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.

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Calbar CYLA Symposium – May 22, 2015 in L.A.

CYLA Skills 2015So…I'm a little out of order (not a great thing for a lawyer to say, is it?).  It means that I've already posted presentations in June but the CYLA Annual Practical Skills Training Symposium is held in the State Bar offices May 21st in San Francisco and May 22nd in Los Angeles.

Two important thing to know:  1) The programs are different each day, and 2) I'm presenting from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Friday, May 22nd on:

 

New Attorney Skills (Attorney Advertising) 

Ethical Attorney Advertisement and Marketing

"This course will discuss how to advertise your legal services on the Internet. Learn how to design and operate your website, correspond with clients or prospective clients online, and use social media to maximize your business objectives."

I'll also be sticking around from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. for:

Networking Speed Mentoring

"Meet and greet seasoned legal practitioners."

I'm pretty sure "seasoned" is a euphemism for "old"…I'll pretend it means, "experienced".

I hope you can join us.

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Calbar Solo Summit – June 18-20, 2015

Solo Summit 2015It’s that time again, folks.  The State Bar of California Solo and Small Firm Summit will be held at the Newport Beach Marriott from June 18-20, 2015.  I’m presenting program ten this year on Thursday, June 18:

 

Earth(quake), Wind, Fire & Flood: Disaster Planning for the Law Practitioner

Four things are certain in life: death, taxes and disasters. The fourth? The disaster won’t manifest itself in the way you expect nor when you expect it. This program broadens your perception of what a disaster is and – should one occur – guides you through preparing and planning for continuity in your law practice.

I’ve been a fan of this conference for years because it provides a more intimate experience between attendees and presenters.  I hope you join us this year!

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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":

 

 

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LTWC 2015: From LA to SF!

 LTWC 2015
Have you heard?  Big changes are afoot for Legaltech West Coast 2015:

  1. The dates are July 13-14, 2015
  2. It's relocated to the Hyatt Regency
  3. That's the Hyatt Regency…in San Francisco!

How accommodating of them to move it to my new city.  I didn't realize I had that much pull.  Actually, it was great news when I found out about it a few weeks back because in 2014, I had to skip the conference for the first time in years – and it was looking the same way for 2015.

Registration is open.  Mark your calendars…and see you there!

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The Exchange: Cyber Security

TGCIHot on the heels of Today's General Counsel and Institute's eDiscovery-based, "The Exchange" comes something new:  "The Exchange: Cyber Security.  This is not a 'tour'; it's only held in two locations.  Thankfully for me, one is – once again - at The Bar Association of San Francisco, April 27-28, 2015.

Any guesses where the second one will be held?  Hmmm….where is this kind of thing prevalent?

Washington, D.C., of course!  That conference isn't until November 2015 – you have time.

I attended most of day one of The Exchange yesterday and it's as robust as ever.  Still a great choice if you want to get the big-picture view from every corner of our profession. 

Registration is open, but be warned; it's almost completely full and the rules are different this time.  You may use the same free code to register if you're my corporate readers only:

TGCICOMP

Sorry law firms – you still have to pay.  Also, this is a vendor-sponsored event, so no outside vendors allowed.  

P.S.  I'd like to give a shout-out to my good friend from TGCI, Neil Signore, who has graciously provided complimentary admissions.

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Close, But Still TFARR

MP900401794

Interesting article in the Los Angeles Times on TFARR.  Of course, nobody knows it as TFARR except those who were on the Task Force.  Still, if you're a law student about to graduate and take the bar exam - or you've passed and are about to be sworn in – you'll want to familiarize yourselves with the evolution of proposed mandatory pro bono requirements in California.

For the record, it's the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform

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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:

TGCICOMP

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

See you there!

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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.

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An IT Executive Turned California eDiscovery & Litigation Attorney and Consultant Shares his Personal Insights.