At Relativity Fest 2020, the reach of the global e-discovery community was undeniable. More than 7,000 registrants signed up from all over the world. Though we couldn’t gather in person, it was exceedingly clear how critical it is to stay in touch with our neighbors in legal communities everywhere.
Relativity is on a mission to help these teams analyze data, discover the truth, and act on it—from anywhere. Taking e-discovery to the cloud with RelativityOne makes this possible, but making it accessible matters just as much.
To that end, more and more data centers are bringing RelativityOne to new areas of the globe. Last fall, we announced availability in Switzerland and added Germany to the RelativityOne map, too.
Legility was our RelativityOne launch partner in Germany, having expanded their global legal services offering last year. As a long-time Relativity partner with experience in the German market, we sat down with Paul Mankoo, Legility’s President of International, to discuss what separates Germany’s legal environment from the rest of the world—and what makes it similar.
Bustling Economy = Lively Legal Landscape
Germany has the fourth largest economy in the world, and nearly half of the country’s GDP is based on exports. This means a lot of interaction with global entities, requiring lawyers to practice in Germany while maintaining a deep understanding of the international laws and global regulations that may factor into their caseloads.
There’s also a very healthy small- to medium-sized business sector, called the Mittelstand, which drives a significant portion of the supply chains for large corporations. For example, vehicle manufacturers rely largely on components sourced from these companies. This means cases involving, say, product liability or regulatory compliance, can span across many organizations and bring multiple e-discovery considerations into play.
“Globally, you tend to find bigger corporations controlling more of these supply chains themselves,” explained Legility’s Paul Mankoo. But with Germany’s Mittelstand, he said, in cases involving product liability or compliance, “you’re faced with really defining who’s going to do what and when in terms of collections, and you’ll have a lot of interdependency in identifying what data resides where.”
And there is a lot of data.
“Considering these circumstances, you’ve got to consider the quality of tools that every company is able to use to discover the truth. It’s an important factor: What systems do we use, how powerful are they, how flexible, and how quickly can we discover what we need to discover?” Paul said. “The scalability factor is really important.”
As a result, the e-discovery environment in Germany has rapidly evolved in the last decade—and that trajectory is likely to continue in the next.
“Even though the legal system doesn’t require e-discovery or disclosure, there’s just no way of avoiding it now—especially with common law jurisdictions involved,” explained Paul. “Germany is probably third in Europe in terms of the size of their e-discovery market, but I’d argue that they’re going to start to challenge the UK in some ways in the coming years when it comes to global e-discovery needs.”
Layers of Data Privacy
One often hears about Germany’s unique requirements around issues of data privacy—and for good reason.
“It’s maybe not more complex than every other jurisdiction in Europe, but it’s definitely in the top few,” Paul said. “In a European context, people talk about GDPR—but GDPR is only one aspect of data privacy and protection in Europe. On top of GDPR, Germany has additional laws governing further issues of privacy and data protection and additional layers of law regarding how you can use computers to monitor things, and what you can do with those systems pertaining to individual data.”
For instance, Germany’s business world involves entities called works councils. These groups are a bit like unions, comprised of people who are appointed to company boards to represent workers’ interests. They are involved in many of the detailed actions these companies’ business operations take, and in relation to e-discovery and collection, their approval is required to ensure each step is approved from a workers’ protection standpoint.
“This makes navigation of those laws more complex,” Paul said. “It adds a lot of detail and also means you have to be more targeted about what data you collect, process, and put through the whole EDRM—so, from a cost perspective, you need to have tools at your disposal which will enable you to automate that [e-discovery]. Otherwise it’s intensely laborious and costly.”
Pragmatism in Practice
Fortunately, Paul said, German legal professionals have an essential quality to take these complications in stride and move forward successfully.
“They’re very pragmatic businesspeople,” he said, when asked what he admires most about the German legal community. “They understand they need to reach a solution in the most efficient way possible. In other parts of the world, discovery can sometimes be a sort of game. I see less of that with clients in Germany, where they’re more keen to get on and do what needs to be done.”
The e-discovery implications of Germany’s economic and legal landscapes mean that the right technology, clear communication, and seasoned expertise among case teams are essential if they’re to be successful. Seeing how these teams—including Legility, well-positioned to help clients in the country right away—leverage all that RelativityOne has to offer in their efforts to tackle these challenges promises to be quite fascinating.
“One of the important aspects of how we approach the market is to leverage our team’s diversified expertise. Our broad experience base can help support clients on e-discovery, regulation, and even non-contentious sides of their businesses, like contract lifecycle management and other legal areas that are really important to them,” Paul said. “We also have a deep understanding of the particular vagaries of operating and providing those services in Germany specifically, and being able to help clients navigate all the complexities—not just German clients, but US and UK or other global entities who need to operate in Germany.”
As is universally true, Paul emphasized that success comes down to people, process, and technology.
“It’s more than having just the tools and firepower at your disposal—although that’s really important, and that’s why we’ve got RelativityOne,” Paul said. “We also have the process and people elements down, so we can really allow our clients to move forward more quickly.”
Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor of The Relativity Blog.