Category Archives: Privilege

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.

v-Discovery Insights: CYLA 10 Minute Mentor

CYLA 10MinuteMentorBetter later than never.  At last September's State Bar of California Annual Meeting in San Diego, I and about fourteen other experts recorded videos for the California Young Lawyers Association's kick-off of their "10 Minute Mentor" program.

That was the easy part.  Many of you may not know this, but the Bar is very strict about complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so the videos couldn't be posted until subtitles were added.

Well…the time has come.  Check out my presentation, "Today's Technologies and Maintaining Client Confidences 101":

 

 

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

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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!

Upcoming Presentation: Calbar Solo & Small Firm Summit: “The Mobile Lawyer & Professional Responsibility: Confidentiality in the Digital Age”

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I didn't intend for this blog to be a billboard for all of my 'stuff', but lacking much time these days, that's what it's been lately.  Since I'm already on a roll, I might as well tell you about a new program I'm presenting at the Calbar Solo and Small Firm Summit in Long Beach, California.  The Summit runs from June 20 – 22, 2013 and my program (#19) is entitled: 

The Mobile
Lawyer & Professional Responsibility: Confidentiality in the Digital Age

Friday, June 21, 2013 
1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.

Lawyers
are open for business 24-hours a day. 
They communicate via Twitter & Facebook, on smartphones, tablets
& notebooks – in coffee shops, taxicabs, airports and on airplanes.  This program reviews recent COPRAC opinions
addressing technology
and provides tools to protect confidences and privacy for
both attorney and client.

Hope to see you there!

v-Discovery Insights: Robert Brownstone of Fenwick & West LLP Discusses his Top 3 Concerns in Data Security

Robert Brownstone has been my friend and colleague for many years.  In fact, he was Chairman of @CalBarLPMT two years prior to me.  We recently appeared on a panel together called, "Under Fire: Defending and Challenging a Motion against Technology-Assisted Review – A mock Meet and Confer (26f) hearing".  He played the role of the Plaintiff's attorney and I the Defendant's.  Robert was a late addition to my panel and I was delighted to present with him again!

 

eDiscovery California: Proposed Formal Opinion 10-0003 (VLO) is now Formal Opinion CAL 2012-184

Attorneys, please take note: The State Bar of California Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 10-0003 (Virtual Law Office) has been adopted as Formal Opinion CAL 2012-184 (link opens 7-page pdf).  If you missed it the first go-round, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourselves with this opinion.

I can lead you to the water (but I can't force you to make the Kool-Aid).