E-Discovery

Only God can save you now, James. Not sure if he's interested, though.

It might have seemed impossible, but things have gotten worse for those involved in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

In addition to all the other evidence against the now defunct newspaper, which was run by James Murdoch, the son of everyone’s favorite terrifying Australian media baron, new email evidence — that investigators literally pulled out of a box in an abandoned office — indicates that the younger Murdoch should have known exactly what was going on.

This isn’t a smoking gun e-mail. It’s a smoking gun, fingerprints, and well-fit glove…

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* How would you describe the mainstream media’s recent reporting on Citizens United? Not true, not true — and Dan Abrams explains why. [Mediaite via The Corner / Ramesh Ponnuru]

* Whether the U.S. Constitution requires marriage equality can be debated as a matter of constitutional law. But as a policy matter, is this still an open question? Even Professor John Yoo, the bane of liberals’ existence, supports same-sex marriage as a policy matter. [Ricochet]

* I support marriage equality, but I do not support glitter bombing. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye (and files a lawsuit over it). [Althouse]

* If you adopt your 42-year-old girlfriend, does that turn your sexual relationship with her into incest? Professor Terry Turnipseed — yes, that’s his real name — is on the case. [Slate]

* Professor Mark Fenster writes an interesting post in defense of boredom (triggered by Adminlawgate at Yale Law School). [PrawfsBlawg]

* Speaking of boredom and frustration, let’s talk about… e-discovery! [Inside Counsel]

* What’s a hot practice area for 2012? [Going Concern]

* Speaking of hot practice areas, are you an intellectual property or technology lawyer? If so, this development might interest you. [MarketWatch]

I don’t always cover electronic discovery, but when I do, I prefer juicy court decisions.

And that’s what we have today. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York released a blunt, controversial ruling last week, slamming down accounting firm KPMG for requesting a less intense preservation obligation. The case has unsettling implications for attorneys and corporations who have big hopes in the future of less costly and less invasive e-discovery standards.

The case has been causing headaches for some time now….

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LegalTech New York finished up earlier this week. I survived with only a minor case of technology loop, although my iPhone was begging for mercy by the end.

The conference was frenetic, to say the least. There was a lot going on, regarding a cornucopia of technological topics and tools to help lawyers. As expected, the biggest hype revolved around predictive coding and computer-assisted review.

The legal technology world has been buzzing about this stuff for a while now, and we have covered it on these pages several times before. (Here and here, for starters). At the conference, attendees got to hear from the naysayers, the enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Several panels helped explain exactly what the technology means on a practical level. And no, cyborgs will not be stealing all the contract attorney jobs any time soon.

One of this week’s highlights was a lunchtime panel featuring two prominent attorneys and a New York magistrate judge. The discussion helped clarify, demystify, and define the terms that have been making headlines (even in the New York Times) for a good part of the past year. Is computer-assisted review as scary as it seems? Of course not.

Let’s see what the panelists — and at least one irate audience member — had to say….

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Judge Andrew Peck

Keyword searching is absolutely terrible, in terms of statistical responsiveness.

– Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck (S.D.N.Y.), in a panel today at the LegalTech conference. He spoke alongside Wachtell Lipton counsel Maura Grossman and Jackson Lewis partner Ralph Losey, on a panel that aimed to demystify cutting-edge, computer-assisted e-discovery technology. Peck is a vocal proponent of computer-assisted discovery and predictive coding. He is not a fan of the slightly older keyword-searching technology.

(A few minutes later, Losey had another strong opinion to add. See what was said, after the jump.)

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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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You made a fool of me… and got me in huge trouble with the feds.

For a long time, I have been a staunch advocate of putting passwords on all electronic devices — laptops, phones, tablets, etc. There’s no reason to leave your private life or sensitive business data accessible to any schmo who might have access to your phone, just because you’re too lazy to spend three seconds typing in a password. This is especially true for lawyers, given the client confidences that they handle.

At least personally, however, I’m more lax about sharing some access passwords with close friends or family. My girlfriend knows my iPhone and computer passwords. (I know hers too.) Usually I don’t stress about potentially catastrophic consequences of her knowing that information. But every once in awhile I read something that makes me seriously wonder if you can trust anybody.

My current crisis of trust arises from the prosecution of a man accused of conspiring to export millions of dollars of electronic equipment from the U.S. to Iran. Prosecutors found “incredibly blatant admissions of criminal wrongdoing and philandering” on the defendant’s iPhone. But the man says his wife — who he is currently trying to divorce — stole the phone and forged the incriminating evidence.

Talk about emasculating. Let’s read more about this not-so-happy couple.…

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There is a lot of talk these days about the impossibly high costs and absurd amounts of time attorneys spend on e-discovery. Everyone is looking for the best way to make the process more efficient and less time-consuming.

So it is reassuring when a federal judge recognizes that need, and does his part to eliminate careless document review agreements.

Earlier this month, a New Jersey District Judge wrote just that sort of opinion. The savvy judge seems to have his priorities straight….

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Those blinking lights are important. Seriously.

I’ve been writing about electronic discovery for almost three years now. I’ve learned that most of the time, it’s not worth trying to interest non-attorneys in the subject. My friends’, family’s, and girlfriend’s eyes glaze over pretty quickly when I started mentioning the EDRM model or document review.

So when I saw the story early this morning about big e-discovery news in the litigation following a tragic plane crash, at first I thought I had misread something.

On February 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York, killing 50 people. Later that year, authorities blamed pilot error for the crash. Unsurprisingly, families of the victims have sued the airline for failing to provide trained, capable, and rested pilots. This week, attorneys for the families released internal company e-mails that appear to show Colgan knew the pilot of the doomed flight was having serious problems.

What do the e-mails have to say?

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At this point, the lengths companies go to in order to protect data, keep it secure, and prepare for e-discovery is old news. Data breaches — and the news coverage that usually follows — have frightened many companies into at least attempting to ratchet up data security policies. Likewise with retention practices. There have been enough e-discovery horror stories that most companies, and especially their lawyers, know they need to start prioritizing this stuff.

Strangely though, you don’t often hear much about data security within corporate boards. But it turns out that the boards of many multinational corporations with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue are way, way behind the curve on data security.

Company boards are doing everything from printing out physical copies of thousands of pages of sensitive material, to sending unencrypted information to personal e-mail accounts, unsecured iPhones, and home computers. The Thomson Reuters report, released Wednesday, gives a harrowing account of disasters waiting to happen….

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