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

New Zealand eDiscovery Conference – an overview

March 1st, 2013

On Wednesday 13th of February, New Zealand’s inaugural eDiscovery Conference took place at the Stamford Plaza in Auckland. The event was organised by Ernst & Young and my company E-Discovery Consulting, as we joined forces to assist in raising the awareness of eDiscovery in New Zealand.

The conference was a one day event specifically designed to look at the basics of electronic discovery, as well as providing a practical insight into what is required by the new High Court discovery rules, which commenced one year ago.

The event attracted over 100 participants from across New Zealand’s legal fraternity including senior lawyers, barristers, in-house legal counsel as well as computer forensic practitioners and electronic discovery service providers.  Many of the delegates came from far afield all over New Zealand and also Australia. It was pleasing to see most firms and organisations involved in litigation being represented in some capacity.

The event was proudly supported by major sponsors Nuix, Symantec, Merrill Corporation and eDiscovery Tools.  In addition to our sponsors we had a number of exhibitors and further contributors that played their part in making this a very successful event. There were also additional industry providers from New Zealand and Australia attending the conference to explore the opportunities in the New Zealand market.

New issues – new challenges

The electronic discovery process does present many new challenges for legal professionals. This is largely attributed to the new issues created by the growth in the volumes and sources of electronic information. These challenges are heighted by the lack of understanding of what is involved in the eDiscovery process itself.

Electronic discovery in New Zealand has grown significantly over the last year and the conference allowed New Zealand practitioners to develop their knowledge of this evolving area. This growth can be attributed to the new discovery requirements, but also a growing appreciation that discovery practices do need to change.

We provided a practical insight into the entire e-discovery process, taking attendees back to the basics including a step by step guide to each phase of the process. The sessions looked at each stage of the EDRM (Electronic Discovery Reference Model), together with how it fits with the new High Court requirements.

The speakers

The opening address was delivered by His Honour, Judge David Harvey, who set the scene by providing a judicial viewpoint of the new rules, from both his legal and technology perspective.

Judge Harvey left delegates in little doubt about the importance of electronic information. He impressed that lawyers need to be aware of the technologies and the technological processes that are required to manage this information. Electronic information, together with the technologies available simply cannot be ignored.

It is always refreshing to see these messages come from a member of the judiciary!

Following Judge Harvey, leading eDiscovery experts and practitioners from across New Zealand and Australia, provided valuable insight with expert practical experiences of the tips and pitfalls of conducting electronic discovery. They looked in detail at the stages of the EDRM process. The speakers included Paul Norrie from Pingar, Sarah Cordner and Warren Dunn of Ernst & Young, Lynn Holtz and Mikhaila Nola from Chapman Tripp, Guy Burgess from LawFlow and Kiri Harkess from McElroys.

The speaking sessions were complimented by a number of panel discussions featuring leading e-discovery experts. The panel discussions gave delegates the opportunity to explore issues that they currently faced, as well as finding out more about significant advancements in best practices. I was also on hand to add my input on most of the panel discussions.

The panel discussion that created the most interest was the Emerging Technologies session that featured Alan Watkins from Symantec, Sarah Cordner and myself. We discussed various technologies that were now available to assist legal teams carry out document review exercises, with a particular insight into predictive coding.

Warren Dunn of Ernst & Young chaired the event in a way that he is without pair and thoroughly contributed to the success and enjoyment of the day.

Key themes

There were a number of key themes to come out of the conference. Some of the most striking messages included –  

Need to learn more about the eDiscovery process

The eDiscovery process is now an unavoidable part of any litigation or investigation. To successfully conduct electronic discovery under the new discovery rules it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the entire electronic discovery process. The conference sought to equip legal professionals with the skills and the necessary grounding in electronic discovery.

Proportionality is a major consideration with the new discovery rules, but to be able to accurately assess proportionality, you need to know more about the eDiscovery process involved. This includes being more informed about the specific costs involved with each stage of the process.

There is not a ‘one size fits all approach’ approach when it comes to eDiscovery, so it is important to follow best practices, but importantly to come up with a method to identify, review and produce information that is specific to the individual matter.

We live in a fast changing world, with technology being at the forefront of this change. As was discussed in detail on the day, electronic discovery is an evolving process, and I am sure this time next year there will be many new developments and practices to discuss in further detail. It is important that those participating in eDiscovery keep up to speed with these developments.

I am sure all that attended the conference would have learnt considerably more at the end of the day from what they knew when they arrived.

Importance of early planning

With the challenges involved with eDiscovery and the management of information it is essential to thoroughly plan the eDiscovery process, and do so at an early stage.

Spending this time at the outset can have considerable cost savings later in the process, not to mention less headaches. Assessing what information you have and where it is are now more complex due to the escalating volumes of electronic information organisations have. Even on the smallest of matters, the work at the outset can have significant advantages later in the proceedings.

If you do not have the internal expertise to help with preparing you for eDiscovery, then ensure you have access to someone with the required expertise.

Embrace the technology

It is important for legal professions to embrace technology to assist in managing their eDiscovery requirements.

A common perception that eDiscovery is expensive was dispelled, by illustrating if eDiscovery is managed correctly (which means embracing the right technology and best methods for the matter), there will always be a considerable cost saving compared to more traditional discovery methods.

Speaking to delegates during the day, many are still having a tendency to ‘hit print’ with electronic information. This practice is adding unnecessary burden and cost to the eDiscovery process.   The conference provided the essential knowledge of how there are tools that can assist in culling and filtering the information, enabling information to be reviewed as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

There are many tools and practices available that can considerably simplify this exercise. Technology is becoming cheaper all of the time, with some eDiscovery products can start from just a few dollars per month.

Going by all the positive feedback we received from delegates and sponsors on the day and post the event, then the inaugural NZ eDiscovery Conference was an overwhelming success.

I know for myself and Warren Dunn the first ever event of its kind in New Zealand took a considerable amount of time and effort to organise. However the positive feedback definitely made the event worthwhile as it is essential to look to raise the awareness of “Managing eDiscovery in New Zealand”.

I am already looking at dates for 2014, and how we can improve the conference even further.



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