Discovery

Federal judges don’t take kindly to misstatements by counsel appearing before them. And when the judge is unhappy, the client is unhappy. And when the client is unhappy, outside counsel gets cashiered. It’s not a pretty process.

Let’s travel down to south Florida, where an allegedly incorrect statement by a partner at Greenberg Traurig has incurred the wrath of a federal judge — apparently resulting in the client replacing the firm, and the firm parting ways with the partner.

It’s a cautionary tale for litigators….

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Over the last couple of months, we have written a few stories about Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck. Judge Peck generated headlines as the first federal judge to approve a litigation protocol for e-discovery that included predictive coding technology.

For a while, the story was pretty happy-clappy. It was a start of a new era. E-discovery — through predictive coding that had now arrived — would be cheaper, more efficient, and faster. Yay!

But, alas, all is not well in this legal technology paradise. One of the parties in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Group, the case that started this whole saga, has requested that Judge Peck recuse himself.

They say his enthusiasm for predictive coding crosses the line into partiality…

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I hate to invoke a cliché, but “David versus Goliath” captures the challenge a smaller firm faces when litigating against an Am Law 200 firm. A small firm can feel like David when facing a larger firm that can bring more resources to bear on legal research, drafting motions, reviewing documents, etc.

The challenge increases when applied to clients. Many of my firm’s initial clients were startups or emerging companies with limited litigation budgets. Their adversaries often were much larger, established companies with seemingly unlimited budgets. Thus, we faced not only the challenge of litigating against brand-name firms with hundreds of attorneys, but we also initially had clients who simply could not afford to spend as much in legal fees as their well-heeled opponents.

So how can a small firm, especially representing a smaller company, effectively litigate against a proverbial army of lawyers representing a client to whom money is no object?

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Anyone who works with e-discovery has no doubt encountered the bewildering array of vendors and service providers clamoring for legal technology business. It can be confusing.

As the e-discovery industry has exploded, vendors’ roles have expanded and changed as well. Just a few years ago, it was more common for attorneys and their firms to have to piece together several vendors to form a cohesive e-discovery attack plan. These days, many service providers offer more start-to-finish options.

Even though it is all very technical, vendor work sometimes walks the line between IT work and actual lawyering. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has become wary of discovery vendors that might offer misleading advertisements about their legal certifications. Last week the Court’s Committee for the Unauthorized Practice of Law (sounds intimidating!) delivered an opinion clarifying some rules relevant to discovery vendors.

While they were at it, the committee delivered a couple solid kidney shots. Ouch….

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When a tipster sent us an e-mail with the subject, “Court awards $700,000+ in sanctions for destruction of FB page,” I thought it sounded like it might be interesting. Because hey, that’s a lot of money.

I didn’t realize it would also be one of the most depressing legal news stories I’ve read since this tragic murder-suicide.

The three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar sanction award was levied against the widower of a woman killed in a car accident and the widower’s lawyer. The ruling was an abrupt table-turn for Isaiah Lester, who had previously won a $10 million wrongful death suit against the driver whose truck overturned and killed his wife.

Keep reading for the depressing details….

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The information age we live in can be a blessing and a curse. Few fields demonstrate this truth more persuasively than the realm of electronic discovery.

During a panel here at the Legal Technology Leadership Summit on the theft and exfiltration of intellectual property, the panelists discussed the exponential growth in information densities, the increasing importance of IP, and the challenge that evolving technology presents to the governing legal frameworks. As one panelist noted: “Technology leaps, the law creeps.”

What does rapidly changing technology mean for the e-discovery world? And what are some considerations that in-house lawyers should keep in mind when responding to e-discovery requests?

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Judge Sam Sparks

You do not want to mess with Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. We recently wrote about Judge Sparks accusing a lawyer appearing before him of incompetence — in a harshly worded order that pulled no punches.

Judge Sparks has been doling out stinging benchslaps for years, and he’s gotten pretty good at it. In particular, His Honor has little patience for discovery disputes. In 2007, for example, he smacked down some lawyers squabbling over a deposition — in rhymed couplets, no less.

Last week, Judge Sparks lit more lawyers on fire….

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Elie wishes he had taken the nuggets.

* What can law firms learn from Folgers crystals? Maybe how to provide legal services rich enough to be served to America’s finest corporations. [What About Clients?]

* A look at what $100,000 in law school loans could have purchased instead — e.g., 505,050 chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. [Constitutional Daily]

* What kind of “reasonable accommodations” are alcoholics entitled to in the workplace? A three-martini mojito lunch sounds good to me. [Overlawyered]

* Some thoughts from Henry Blodget on Groupon and the SEC-mandated “quiet period.” Any thoughts, readers, on Blodget’s take on attorney/client privilege? [Business Insider]

* Professor Ann Althouse on the exoneration of Justice David Prosser (noted in Morning Docket): “A justice is despised because his decisions do not please liberals, and so, without thought, they forgot about things liberals like to love themselves for caring about, such as fairness and due process.” [Althouse]

Is it wrong to find Justin Bieber totally hot? Just askin'....

* E-discovery is moving to the cloud. What are the opportunities and the risks? Ben Kerschberg and Bret Laughlin discuss. [Forbes]

* Speaking of e-discovery, the DISH Network and Redgrave LLP are sponsoring an e-discovery research and writing competition, open to law students. [dishdiscovery]

* Law librarian Joe Hodnicki weighs in on the controversy over ScamProf aka Paul Campos and his controversial blog. [Law Librarian Blog]

* If you share Staci’s opinion that Justin Bieber “kind of looks like a girl,” here’s some support for your viewpoint. [Fashionista]

* The American Constitution Society is holding an online symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. [ACSblog]

When you’re in private practice, people ask you tough questions. “During the proxy fight, a trial court held that our proxy statement was false and misleading. We settled that case, so that judgment is final. We’ve now been hit with a 10b-5 shareholder suit, and the plaintiffs have filed a motion saying that the earlier proxy decision is binding on the question whether our statements were false and misleading. How do we defeat that motion?”

Then you move in-house, and the question changes: “How can we reduce the cost of electronic discovery and document review?”

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But, when you’re forced to think for a minute about electronic discovery and document review, you realize that the battle previously waged between law firms and third-party vendors to capture this work is now largely over: Document review, which was historically an important profit center for large law firms, has moved permanently into the hands of third-party vendors. That sea change was not prompted by the recession, and things are not going to return to the old “normal” after the economy recovers. Companies that continue to rely on law firms, rather than third-party vendors, to do large document reviews are probably making a mistake, and law firms that are counting on document review projects to resuscitate their profitability are betting on the wrong horse.

Why?

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Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi

As we mentioned in Friday’s Non-Sequiturs, the legal team of Dharun Ravi has moved to dismiss the criminal charges against Ravi stemming from the suicide of Tyler Clementi. As many of you know, Clementi committed suicide after Ravi streamed video of Clementi hooking up with another guy.

Lawyers to Dharun Ravi discovered comments from Clementi suggesting that Clementi was concerned about his parents’ reaction to his sexual orientation. Other Clementi messages are getting more headlines. According to New York Magazine, Clementi “also made jokes about Ravi’s family, calling them ‘sooo indian / first gen americanish…his rents defs owna dunkin [donuts].’ In other words, typical teen asshole gossip, on both sides.”

Typical is how I’ve been describing Ravi’s behavior from the very beginning. I didn’t need the system digging into the past of a suicide victim to determine whether his roommate “caused” him to take his own life.

But this is what many people wanted. So now that we’re here, I’m wondering if people are happy….

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