter are referred to as “micro-blogs”.

I think the continuing problem with a lot of these opinions is that they cause people to lose their minds worrying about them as if they’re something new.  The reality is, technically, a blog post is no different than if it were an article in a magazine that had a little blurb at the end that includes your contact information.  You’ll be subject to regulation for attorney advertising (California’s Rule of Professional Conduct, rule 1-400 – Advertising & Solicitation).

The real differences?

  • Someone has to subscribe to the magazine, receive it for free or pick it up in the dentist’s office office or a friend’s home.  However, if your blog is public, you need to understand, that means public; available to anyone, anywhere in the world at any time who has access to the internet.
  • The jurisdiction in which someone reads it may not authorize attorney blogging.

I bet many of you see where I’m going with the second point.  Could this trigger an accusation of improper advertising?  What about an in-depth article including opinion on a particular law?  Could that be unauthorized practice of law?

Yes and yes.  So what do you do?  For starters, click on the link above and read the opinion.  It’s only eight pages, and you’ll quickly see that a lot of it triggers opinions you’ve seen before, such as CAL 2012-186.  Two, disclaim, Disclaim, DISCLAIM.  Many a problem is eliminated if you simply inform your readers of your audience.

Of course, you can’t do that on Twitter.  So you might link to your disclaimer, or state briefly, “All opinions are my own.”

Oh, and there’s this last bugaboo:  You must be able to reproduce each and every post you’ve made for the past two years (while you’re gasping, keep in mind, it’s three years in New York).

1st Things 1st: The Litigation Hold Letter (A Blast from the Past)

J0309498 All – as part of my ‘repairs’, I’ve looked at some of the blog logs (say that 3x fast) and since this item was posted over six years ago, it’s still ranked as #1 on the site!  So, it seemed like this was the perfect opportunity to republish it.  The letter itself is slightly updated, but the post is reproduced verbatim:

Wow…this is my 100th post!  Who knew I could pontificate this long?

In analyzing the new California Electronic Discovery Act (I’m going to start calling it “CEDA” for short), I might as well start at the beginning.

The first thing that will occur if litigation arises?  There’ll be a bunch of litigation hold letters going around.  I say a bunch because it could manifest several ways; outside counsel to your adversary, outside counsel to inside counsel, inside counsel to the enterprise, the CIO/CTO to the IT department, the CEO to the CIO/CTO…you get the idea.  In some cases, as illustrated above, the letter may not even be coming from an attorney.

What might the letter look like?  Here’s an example of a litigation hold letter theoretically issued from outside counsel to an adversary (in PDF format).  The names were changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty, for that matter).

This is only a sample to give you an idea of what a letter of this kind might look like.  The purpose is to illustrate items you may or may not have thought about.  Like snowflakes, no two letters will ever be exactly the same.  Only a professional with personal knowledge of your specific requirements should ever create and/or issue a litigation hold letter.

Enough disclaimers?  Ok then…chew on this for a Monday.

Guest Post – Peter N. Brewer: LegalTech – Day Two

Peter Brewer Caricature

I think this is the first time I've ever done this on the blog, but immediately following LegalTech, I had to leave for a trip.  However, Peter Brewer, my trusty colleague from the Law Practice Management & Technology Section, was kind enough to write up a guest-post about his experience this year.

<<< I leave it to you to determine which image to my left is the real Peter Brewer:

"The ALM LegalTech West Coast event, historically always venued in the Los Angeles area, was held instead this year in San Francisco at the Hyatt Regency on July 13 and 14. As in the past, the event consisted of keynote sessions, seminars, and importantly, a large vendor exhibit area. The first day had five seminar tracks running consisting of; corporate legal operations, information governance, advanced IT, the cloud and mobile technology, and E discovery. The second day the tracks were four in number and consisted of; information governance, E discovery, information technology, and corporate counsel perspectives. 

I attended only the second day, which kicked off with an interesting discussion of the Ellen Pao versus Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers case. On the panel were two reporters who covered the trial, and the defense attorney, Lynne C. Hermle, from Orrick Herrington and Sutcliffe. The plaintiff’s attorney, Alan B. Exelrod, of Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, had been scheduled to be on the panel but had to withdraw due to a scheduling conflict. This keynote proved to be a lively hour of informal discussion in which Lynne Hermle gave substantial credit to the jury for their thorough and diligent evaluation of the evidence. 

