Louisiana Misses The Mark On Technical Competence? Not So Fast My Friend!

May 28, 2019

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My adopted home state of Louisiana has come under a lot of fire recently for not being up to speed on the duty of technical competence. Bob Ambrogi rather pointedly called his blog post on the subject,  A Tech Ethics Opinion that Misses the Mark and in that column referred to another post by Nicole Black who had previously written about the same subject in a Legal News column.  I know and respect both Bob and Nicole but I’m going to go all NCAA College Game Day on them here and channel my inner Lee Corso.

Basically I think their comments miss the mark on several points. First, Bob states that

“ ….  the ABA’s first opinion to address Model Rule 1.1, Comment 8 — Formal Opinion 477 issued in 2017 — makes the point repeatedly that the duty of technology competence encompasses the ability to understand how the client uses technology, what technology systems the client uses, and the client’s degree of technology sophistication.”

So first let’s recall that ABA Model Rule 1.1, Comment 8 was passed in August of 2012 and merely says  “ … a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” As I noted at the time, it was horribly vague and it languished, rightfully so,  for several years before states started incorporating some form of it into their Rules of Professional Conduct. Taken by itself it doesn’t mention anything repeatedly.

ABA Formal Opinion 477 was issued, as Bob notes,  on May 1, 2017. This was well after the state technical competence bandwagon had started rolling but it dealt specifically with Securing Communication of Protected Client Information, the actual title of the Opinion. It does talk about technical competence quite a bit but, in my opinion, it is within the framework of protecting confidential client information, a specific technical discussion and not that of an overall duty of technical competence.

Next, both Bob and Nicole take the position that in today’s world, technical competence is a given.  Their comments seem to echo this line:

For example, a lawyer would have difficulty providing competent legal services in today’s environment without knowing how to use email or create an electronic document. 

But that quote isn’t from the Model Rules either. It’s from the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 Report issued in August of 2012. And in that report, Comment 8 of Formal Opinion 477 notes that the Commission said, in commenting on the proposed change to Model Rule 1.1:

The 20/20 Commission also noted that modification of Comment [6] did not change the lawyer’s substantive duty of competence: “Comment [6] already encompasses an obligation to remain aware of changes in technology that affect law practice, but the Commission concluded that making this explicit, by addition of the phrase ‘including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology,’ would offer greater clarity in this area and emphasize the importance of technology to modern law practice. The proposed amendment, which appears in a Comment, does not impose any new obligations on lawyers. Rather, the amendment is intended to serve as a reminder to lawyers that they should remain aware of technology, including the benefits and risks associated with it, as part of a lawyer’s general ethical duty to remain competent.”  (my emphasis added)

Finally, Bob, much like everyone discussing this topic, quotes the The State Bar of California’s Formal Opinion No. 2015-193 with it’s “6 things ever lawyer needs to know about technology” emphasis. I hasten to point out that the California opinion was written in August of  2016 and specifically refers ONLY to eDiscovery matters.

Further, the last para of the opinion specifically states:

This opinion is issued by the Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct of the State Bar of California. It is advisory only. It is not binding upon the courts, the State Bar of California, its Board of Trustees, any persons or tribunals charged with regulatory responsibilities, or any member of the State Bar

It is not a discussions of a general duty of technical competence and I am not aware that the California Bar has either offered an opinion regarding such a duty or offered a competency rule change on such. Nor has the California Supreme Court or Legislature amended their rules to reflect such a change.

So Louisiana amended its Code of Professionalism (not ts Rules of Professional Conduct) to reflect a duty of tech competence and in one para seemed to follow Model 1.1 by saying:

“I will stay informed about changes in the law, communication, and technology which affect the practice of law.”

Remember that ABA Model Rule 1/1 says

“ … a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

So, we left out the “benefits and risk” clause. That is a major departure form the tone of the ABA Commission on Ethics noted in their 20/20 Report comment. Really?

