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The Best of Relativity Fest 2020: Our Favorite Commentary

David Horrigan

Relativity got a new user interface this year—and so did Relativity Fest. With its philosophy of “simply powerful,” the new Aero UI is changing the face of Relativity, and the face of Fest has changed, too.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for just about everyone, and many of us missed gathering in Chicago with friends and colleagues from around the world for a traditional Relativity Fest.

However, there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

Inclusion, diversity, and belonging were central themes of Relativity Fest 2020. We were grateful that, paradoxically, the pandemic set the stage to make Fest 2020 more inclusive than ever.

We had to make Fest virtual, and we decided to make it free for this year as well. As a result, more than 7,000 members of our community registered to attend Relativity Fest 2020 at last count—and they can still access the programming. (You can, too, by emailing if you hadn’t self-registered before the conference ended.)

So, despite the limitations of this year, there was a notable bright side: Many people have been able experience Relativity Fest for the first time this week.

That is truly the best of Fest.

Of course, some things never change. We continue our tradition of compiling notable commentary and takeaways from the conference—with our standard disclaimer. We call it the “Best of Relativity Fest” because it captures central themes, but it’s simply impossible to capture every great quote from a conference this large.

With that, here’s our Fest 2020 edition, and remember, Relativity Fest 2020 isn’t over. The programming continues to be available until October 31. Just reach out to our excellent events team for access.

Jonathan Armstrong, Partner, Cordery LLP:

In those days when we used to have a lot of air travel, we used to have a message drummed into us at many airports in those staircases that suck you out of the plane: ‘Think Global, Act Local.’ I think it’s a good message for e-discovery, and we’ve perhaps forgotten about it. You have to respect local laws, so make sure that’s part of your planning in any use of data. 

Meribeth Banaschik, Partner, EY Germany:

In times of uncertainty, it’s a good time for self-reflection. We have some people in the industry who have unfortunately lost their jobs or are furloughed. If anyone needs any help or support or needs someone to talk to, I think I speak on behalf of this panel: reach out. There are lots of people to help if you need it.

Senior U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti (W.D. Pa.)

on how judges have responded over the past five years to the 2015 amendments to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(e) on sanctions in e-discovery:

From my experience, judges were pretty cautious when first dealing with the rule changes, but as time has gone on, I think we’ve grown more comfortable with how the rules function, and I am seeing more drastic sanctions being entered because judges now expect lawyers to actually take reasonable steps to preserve. That standard is rising because there is an expectation lawyers will be experienced in [e-discovery] and, ethically, they have to be.

Jared Coseglia, Founder and CEO of TRU Staffing Partners

on the COVID effect on where people work:

At the end of 2019, one in every four of our placements was a remote hire, and right now, we’re tracking that about 85 percent of employees in the space are working remotely. This is a dynamic shift. A lot of companies that hired only locally prior to the pandemic are now opening up their talent pool on a national level and hiring remotely in perpetuity.  

Chris Dale, Founder of the eDisclosure Information Project and Moderator of the International Panel

on the composition of the panel and the future of speakers at conferences:

A point I’d like to make here is that half this panel are women. There’s no quota—that’s just what we got by wanting the best people. As an industry, we need more speakers. Is this a chance, I wonder, to get a more diverse set of people to take part in panels like this? So treat this as an invitation, please, to anyone who would like to be a panelist to apply to Relativity and say, “I’d like to do this.”

Kenya Dixon, COO and General Counsel at Empire Resources Risk Management Group and Relativity Fest Innovation Award Winner

on the debate on whether self-collection of data in e-discovery constitutes an ethical violation:

It’s only going to be unethical if there is no attorney advice or supervision or the person has no knowledge of the proper process [“Which we see a lot,” a partial rebuttal from Kelly Twigger, Principal at ESI Attorneys during the e-Discovery State of the Union].

At this Relativity Fest, we mourned the passing of the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With that in mind, it seems appropriate to revisit this Favorite Quote from the Honorable Nora Barry Fischer from Relativity Fest 2018:

Hon. Nora Barry Fischer, U.S. District Judge (W.D. Pa.), who was appointed to the bench by a Republican president,

showing that—even in 2018—federal judges can still be impartial and apolitical:

One of the reasons I selected Carpenter v. United States for discussion on the Judicial Panel was that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said it was the best case of the Supreme Court’s term.

Karyn Harty, Partner at McCann FitzGerald

on Ireland’s role in international data privacy—after taking care to distinguish between “data protection” and “data privacy”:

Ireland is different in a lot of ways. We’re a common law jurisdiction, but we’re enthusiastically European. In an Irish context, you have a constitutional right to privacy interwoven with rights under the GDPR, and I think that’s going to be a very interesting territory over the next number of years.