The keynote was followed by seminar sessions throughout the day, with ample breaks to visit the vendor exhibit hall.  I attended one of the seminar sessions on E discovery, “Every day E discovery: Bringing It In-House or Outsourcing It.” The panelists were knowledgeable; they consisted of an independent consultant, a claims manager, a partner from the major law firm, and a representative of Lexis-Nexis. The discussion was lively, but for my tastes it was a broad overview with much discussion of the concepts but very little grass-roots, take-home practical advice. I came away feeling that the discussion had been thoughtful, but with no better sense of, “where do I start,” or “what are my first steps when I get back to the office.” 

I also attended a session on cyber security. Again, the panelists were well qualified and knowledgeable. The discussion included such things as the availability of data breach insurance, engaging outside consultants to do cyber security audits of your business, and a general, high-level discussion of the topic of data security in the office. Toward the end of the session the moderator opened the discussion up to questions from the audience. I commented to the panel that, while I found the discussion interesting, I would like to have some specific action items that I could take back to my five-attorney law firm and implement, step-by-step. 

The advice that was given in response was to start with written policies and procedures. As in any endeavor, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. A cautionary bit of advice that went with the suggestion of developing written policies and procedures was that then you are duty bound to follow them. Failing to observe your own procedures can increase rather than decrease your liability.

It was also suggested that I consider hiring a security consultant to do a risk assessment of my office. Apparently for a firm the size of mine (<10 total staff) this endeavor can run approximately $5,000 – $10,000. While this seems like a sizable chunk of discretionary spending, the cost of a data breach and one’s exposure to liability for it would no doubt be a multiple of many times that amount. 

Contrasting the 2015 event with LegalTech events in years past, one significant difference stood out to me.  In past years there were seminar sessions on a broader variety of topics. There have been sessions on such things as what financial reports a law firm owner should regularly produce and review, sessions on tech gadgets, useful mobile devices, helpful apps, practice management software, and so forth. This year by far the greatest emphasis was on data. Even the vendor exhibit hall, although it did have exhibitors of a variety of useful products, seemed to be heavy on the e discovery and data security vendors. While this information is no doubt useful to some, I found it not very applicable to my small firm’s real estate law practice, where we do not get cases involving discovery of tens of thousands, or more, documents. Circling back to the keynote discussion that kicked off that day, attorney Lynne Hermle said that in the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins case Ellen Pao had produced something approaching a million documents. May I be blessed to reach the end of my career without ever having to tackle such a daunting task. 

All in all, the LegalTech event is an enjoyable break from the office, especially for those of us interested in tech.  Are you one of us?  Check your wrist.  If there’s an Apple watch on it, you are inescapably a techie.  It was nice to have this event in Northern California for a change, and the Hyatt Regency was a lovely and accommodating venue.  I hope to see the event back in San Francisco again next year."

Peter Brewer


About the Author:   Peter N. Brewer has been a lawyer for over 35 years, and is also licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate as a real estate broker.  Peter started his own firm in 1995.  The firm has grown to five attorneys, practicing real estate and lending law.  The firm serves the legal needs of homeowners, purchasers and sellers, real estate and mortgage brokers, agents, brokerages, title companies, investors, other real estate professionals and their clients. Peter and his firm also represent clients in debt collection, creditor representation in bankruptcy, breach of contract matters, and other litigation and transactional work.

Peter obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Santa Clara Law School in 1979 and is also licensed to practice law in all State and Federal Courts in Idaho and certain Federal Courts in Michigan and Iowa (and probably in other states he no longer recalls).  He loves dogs, hates kids, and is generally considered to have an insufferable disposition.

Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer

2501 Park Blvd, 2nd Flr.

Palo Alto, CA 94306

(650) 327-2900 x 12                 

Real Estate Law – From the Ground Up®

My Analysis of Calbar Formal Opinion 2015-193: eDiscovery & ESI? “Don’t Be Stupid”

The last three words from this short Beverly Hills Cop video clip sum up my analysis of the opinion:

I wrote public comments to COPRAC (The State Bar of California Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct) re their interim versions of the opinion and, in a rare step, I’m posting a verbatim excerpt because my assessment of this opinion remains unchanged.  One modification – I bolded a quote, because the Committee adopted my definition verbatim in their opinion (page three, footnote six):

“I’m seeing a very common thread in COPRAC’s reasoning that afflicts those who understand technology at a more surface-level; the tendency to think of it in physical, rather than ethereal terms.  In other words, the Committee has focused on the word evidence, instead of the word electronic.  Take water, for example.  Whether it exists in a lake, a bathtub, or a glass, it’s still water.  It’s the same with evidence.  Whether it exists as writing on a tombstone, a paper document, or in electronic form (e.g. sitting on a flash drive), it’s still evidence.  It’s the medium that should distinguish it for your purposes.  That’s the contrast missing here.

