Category Archives: Scope

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 Mobile Lawyer & Professional Responsibility: Friday in Long Beach



MP900442484
Just a quick reminder that I'm presenting Program #19 at the Calbar Solo and Small Firm Summit in Long Beach, California:

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.

It's not too late to register and join us!

ReInventLaw Silicon Valley: GoldenState & the Three Bears

RILSC 2013
What the hell was that???

I’m speaking of the all-day ‘experiment’ (that’s what I’m calling it), ReInventLaw Silicon Valley 2013 conference this past Friday.  Is that a criticism?  Not at all.  This was the kickoff event of a collaborative effort; law students, professors, technologists, investors, inventors, attorneys and everything in-between, all convening in one place (The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, to be exact) to talk about the future direction of law practice.  Approximately 40 speakers in all.  You read that right; 40 speakers in a single day (enough to make an LPMT Chairman cry).

And what did we see?  Good talks, bad talks, decent talks, shameless sales pitches, moderately-shameful sales pitches.  Terrible speakers with outstanding messages, outstanding speakers with terrible messages & mediocre speakers with mediocre messages.  Speakers who went on too long, speakers who didn’t go on long enough and speakers who were juuuust right (yes, this was the LPMT-equivalent of the Three Bears…).

And of course, live streaming Tweets hosted on a PC with an IP-address conflict (DHCP, my friends; old school!).  There were funny tweets about there only being five ties in the room (I happened to be one of them).  My response was to create the hash tag, #thesmartesttiesintheroom.

In other words, I had a great time!  It’s very easy to criticize something like this, I suppose, but the organizers were able to land many hard-to-attain speakers while simultaneously coaxing approximately 350 people (by my rough count of how many actually showed up vs. the 500 tickets that were distributed) to convene in one location for a healthy exchange of ideas.

I gotta go…my porridge is getting cold…

Calbar Looking at Limited Law Licenses: It’s all about Standards

MP900341927An article in the February 2013 issue of the California Bar Journal states that the Calbar Board of Trustees is examining the possibility of creating a class of "limited-practice licensed" individuals.  Among the reasons provided as the catalyst (e.g. lower cost to consumers, path to eventual Bar passage), ostensibly, the Board also believes this would circumvent instances of unauthorized practice of law (UPL).  UPL (Rule 1-300) falls outside of the Bar's jurisdiction and is normally addressed as a misdemeanor charge via a criminal complaint.

A form of certification already exists within the Bar (or at least, it used to), called "Certified Law Clerk".  I know it well because I was one when I worked at the L.A. County D.A.'s Office during law school.  From memory, some of the criteria to be certified included being a 3L and having already passed the Evidence course, among other things.  Certification allowed me to perform more duties than a standard law clerk.  Obviously, I see some benefit to the idea.

However, I also see detriment, and the first one that comes to mind is expectations.  What level of expertise will a client of this class of legal professional believe they are – or should be – receiving?  Who will guard the line between limited-practice and unlimited practice to ensure that the provider doesn't cross it?  Who is at fault if the provider doesn't meet the standards the client believes they should meet?

Is a new tort called "Limited-Malpractice" going to spring out of this plan?  Will it ultimately 'dilute the brand' of what being a lawyer means?

Considering that I'm Chair of the Law Practice Management and Technology Section Executive Committee, if this new class is ultimately created, my Excom will likely be front and center during the implementation process.

Either way, I'll say this; the Board has their work cut out for them!

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: USDC – Northern District of California – Publishes New ESI Guidelines

MP900400507This news is so important to me – and most likely, to you as well – that I actually dropped what I was working on so I could bring it to you asap!  I wanted to make sure you’re aware of the implementation of these new ESI guidelines, which took effect yesterday.  Here’s the press release, and here’s a direct link to the guidelines page which includes a checklist and model stipulated order.