Sorry but I don’t think so. Long before this Code change, whenever I asked LSBA people   ( and I speak at LSBA CLE events quite a bit … I’m talking to folks at the LSBA all the time) about the duty of tech competence I was basically told, “well we feel the duty of competence INCLUDES tech competence and that’s what we tell people who ask.”  Exactly as the ABA Commission On Ethics 20/20 Report stated. It’s a reminder of an  already existing duty.

Finally, Bob generally and Nicole specifically interpret the Louisiana wording as implying a choice of whether or not to use technology. I personally think that’s splitting hairs in a way the Code doesn’t intend.  Perhaps a better word would have been “when” not “if”,  but still, do we seriously think anyone is NOT using technology? I mean they could choose not to use a phone either but I’m guessing their work would diminish. Rapidly.

Honestly, you think the Louisiana Bar is telling people they don’t have to use technology? Why not ask all the states who haven’t implemented the recommendations of Comment 18 to ABA Model Rule 1.6 why they aren’t taking ″reasonable efforts″ to protect against the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or access to, client information? Or ask California why they don’t have any opinion at all.  Or ask all the states who passed these nice vague rules if they have passed a subsequent CLE requirement for gaining that tech competence? I think we all know that the answer to that question is two.

But Louisiana has missed the mark? Come on man!!


Is ESI Production Rigged Against Plaintiffs In Mass Tort Cases? One Expert Thinks So

May 20, 2019

The eDiscovery Daily Blog has been running  a series I wrote on the challenges facing Plaintiff’s counsel in the eDiscovery arena.  The most recent chapter was posted this morning on their site here and starts with a quote from Bob Eisenberg talking about forms of production.

Bob is well known in the eDiscovery community. He is the Director, eDiscovery & Information Governance at Larson Security LLC, Program Director at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s (CMLaw) eDiscovery Professional Certificate Program and eDiscovery Counsel at Marc J. Bern & Partners LLP in New York City.  

Bob has strong feelings about dealing with productions from the Defense side and feels that in many cases, especially those in the field of Mass Torts,  the litigation game is rigged against the Plaintiffs. Here’s his full exposition of that position which I think you will find interesting.

In mass tort litigation the eDiscovery playing field is tilted in favor of the defense and it seems few are complaining.

Legal disputes, more often then not, succeed or fail as a result of the practice of eDiscovery.  However, in Mass Torts the advantage has been, and continues to gravitate, relentlessly, to the defense.  The access to vital evidentiary information, critical to sustaining plaintiffs’ cases, is being whittled away by virtue of the pro forma production of data to plaintiffs that are almost entirely in static imaged-based form.

Every effort is made by Mass Tort defense firms, in virtually every litigation (no matter how varied the types of ESI; no matter how limiting to plaintiffs) to assure that records produced in discovery are delivered by defendants to plaintiffs in an imaged-based format (Tiff or PDF) with load files for searchable text and metadata; and, practically never provided (except for a tiny proportion that are considered worthless as evidence in image format) as files produced in the manner in which they have been created and stored; that is, in their ultimately most utilizable incarnation; in native form.

The difference between native and imaged-based productions is stark, contrary to some commentators that are, by practice and inclination, defense-oriented.  There is a wealth of potentially invaluable information that is lost and likely forever irretrievable by plaintiffs as a result of a non-native production. Primarily, this information takes the form of inaccessible, yet critical, metadata. Here I must recommend an extraordinarily articulate and comprehensive article exploring the superiority of native over image-based data sets, authored by the prolific and profoundly knowledgeable, eDiscovery expert, Craig Ball (see “The Case for Native Production”, Craig Ball, Esq., Practicallaw.com, October/November 2014.)

 In particular, with enormous productions, by the defense, of complex, often medically and scientifically esoteric documents, being commonplace, Mass Tort plaintiffs’ are severely hampered in the successful prosecution of their claims, by being rendered incapable, as a result of the defense’s ESI production format, of optimizing the use of Advanced Document Analytics, and Augmented Document Review (TAR) in the search and review of production sets.  These tools are commonly deployed on today’s eDiscovery platforms. It is productions in native (or near-native) format that are able to maximize the efficacy of these tools; and it is these tools that are capable of achieving a just outcome in disputes of critical importance – indeed, sometimes of life and death significance – to Mass Tort plaintiff-litigants.