Whereas the Committee has done a better job of defining parameters such as clawbacks and laying out accurate mistakes by our hapless attorney, once again, it descends into conduct that isn’t eDiscovery-based; but competence-based.  This opinion relies too much on unrelated reasoning, such as “assumes”, “relying on that assumption” and “under the impression”.  That’s not an eDiscovery problem; that’s a general competence problem.  It’s also not what the audience needs.  If they’re attorneys licensed in California, they’ve presumably passed both a Professional Responsibility course and the MPRE exam and know – or should know – their duty of competence.  It’s not as if an attorney retains a med-mal case, then immediately “assumes” or is “under the impression” that s/he’s a doctor and can read an x-ray.  But I could intertwine those facts with this opinion and make it about medical experts.  What attorneys specifically need to know is how their actions, or lack thereof, in the procurement, assessment and handling of electronic evidence morph into a violation.  This is a highly specialized area unto itself.  See my previous example.  The x-ray is electronic evidence.  Proper acquisition is one matter; analysis, forensic or otherwise, is quite another.  That doesn’t just include the adversary’s evidence.  It also includes the Client’s evidence.  In this scenario, one is seeking to exculpate the Client through all available means – not just via the adversary.

Contradictions also exist in Footnote Six on page three that states, “This opinion does not directly address ethical obligations relating to litigation holds.”.  I respectfully submit that the opinion goes on to do exactly that.  Perhaps this is due to the criteria set forth in Footnote Six being inaccurate as defined.  In a legal setting, Attorney is charged to know what the Client does not, and this may involve issuing litigation hold instructions to their own Client; not just third parties or adversaries.  If attorney was interacting with the CIO or CTO (The “Information”/”Technology” chiefs, perhaps s/he could reasonably reply on their assessments.  But here, attorney is interacting with the CEO who likely has no intimate knowledge of what goes on in the IT department.  It should read, “A litigation hold is a directive issued to, by or on behalf of a Client.”  Otherwise, how does the competent Attorney protect a Client who, in good-faith, endeavors to do the right thing or protect themselves when a Client, in bad-faith, engages in intentional spoliation?  One of those scenarios exists on page two, when the eDiscovery expert, “tells Attorney potentially responsive ESI has been routinely deleted from the Client’s computers as part of Client’s normal document retention policy”.

Understanding these nuances and acting on them is the very definition of competence as applied to an eDiscovery attorney – or an attorney who engages the services of a third-party eDiscovery vendor.  In this arena, eDiscovery is like a game of falling dominos; once competence tips over, the rest (acts/omissions, failing to supervise, and confidentiality) will logically follow.  As they say, timing is everything.”

Conclusion:  The opinion does a good job of explaining fundamentals of the eDiscovery process, but in my opinion, doesn’t go nearly far enough.

The “Exchange” 2015

TGCIJust a brief reminder that Today's General Counsel and Institute kicks off their multi-city stop of "The Exchange" – E-Discovery for the Corporate Market at The Bar Association of San Francisco, March 16-17, 2015.

I'm on the faculty and will be one of the moderators of session two Monday, March 16th at 10:15am:  "IG in the "eWorkplace Era and its Impact on eDiscovery".

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of this particular conference due to its round-table format where everyone is encouraged to participate.  Registration remains open, so it's not too late.  I've been provided a special code for my corporate and law firm readers only:


This is a vendor-sponsored event, so unfortunately, no outside vendors are allowed.

See you there!

Calbar Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 11-0004 (ESI & Discovery): Comment Period Extended!

Emergency HumorousA quick note to let you know that the proposed opinion was revised and resubmitted for public comment with an extended deadline of April 9, 2015 at 5 p.m.  I stress that the opinion is revised because – if you're going to submit comments – you need to review the new version first!

PLEASE NOTE: Publication for public comment is not, and shall not be, construed as a recommendation or approval by the Board of Trustees of the materials published.

Calbar 87th Annual Meeting: Upcoming Program(s)

Calbar 87th AM Banner
I just took a look through this top page.  I've only posted ten times (including this one) in almost an entire year!  I've got to try to step up my game, but honestly, it's going to be difficult as I get busier and busier.  I'll do my best; in the meantime, here are my upcoming program(s) at the State Bar Annual Meeting in San Diego (I used the (s), because for one program, I'm making a guest appearance but am supposed to be in two places at once!):

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Leveraging Technology to Win the Discovery Game:  Program 31

Thursday, September 11, 4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

This is tentative.  There's a meeting of the Council of Sections simultaneously with this program and since I will be assuming the role of Co-Chair at the conclusion of the Annual meeting, I need to be there.