Honorable Tanya R. Kennedy, Associate Justice, Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Judicial Department

quoting from State v. Bryant (Johnson, C.J., dissenting), on the inequities of a life sentence under a habitual offender law—where one of the crimes was a failed attempt to steal a pair of hedge clippers:

Such petty theft is frequently driven by the ravages of poverty or addiction, and often both. It is cruel and unusual to impose a sentence of life in prison at hard labor for the criminal behavior which is most often caused by poverty or addiction.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman (S.D. Fla.)

on sanctions in e-discovery:

We hope that the lawyers, acting ethically and professionally, will produce all the discovery that they’re supposed to—everything that’s relevant and proportional—and we hope that gets to be the message to the entire bar. To me, sanctions are a last resort. I don’t like issuing sanctions, but they are necessary when lawyers and parties aren’t complying with their discovery duties.

Master Victoria McCloud, Master of the Senior Courts, Queens Bench Division, and member of our Judicial Panel

on the similarities in law and legal fact patterns between the United States and the United Kingdom, both on the rules:

I’ve been sitting here thinking how nice it is that things are pretty much the same on both sides of the Pond and how similar your reworded Rule 1 is to our Rule 1.

and on unfortunate spoliation of evidence fact patterns:

I’m afraid all too often one hears things like, “Well, I had a laptop. It was stolen, and I never backed up anything—ever—in my entire life—so everything was on that laptop—and it’s gone,” or “I sold my mobile down the pub.”

Tom O’Connor, Director, Gulf Coast Legal Technology Center

on Relativity Fest being virtual:

The virtual setting in no way diminished the high level of educational experience. The sessions were well planned and offered an excellent cross section of both learning and using the Relativity platform, and having the prerecorded offerings was extremely helpful. I had the ability to work my viewing in at times most conducive to me throughout the day. Okay, yes, and the evening, although I wish I had done so on Monday night instead of watching the Saints fiasco.

Honorable Andrew Peck, Senior Counsel, DLA Piper, and retired U.S. Magistrate Judge (S.D.N.Y.)

on access to justice and movements allowing people other than lawyers to provide legal services:

Jay [Honorable James Francis IV of JAMS, fellow retired U.S. Magistrate Judge and Relativity Fest speaker] and I had 25 percent or so of the cases on our docket in the Southern District of New York brought by pro se litigants, and part of that was because they couldn’t get a lawyer to represent them.

Debbie Reynolds, CEO and Chief Data Privacy Officer, Debbie Reynolds Consulting

on the perils of comingling data:

Having private and personal data merge together is just the way things go. It’s the way of the world, but inferences can be made, and they can have an impact—positively or negatively—on cases.

Maribel Rivera, Senior Director of Community Relations, Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)

winner of the inaugural Inclusion Breakthrough Award at the Relativity Fest Innovation Awards:

This award is not just for me. It’s for my kids, it’s for my friends and colleagues, it’s for anyone I may influence, it’s for every person who needs a door opened for them. Every day I wake up and I breathe diversity, inclusivity, and equality, and at ACEDS, we’re creating the Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, Awareness and Action Committee (IDEAA), where we’ll be working with the NAACP, Hispanic organizations, the Life Preservers Project, and others. This is all about them.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez (W.D. Tex.)

citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 1’s call for the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding,” and arguing against an inflexible rule prohibiting self-collection of data in all cases:

“There are going to be some cases where self-collection would be completely unreasonable, but I think at some point, in some lower-level monetary cases, we’re defeating the purposes [of Rule 1] if we require an expert to come in or a forensic investigator to come in. That’s also where the proportionality analysis comes into play.”

Ines Rubio, Global Practice Lead, Data Management and Forensic Technologies, BSI

on taking control of your digital life:

I think people have to be empowered by their data. As individuals, we’ve been kind of just assuming somebody else is looking after it, but a lot of organizations and corporations around the world have been making a lot of money as a result of our information. We should say, “I have a right to know exactly what you’re doing with my information, and I should get an adequate response in return.”

Keep Up with Relativity Fest News and Discounts

David Horrigan is Relativity’s discovery counsel and legal education director. An attorney, award-winning journalist, law school guest lecturer, and former e-discovery industry analyst, David has served as counsel at the Entertainment Software Association, reporter and assistant editor at The National Law Journal, and analyst and counsel at 451 Research. The author and co-author of law review articles as well as the annual Data Discovery Legal Year in Review, David is a frequent contributor to Legaltech News, and he was First Runner-Up for Best Legal Analysis in the LexBlog Excellence Awards. His articles have appeared also in The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The New York Law Journal, Texas Lawyer, The Washington Examiner, and others, and he has been cited by media, including American Public Media’s Marketplace, TechRepublic, and The Wall Street Journal. David serves on the Global Advisory Board of ACEDS, the Planning Committee of the University of Florida E-Discovery Conference, and the Resource Board of the National Association of Women Judges. David is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia, and he is an IAPP Certified Information Privacy Professional/US.