The NZ E-Discovery Blog  Facilitating proportionate and efficient e-discovery

EDT lunch forums promote best practices and raises awareness

August 13th, 2013

Legal software provider EDT hosted a series of lunch forums last week in New Zealand to discuss issues and trends relating to eDiscovery and legal technology and help raise the awareness in the industry. Forums were held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with invited guests from the industry, including representatives from law firms, corporations, regulators and the judiciary.

EDT founder Jo Sherman expertly hosted the lunch forums and lead the discussions by engaging in the views of those attending to understand the issues they are experiencing.

I was an invited guest of Jo Sherman and attended all three lunch forums to assist Jo Sherman in initiating the discussions around some topical issues and market trends. Being totally independent myself, I was able to pass on my observations from what is happening locally and abroad.

The interest at the Auckland event was considerably more than expected, as once word got around about interest in the event, EDT put on additional places to meet the increased demand. The more intimate events in both Wellington and Christchurch were more collaborative as there was a far greater degree of sharing of issues that those in New Zealand are experiencing.

Judicial presence

Yet again it was refreshing to see the judicial presence at the Auckland forum, with Judge Harvey attending to share his valuable insight. Judge Harvey stressed the important role the judiciary have to play as it is important that the judiciary is informed and proactive about these evolving issues. Judge Harvey was the Keynote speaker at the inaugural New Zealand eDiscovery Conference back in February. Like the conference, Judge Harvey left all of those attending in little doubt about the importance of the profession being more informed about the evolving issues in managing electronic information.

Key discussion points

The discussions were very informal as they looked to hear from those in attendance about their perspectives regarding trends in litigation and investigation technology.  The forums looked at the recent changes to the discovery rules, discussing in detail what is or is not working. Focus was also paid to the impact of technology and looking at some of the emerging trends in legal technology.

Some further points that did resonate across the sessions included –

The impact of Proportionality and Cooperation in practice

With proportionality and cooperation being at the centrepiece of the New Zealand discovery rules, it was interesting to hear how this was working in practice. It was clear that cooperation was not happening early enough in the discovery process. When parties are cooperating they are usually not informed enough of what is a proportionate approach – an approach that help parties get to what really matters. Not having this information available, parties are often not putting enough time into the methods and tools required to achieve a proportionate approach. Much of this comes down to not enough time spent early enough in the process, planning the strategy for the matter and getting to grips with the scope.

Like anything new, these practices will undoubtedly improve over time as lawyers become more familiar and obtain more education around the ediscovery process and developments in technology.

Importance to continue learning

One of the messages again was the importance for lawyers and the judiciary (as stressed by Judge Harvey) to become more informed about e-discovery and the impact of technology. One of the partners at the Christchurch forum reinforced this point, outlining how important it is now for lawyers to keep up with and learn more about some of these evolving processes and technology.

Events like the EDT lunch forums, as well as the full day 2nd New Zealand eDiscovery Conference (that will be taking place again in 2014) are essential in continue to raise awareness in a very important and evolving part of the legal landscape.

Emerging technology trends

The forums looked into the potential technologies and techniques that are being used locally and internationally to meet the requirements of getting to the information that really matters.

Attention was paid to the potential flaws in a keyword approach – citing one of my earlier articles on Keyword searching. This opened up further discussions about further options like Predictive Coding. The Predictive Coding message was on the potential for medium size and smaller firms that may not have the same resource at their disposal as some of the larger firms when it comes to reviewing large document volumes. Options like Predictive Coding can significantly allow these smaller firms to compete and utilise the expertise of their existing lawyers.

One of EDTs Australian hosting providers NuLegal, attended the Auckland forum and meet with the New Zealand legal market. NuLegal Director Mark de Bruyn shared some of his recent experiences with Predictive Coding and also Electronic Trials in Australia. Those that follow my blog, will have read my summary of the NuLegal Predictive Coding event I attended in Australia last month.

Promoting best practice

At all of the forums we directed discussions around best practices. There were many questions and sharing of information by guests of what they considered to be best practice. It was acknowledged that there is not often a silver bullet to the increasing challenges, but at the same time realising that it is still important to endeavour to apply best practices to the real world challenges that we face.

There were some interesting ‘war stories’ shared, which were far from best practice. Many were sharing concerns with their existing providers, practices of other firms or issues with some software – some of the guests were a lot more forthcoming with these experiences than, to the point where they used the forum to vent some of their frustrations with existing options. Delving deeper into some of these issues it became apparent that many of the issues are avoidable by implementing better practices within their organisations.

Consistently the point was reinforced that it is important that everyone involved with litigation or legal technology keeps abreast of the developments with ediscovery and technology. What has worked in the past may no longer suit your requirements, this was consistently the experience shared when it comes to litigation support software.

EDTs commitment to the New Zealand market

I am sure EDT used the forums as an opportunity to build their brand to the New Zealand legal market. In doing so (and in contrast to many other events put on by a service or software providers), the event wasn’t in anyway a ‘sales pitch’, A consistent comment resonating from guests was the actual surprise at the lack of any sales pitch and all enjoyed a forum that allowed them to discuss current issues and trends. It is always appreciated to see a provider give something back to the industry instead of solely of what software and services they provide.

From my perspective the more options available to assist New Zealand clients the better, as for too long the lack of options has stifled awareness and practice in the industry. It is always refreshing to see firms like EDT that are prepared to put a bit back into the industry and host events like these to assist in raising awareness in the space. Most guests appreciated the forums being taken to a wider audience in Wellington and Christchurch was also appreciated as often these events only focus on Auckland.

All of those invited to the forums, would have left with a greater awareness of current issues being experienced as well as some of the international trends in responding to similar issues. Those attending were appreciative of the efforts of Jo Sherman to put together this sort of platform to share their experiences.

Following the success of the forums, I am sure it will not be the last of these events, as it is important that we all continue to work together as an industry to raise awareness.


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