I'm hoping to make my way to this session and appear for the last thirty minutes or so.  But be warned; if I'm delayed, I might not make it.  My colleague, Alex Lubarsky is presenting, so either way, I encourage you to check it out as he's extremely knowledgable.

This program will cover the rules and new technologies governing electronically stored information (ESI). Learn about cutting edge litigation technology advancements that will result in cost savings and streamlined management of ESI.

CLE: 1.0 Hour of Which 0.5 Hour Applies to Legal Ethics

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The National Security Agency and Attorney Confidentiality: How to Protect Your Clients:  Program 63

Friday, September 12, 2:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been heavily featured in the news. While the agency collects our data, how does it use it?  This program will address the NSA’s data collection and the unique challenges it presents to lawyers. Learn how to protect yourself and your clients' confidence.

CLE: 1.5 Hours of Which 0.5 Hour Applies to Legal Ethics

As you can imagine, questions about the NSA come up a lot in my presentations when I discuss attorney confidentiality, but with the outright panic I'm starting to see due to all of the misinformation out there, I feel it is time to address the issue in-depth.  We're going to spend ninety minutes exploring attorney ethical obligations, what the NSA says they do vs. what they really do and how you can best protect client confidences – hopefully without experiencing a meltdown in the process.

That's it for this year.  Hope to see you in San Diego!

Calbar Solo Summit 2014: So Much for Cutting Back!

Solo Summit 2014


Hi All – hope things are going well with you.  I said I was planning to cut back on presentations, but somehow I was selected to do two programs at the upcoming State Bar of California Solo & Small Firm Summit in Newport Beach (note that's a change from the usual location, Long Beach).  So, without further adieu, here's my schedule:


Solo Summit 2014 - Friday

Friday Lunch Program:  11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

(Program 17, June 20th)

Junior Associate to Senior Partner: Confidentiality, Privacy and Technology Governance

Generally speaking, senior attorneys tend to be intimidated by technology. On the other hand, junior attorneys tend not to be intimidated enough!  This program strikes the balance and answers the burning question, “Am I doing enough to protect the privacy and confidentiality of both my practice and my client information?”

MCLE: 1.0 Hour Ethics

[I was awarded one of the coveted plenary sessions for the first time.  Normally, we break into three concurrent MCLE presentations, but the plenary sessions have all 250 attendees.  I'm going to have to be on my toes for this one…]


Solo Summit 2014 - Saturday

11:00 a.m. to 12 noon

(Program 32, June 21st)

Leveraging Technology to Beat the Big Guys in the Discovery Game

Panel presentation of the rules and new technologies pertaining to ESI (electronically stored information) that will level the playing field to allow a solo or small firm attorney to “go toe-to-toe” with a large law firm throughout the discovery process — even during the most complex and voluminous litigation. The speakers discuss cutting edge litigation technology advancements which translate to cost savings and more streamlined management of electronically stored information. New technology trends discussed include computer assisted review, analytics, the latest trends with computer forensics and automating litigation hold policies among others.

MCLE: 1.0 Hour Ethics

Hope to see you there!

Don’t IT Tomorrow what you can IT Today: IT Law Today Blawg

Brownstone photoI've been waiting for this for some time.  Robert Brownstone of Fenwick & West (who I've cited many times on this blawg), has finally taken the plunge and launched the blawg, "IT Law Today: News & Updates on the lifecycle of electronic information management".

Folks, if you want to receive top of the line information and resources from one of the best in the business, I recommend you add him to your favorites lists (and while you're at it, follow him on Twitter as well – @eDiscoveryGuru).

You know how stingy I am about promotion on this blog, but this is one of my rare exceptions.  Let me put it this way; when I have an issue that could go one way or the other and I want to chat with someone about the possibilites, Robert is the first person I call!

Make him one of your first stops as well – you will benefit greatly from his knowledge.

Upcoming Presentations: Calbar Annual Meeting: “Innovation & the Law”


I have two presentations scheduled at the 86th Annual Meeting of the State Bar of California.

The official hash tag for this year's event is #CalBarAM13:

* * * * * * * * * *

Thursday, October 10, 2013

 Program #3 – 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

eDiscovery and Ethics: What Attorneys (and Clients) Need to

with Browning E
Marean III

** and **

Friday, October 11, 2013

Program #67 – 4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

High-Tech Crimes & Misdemeanors: eDiscovery &
Forensics in Criminal Matters

with Criminal Law Section Chair-Elect Mark E Jackson

 * * * * * * * * * *

See you there!

CalBarAM13 - Banner