The inarguable “bottom line” is that, in proving their case Mass Tort plaintiffs have become increasingly reliant upon Advanced Analytics and TAR, as the datasets produced by the defense become increasingly voluminous and complex in their make-up.

The arguments advanced by the defendant corporations, in multiple Mass Tort actions, in support of an imaged-based production, are, curiously, similar in scope and details; and, in fact, alike, as well, in lack of persuasiveness.

Below is what this writer has encountered as the most prevalent “supporting” arguments raised by defense counsel in defending, and insisting upon, the production of image-based productions in lieu of those in native format.

None can be categorized as persuasive. These enshrined obstructive orthodoxies of the defense in Mass Tort litigations cannot be permitted to continue. They render it impossible to ever truly level the playing field, and provides impermissible armament to a defense that, in most instances, from the inception of the litigation, maintains an enormous advantage in financial prowess and other resources, and, accordingly, can effectively inhibit the realization of justice and equity for thousands who have been grievously injured through no fault of their own.  The above is an especially powerful counter-argument in light of recent revelations of the failure of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to appropriately distinguish between its pharmaceutical manufacturing stakeholders and those that should constitute its most important constituency: The Consumers (see NY Times editorial column “When Medical Devices Go Unscreened”, NYT, Sunday, May 5, 2019.)

In Mass Torts, in an effort to avoid ESI productions in native form Defense counsel frequently advance the following seven arguments:

1.  The Pre-Existence of a Defendant’s Discovery Database containing all documents to be produced. This is often an attempt to short-circuit any meaningful meet-and-confer discussion in connection with native format production with the defense asserting that the entirety of the documents whose production is demanded have been produced previously and are housed (and sometimes alleged as stored for time immemorial) in a Legacy Discovery or Litigation database as an imaged-based collection.   Accordingly, the argument goes, requiring production now in native can only result in an undue burden and cost.

      Counter-Argument: The documents so housed in these existing databases were      produced in separate actions in which the Requester had not required production in native form, or, having done so, had, for its own reason, accepted a production that met their minimal requirements; a production that was, in effect, “good enough”.     In the matter in which you provide representation, the tools you will use and the document searches and filtering you will conduct, require nothing other than ESI in its native format.

2. It is problematic and unduly costly to redact a production collection in native form.

Counter-argument: This is a red-herring argument grounded in ancient eDiscovery           history. In fact, redaction in native can often be accomplished inexpensively and efficiently (by, for instance, altering and saving the redacted document to a new file)  and, besides, redacted records, in the overwhelming proportion of matters, constitute a  very small percentage of the production; accordingly, redaction should not be a “Tail  Wagging the Dog”, and the determining factor in selecting the production format of vital  evidentiary material.  However, since the number of records are typically small, where redaction in native is burdensome, the redacted record can be produced in image- format with load files;

3. It is unduly burdensome and costly to require an entirely new review of relevant documents now being produced in a new production format

Counter-argument – The continuing, unaltered existence of the identical records to now be produced in their native form is a given. These are, most likely, the same             discoverable records that have already been produced in dozens, hundreds or even      thousands of cases comprising the Mass Tort litigation.  Indeed, their non or altered    existence would constitute an admission of spoliation of the most egregious nature.     A native production is, in virtually all matters, not unduly burdensome for the defense to execute.  It is usually strikingly less costly than the earlier image-based  production. Native ESI is capable of being saved to and produced upon inexpensive media that has remained in common usage for decades;

4. Bates identifiers are diabolically difficult to affix to a production in native format.

Counter-argument –  An anachronistic argument that dates back to the pioneering days   of eDiscovery.  Now Bates identifiers are frequently affixed to native files by changing the name of the file to reflect the Bates number.  Also, legends indicating   confidentiality, or the existence of a Protective Order, or other category, can also be    endorsed on records in their native format.  Another common approach is to affix Bates  identifiers on documents only at the time they are needed, such as for a deposition or  trial, where at that time an image bearing the needed endorsements can be generated.  Typically, these endorsed exhibits will impact only a small proportion of the entire collection, and entail limited effort.  Again, to allow the need to “Bates Stamp”  a very small proportion of the documents in a discovery collection to inhibit the entire production in native, is highly counter-productive, to say the least.

5. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 does not require a production in native (an argument, of course, advanced in the federal system, or in those state courts where eDiscovery regulations reflect a similar Rule.)

Counter-argument: This position is actually very much beside the point, and calls for  a “so what” response.  Plaintiffs are not arguing to the contrary.  Yes, this is what the Rule does not require; so, it is true, but irrelevant, if the production in native does not constitute an undue burden or cost to Respondent, and the production in  image  format can be shown to render the production to Requester one that, under the   circumstances , is not reasonably useable.

6. The image-based production has, in a de facto sense, been accepted by the court (through the vehicle of time and repetition) as the “default mode of production”; that is, courts in other jurisdictions presiding over cases concerning the same medical devices, vaccines, medicines, etc., or even the judge presiding in the present Mass Tort litigation, has routinely permitted an image-based production with load files.

Counter-argument: This is, likewise, beside the point; since your position in the  matter you are engaged in paints a portrait of a non-burdensome production in native,  starkly contrasted to an eDiscovery platform technology that can be, unnecessarily and critically crippled by a production format that the defense is coercing plaintiffs  to accept in a stark effort to assure that the use of analytical tools will not be  optimized or may be negated altogether. 

7. Productions in image format are of equal value to a native production when analytical tools are applied. Here the core argument by the defense, is that the defense’s image-based production does not undermine the use of plaintiffs’ most important eDiscovery technical tools; and, that an image-based production metadata load file, as opposed to the complete and unrestricted existence of metadata values in a document collection in its native form, are of equal efficacy when using analytics.

Counter-argument: This argument is, simply, not true.  A collection rendered without        the stripping of metadata values (native) will always bear more potentiality to reveal        vital evidence than one that relies on the fashioning of a metadata load file (image-          based). All too frequently, the load file created for an imaged-based production                  bears defects in multiple aspects, or is incapable of being adapted for use for the                analytics used by a particular eDiscovery platform.  Some knowledgeable have                  estimated that between 70% to 80% of metadata load files are marred by defects. In          actuality in order for the search and review of a static image-based production to              fully benefit from analytical tools, the extraction of metadata and its re-introduction         into a load file must be virtually perfect.  A standard rarely achieved in any discipline      

  All of this confrontation may, or may not, come down to a vigorously argued Meet-and-  Confer before the court or even a hotly advocated Motion to Compel.

The arguments rendered above by the defense in justification of its refusal to produce in native, are a cocktail of the dubious, bogus and unfounded.  A stew of junk or half-baked technical science and disingenuous advocacy, seeking to rationalize the unreasonable, while tilting that proverbial playing field as far as possible in support of  the defense in Mass Torts.

 

 

 

 


Rachi Messing & Tom O’Connor Are Back with Searching in O365 EDiscovery

May 8, 2019

This is the fifth installment of the Office 365 series with Rachi Messing, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft Legal  and Tom O’Connor of the Gulf Coast Legal Tech Center and this week Rachi and Tom discuss the basic search features of O365.  You can use Content Search to search mailboxes, public folders, SharePoint Online sites, and OneDrive for Business locations. There are no limits on the number of mailboxes and sites that you can search. There are also no limits on the number of searches that run at the same time. After you run a search, the number of content sources and an estimated number of search results are displayed in the details pane on the search page. You can preview the results, or export them to a local computer and if your organization has an Office 365 Enterprise E5 subscription, you can prepare the results for analysis using the powerful analytics features of Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery.


