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From the Horse's Mouth: First-hand Perspectives on Collaborating in e-Discovery

Keely McKee

Relativity Fest is all about connecting with other professionals to exchange ideas. To add to the collaboration, we brought in 55 external speakers to share their ideas and industry expertise.

Yesterday’s sessions were filled with lessons and advice on collaborating to reach the best outcome for your organization. With popular topics including international e-discovery, cybersecurity, and the legal media, there were many discussions on how to join forces to reach your goals.

Here are some lessons from day two of Relativity Fest.

1. Working Together Across the Globe

With everything that’s happening on a global front—the recent invalidation of the US-EU Safe Harbor Framework and the pending EU General Data Protection Regulation, to name a few—international e-discovery has been a hot topic at this year’s show.

John Lapraik of Millnet gave attendees a lesson on the complexity of the European legal system in “Collecting and Reviewing European Documents in U.S. Litigation.” He stressed the importance of understanding the laws and legal approaches of each country in Europe to be able to efficiently work together.

“You're speaking the same language, they're hearing your words, but they don’t understand what you're getting at,” said Lapraik. He left the audience with a few pieces of advice for U.S. organizations working with European data, one of which is to “manage the judges’ expectations, but have a plan to identify what's relevant to the case.”

His suggestion was echoed in “International e-Discovery: Cross-Border Challenges in a Changing World,” where kCura’s David Horrigan sat down with Patrick Burke of Seyfarth Shaw and Chris Dale of the eDisclosure Information Project. Burke and Dale provided their thoughts on recent and pending cases involving cross-border data, and provided some advice for working with a cross-border team.

One point that everyone agreed on is that, for the best results, it’s important to limit your collection scope to only the necessary data. Burke stated: “To be successful collecting documents in Europe, you need to think in terms of narrowing down your scope.” And Dale made it clear: “You need to cooperate with the other side to decide what these issues are.”

With Schrems v. Facebook recently in the headlines, the panel and attendees discussed how this case will affect the way U.S. e-discovery professionals work with European data. Dale pointed out that “Safe Harbor was never adequate protection for private information, and it should never have been used for discovery.”

2. Working Together Against a Common Threat

While the effects of Schrems v. Facebook on international e-discovery were discussed, the case was also brought up for the security questions that come with it. As the Snowden case was the basis for the decision to invalidate Safe Harbor, it shows the impact that hacks and security breaches have on the legal industry.

In “Cybersecurity and e-Discovery: The Downstream Effects of Upstream Security Decisions,” Horrigan and Ed McAndrew of the U.S. Department of Justice discussed the rapid escalation of security threats over the last decade, and shared reasons why data security is so important in the legal industry.

One main takeaway is that organizations have to come together, internally and across industries, to make data security a priority. McAndrew pointed out that “data security is now a daily reality for every organization.”

This is also reflected in the ABA’s changes to the ethical rules in 2012, which declared that attorneys need to have a certain competence in technology and have to make reasonable efforts to protect the confidentiality of client information. “Clients are putting that onus on the law firms during the engagement stage. They're auditing law firms on their data security,” said McAndrew.

We also learned that when a breach occurs, organizations need to collaborate to solve a tricky question: do you need to notify those affected?

While many are pushing for data breach notification laws, others say that it depends on what data is at risk and how much information you have. McAndrew made the important point that “the only thing that’s worse than not saying something, is saying something that’s wrong.”

3. Working Together to Get Noticed

But we also found that sometimes you need to work together for something more basic than cross-border e-discovery or client-attorney security issues. As we learned from today’s media and industry analyst panel, sometimes you need to collaborate just to get your name out there and build an e-discovery business.

In the panel, Gabe Friedman of Bloomberg BNA’s Big Law Business, Erin Harrison of Legaltech News, David Horrigan of kCura, and Cheryl McKinnon of Forrester let the audience in on their secrets for how to get noticed by legal media and analysts, so that they’ll want to share your story.

The overall consensus of the panel: make it interesting. While Harrison noted the importance of “bringing a human element,” Friedman explained that “stories should include a trend, something that reflects a shift that's happening in the industry.” He added that reporters are “looking for characters. If you give us something where it's easy for us to find someone who's doing it, it makes a better story.”

On the analyst side, McKinnon gave her take on a successful briefing. “It’s a good briefing if I end the call with a clear understanding of the vendor’s key products and services, what markets they're trying to tackle, and how they differentiate themselves from competitors.” Seconded by Horrigan, she stressed how important it is to be prepared for your briefing if you want to help each other out—i.e. you get your company included in an analyst report, while the analyst gets real data points that help make the report better.

So what happens if you reach out with an interesting and well-prepared story, but all you get is radio silence?

Harrison explained that silence doesn’t automatically mean rejection. “Follow up and be persistent. We might miss a pitch or a good story because we're so busy.”

McKinnon echoed Harrison’s comments, but with an analyst’s twist, “Our timelines are longer and more drawn out. If you send a note about your technology, make sure you understand the particular analyst’s upcoming research agenda. If I know I'm going to be working on a specific study, I'll start saving up interesting tidbits and reach out later for research.”

Of course, after a full day of learning how to work together for better results, day two of Relativity Fest drew to a close the same way it always does—with an opportunity to celebrate and network with one another, and that’s what we did.

Relativity Fest ends today, with sessions beginning again at 9:00 a.m. CST, and closing with the announcement of this year’s Relativity Innovation Award winners. If you’re not here in person, be sure to follow along via @RelativityFest and #RelativityFest on Twitter.

Keely McKee is a member of the creative team at Relativity, specializing in content development.