“When Preservation Requests Are Wielded as Weapons” by Craig Ball

My blog today comes directly from a post Craig Ball wrote this week for LawTechNews here. When Craig puts pen to paper it is definitely worth reading. Here is an excerpt that caught my attention:-

“The rallying cry is that plaintiffs have begun to “weaponize” preservation. That is, plaintiffs are demanding preservation of electronically stored information with such breadth that corporations are settling just to avoid the cost of finding and protecting their own discoverable data.”

Craig goes on to say… Corporate counsel vilify preservation: “The plaintiffs demand that we preserve everything, and we’re spending millions doing so.” If plaintiffs’ settlement demands don’t establish the value of their claims, why should plaintiffs’ preservation demands set the bar for preservation?

He underlines his point with…  “typically, plaintiffs’ actions mirror the same fear and lack of sophistication that spur defendants to over-preserve. Uncertain where relevant evidence resides, plaintiffs demand preservation of every place it might be. Equally uncertain and irrationally afraid of the outlier jurist, defendants say “okay” when they should say “no way.”

This irrational fear is craziness. It is time to stand up and be counted. It all comes down to preserving what is reasonable and having a defensible methodology to demonstrate reasonableness.

The problem is we are dealing with unknowns – we are not certain who is involved or where the evidence might be found, so we take the cautious route of over-preserving… at Catelas we are paving the way in providing attorneys the help they need to say NO WAY! We are using technology to help attorneys present a diligent, comprehensive way to better define the scope of preservation. Invariably this means a rational (and defendable) way of saying “NO, your preservation demands are waaaayyyyy to broad…. and this is why…”

Take a look here if you are interested in learning more about how we do it.

Early Case Assessment and The Cloud

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Early Case Assessment Trap and today as I was following the goings-on at the annual ACC get-together, it reminded me of our legal industry buzz-words and how vendors constantly re-invent themselves around the latest buzz. No doubt this week “cloud” will be hot  and “ECA” will still be generating a lot of noise.

The way I see ECA being applied is that the C stands for Cost not Case. Opposing Counsels get together and agree the scope of discovery based on the anticipated cost of the “document hit count” arising out of the agreed keyword terms.

Now granted, this is an over-simplification of a complex legal process and sure ECA means many things to many people. But, what we are not seeing is good, honest work being done in the early stages of a case to truly understand things like, who is involved, what is the company risk or exposure, is their sufficient evidence, what action should we be taking?

“Early Cost/Case Assessment” can quite easily become a template for “how much is this going to cost us” and “can we settle for less”.

At Catelas, because of the “buzz-word effect” which tends to make all vendors appear equal, we have shied away from calling ourselves an Early Case Assessment solution, for this very reason. We prefer to be thought of as Early Case Intelligence, where we endeavor to answer these key questions – who is involved, what was said and what action should the company take? We are trying to provide real, upfront intelligence to the client that helps them make smart decisions about the case, going forward. At then end of the day, Counsel does not want to be surprised with a “gotcha” six months into the case. Our mission is to ensure that Counsel gets “One Step Ahead” by providing key intelligence about the case within the first couple of days.

So this year at the ACC Annual Meeting, Early Case Intelligence may not [yet] be an industry buzz-word, but watch this space…

If you want to find out more check out this preso

Lawyers shouldn’t settle for too much!

We are fast approaching the turning of the fall leaves which means that turkeys are being fattened for Thanksgiving. This is kind of a continuation of my smiley faces rant in that the scope of discovery in a case is invariably “fattened up” before the unsuspecting turkey is placed in the oven.

Here’s the scoop: we know that most litigation cases settle before trial. But, in many cases we over-collect and so we use keywords to negotiate down the Anticipated Cost of Discovery (ACD).

See the problem: over-collection because we have no way of substantiating a narrower scope of discovery.  Let’s say a case might initially settle for around $250k, but then we calculate the ACD to be $3M. Guess what, opposing counsel now has a significantly higher “settlement ceiling” to work with. Counsel for both parties then confer and a settlement of say $2.5M is agreed.

In building up the scope and anticipated cost of discovery, opposing council has fattened up the turkey. In some ways Early Case Assessment has become our own worst enemy – we run a number of keyword searches and calculations to get a pretty accurate cost of anticipated discovery.

This is not the defense attorney’s fault, it is simply a consequence of the way we preserve and collect. So again, at Catelas we believe we have the answer: provide a comprehensive and defensible way to limit the scope of discovery. We are able to help counsel to preserve & collect only those custodians that are truly close to the matter. Not by keyword culling, but by actually identifying the relevant custodians.

Bottom line is … don’t get caught in the Early Case Assessment trap by settling for too much!