Rachi Messing and Tom O’Connor with Office 365 Part 4: Collection and Processing

May 1, 2019

This is the fourth installment of the Office 365 series with Rachi Messing, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft Legal and Tom O’Connor of the Gulf Coast Legal Technology Center on the YouTube eDiscovery Channel. This week Rachi and Tom discuss the collection and processing features of O365 and how they can change the workflow you may have been using for several years now as well as related litigation hold issues. O365 has some unique ways to deal with these tasks and Rachi will show how you can use them to avoid the old process of broad data ingestion prior to indexing, culling and searching.

 

 


Implementing Litigation Holds In O365

April 18, 2019

Here is the  third installment of the Office 365 series with Tom O’Connor of the Gulf Coast Legal Tech Center and Rachi Messing, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft Legal. This week Rachi and Tom discuss the Litigation Hold features of O365 and how they impact the discovery process.

The duty to preserve is, of course, originally a common law duty, that is the part of the law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent. In the original  colonial states that flowed naturally from the English common law but as the country grew, the newer stated tended to rely on their own state constitutions and court decisions for this obligation.  In Federal courts, a long line of decisions emphasizes the common law duty to preserve.

Regardless of the forum and the source of the obligation, O365 has some unique ways to deal with preservation and holds, with a feature set that can simplify the manner in which a hold is performed and provide a true repeatable, defensible process.

 

 


Tom and Rachi Talk More Office 365: This Time It’s Info Governance As the Lead In to eDiscovery

April 3, 2019

This is the second installment of the Office 365 series with Tom O’Connor of the Gulf Coast Legal Tech Center and Rachi Messing, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft Legal. This week Rachi and Tom discuss the Info Governance features of O365 and how they help start the eDiscovery workflow in that program.

Click here to watch the video.


Everything You Wanted to Know About Blockchain But Couldn’t Even Figure Out How to Begin to Ask

March 26, 2019

Understanding Blockchain and its Impact on Legal Technology

If you think you’re hearing more and more about blockchain and bitcoin, you’re probably right. Blockchain is even being discussed as having potential application in legal technology and electronic discovery. But, what exactly is it? How does it work? And, how do you need to be prepared to address it as a legal professional?

OK, I’ll be the first to admit it.  Blockchain was something I didn’t really pay attention to for quite some time. But then Doug Austin asked me to do a webinar on it with him and I had to start doing my research,  I’m still doing it but I think I’ve absorbed enough to talk intelligently on the subject and tomorrow is your chance to see if I’m correct.

The latest CloudNine Educational Webcast Series program Understanding Blockchain and its Impact on Legal Technology is tomorrow March 27, 2019  at noon CST (2:00 PM EST | 11:00 AM PST). This CLE-approved* webcast session will discuss, define and describe blockchain and how it can apply to legal technology and eDiscovery today and in the future.

Topics include:

• History of Blockchain and Bitcoin
• Defining Key Terms
• How Blockchain Works
• Advantages and Challenges of Blockchain
• Smart Contracts and Other Use Cases for Blockchain
• Impacts of Blockchain on Legal Technology and eDiscovery
• Is Blockchain Really as Secure as People Think?
• Future of Blockchain
• Resources for More Info

As always, your speakers are:
Doug Austin, Vice President of Products and Services for CloudNine.
Doug has over 30 years of experience providing legal technology consulting, technical project management and software development services to numerous commercial and government clients. Doug is also the editor of the CloudNine sponsored eDiscovery Daily blog, which is a trusted resource for eDiscovery news and analysis, and has received a JD Supra Readers Choice Award as the Top eDiscovery Author for 2017 and 2018.

Tom O’Connor: eDiscovery Expert and Special Consultant to CloudNine.
Tom is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems. Tom’s consulting experience is primarily in complex litigation matters.

Click here to register


Office 365 and eDiscovery: What’s It All About Rachi?

March 19, 2019

I was sitting around the other day talking about eDiscovery with Craig Ball …. and I know what you’re thinking, “wait a minute, these two guys live in New Orleans. It’s 40 below zero and snowing all over the country and they’ve got sunshine, Mardi Gras, St. Patricks Day, Super Sunday with the Mardi Gras Indians, music, it’s crawfish season and Shaggy the Crawfish King is boiling all over town but these two guys are sitting around talking eDiscovery. What a couple of losers!

Goat DC 2

But no Constant Reader (sorry Big Steve. I’ve wanted to use that phrase for years now) it’s all about you. Craig and I are constantly thinking about what we can do to enrich your lives and enhance your professional experience. And we really didn’t want to fire up the USS Zydecoldsmobile and drive to Beaux Bridge for the Pirouge Festival.

So we got to talking about eDiscovery solutions for small firms and I brought up Office 365 and the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Microsoft wasn’t really thinking about all the solo attorneys and small firms out there when they bought Equivio and started fleshing out a robust set of eDiscovery ECA features in Office 365.  But if it’s in there for the big firms, well it’s in there for all the rest of us too.

And what better way to talk about it (and irritate all the grammar Puritans out there by starting a sentence with “AND”) then an extended discussion with Rachi Messing of Microsoft.  Many of you know Rachi as the Senior Program Manager at Microsoft Legal but other may recall him as the VP of Customer Solutions at Equivio before it was acquired by the Big M.  Probably know of you will recognize him from the picture on his LinkedIn profile unless you went to high school with him. Seriously, I think he was the third student from the left in the back booth in the first scene of Diner.

But Rachi knows his Office 365 and after a chance meeting with Judge Xavier Rodriguez at LegalTech New York in January, he graciously agreed to do a series of videos on the subject for His Honor to use in a course he teaches at St. Marys Law School. And despite the fact that I recently referred to him as judge from El Paso (showing how much I know about geography in general and Texas in particular)  Judge Rodriguez was equally gracious in saying we should share the videos with the rest of the world via the Interweb.  He didn’t actually say that of course, that’s me being a wiesenheimer becasue like my fictional counterpart Spenser (the detective not the poet) sometimes I just cant help myself.

This first video is the introduction to our series and gives a good overview of how we are going to proceed. We expect to do 7 or 8 recordings and release them every other week for the next few months. Which will give Judge Rodriguez plenty of time before the fall semester to totally disassociate himself from us and our ramblings if necessary. Take a look. I hope you like it.

And as always, my undying thanks to Gayle for maintaining the eDiscovery Channel library.

Oh yeah, since it is New Orleans where I’m writing this, I just couldn’t leave without one more from the man Eric Clapton called “the greatest guitarist you never heard of.”  Take it away Sonny. Bon temps roulez.

sonny


ILTA Names Joy Heath Rush as CEO

February 21, 2019

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Joy Heath Rush, who has been serving as its interim chief executive officer of ILTA since October 2018, has been formally named as CEO effective immediately.

See a full report from Bob Ambrogi at https://www.lawsitesblog.com/2019/02/breaking-ilta-names-joy-heath-rush-ceo.html


TIRED OF BURNING MONEY WITH PER GB PRICING ON EDISCOVERY PROJECTS?

January 18, 2019

In their recent webinar, What’s Wrong With eDiscovery, Jo Sherman and Tom O’Connor focused on several issues including the prevalent model in the eDiscovery process, pricing per GB. This webinar will follow up on that discussion in greater detail, including the history that led to per GB pricing, a focus on why people are not questioning this model and drill down into the emergence of low-cost cloud infrastructure that is increasingly challenging this outmoded pricing structure.

They will be joined in their discussion by Mike Quartararo, the Managing Director of eDPM Advisory Services. Mike is best known as the author of the 2016 book Project Management in Electronic Discovery. Additionally, he also has 20 years’ experience at AmLaw 100 law firms delivering eDiscovery, project management, and legal technology services to organizations across the globe. Mike will use that experience to help drive the pricing discussion as well as offer thoughts for how we can move to ‘value’ based pricing in the future.

Register here to join in on this great conversation.  https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WxAt1h3oQZOCs9YW6DPSag


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