Discovery Symposium 3.0 Program Announced

Our annual Discovery Symposium (now in its third year) for corporate legal departments is a real labor of love for several of us here at Counsel On Call. A lot of time and consideration -- much of it with our in-house clients -- goes into the creation of the sessions, identifying the proper experts to speak and attorneys who will get the most out of the program, as well as creating an environment in which in-house attorneys are comfortable sharing their stories of trial, success and failure.

We're very excited about this year's program and our group of attendees. Some of the highlights:

  • Leading off with a panel on the challenges presented by Social Media today and tomorrow. Our knowledgeable friends from FedEx and International Paper, along with Barry Willms, will lead the discussion.
  • Search Validation, Intelligent Coding and Smartly Reducing Data Sets, a panel that has been in development for some time and a topic we've addressed in previous events. But this year there's certainly a heightened interest/debate about this topic due to the New York Times article on the subject that went viral, so we're looking forward to getting deep into this subject.
  • Breakout sessions led by Cox Communications, Fidelity Investments and Southwest Airlines, as well as a session led by some of our Team Leaders, who will get into the finer points of creating effective, cost-saving discovery processes.
  • Ten-minute 'snapshot' presentations from six of the leading in-house attorneys who oversee discovery processes at their respective companies. Each will offer at least one 'lesson learned.' 
  • Our annual discussions on relationships with outside counsel, pricing structures, budgeting and technology tools. We get a lot of 'stories from the field' during these sessions and there's always ample audience participation.

The format/size we've created -- small panels, 40 corporate legal departments, 65-75 attendees -- truly seems unique in the dialogue it generates and best practices it fleshes out. It should be another great event and we're excited to host everyone in Nashville again.

Coca-Cola, Cox and Counsel On Call Webinar Details

I guess that’s somewhat of a tongue twister, huh? Regardless, I am very pleased to announce that I will have the distinct pleasure of hosting a webinar via the network with two incredibly talented attorneys, Russell Bonds of The Coca-Cola Company and Kristen Weathersby of Cox Communications. The title: “MISSION: POSSIBLE | Planning & Execution in the Discovery Process.”

As the title indicates, both Kristen and Russ have been instrumental in helping their respective companies plan and implement discovery processes that have saved time and money while focusing on quality control and consistency. What I’ve found interesting is that both companies have gotten similar results while starting from very different places. Both Kristen and Russ are wonderful and engaging and we plan to have plenty of time for Q&A.

If you have time on Nov. 16, 1:00 Eastern, we hope you will join us for the free webinar. You can register here.

Q&A With Attorney Chris Cotton: Haiti Update

Chris in Jacmel with orphan Merci Dieu, which mean "good God" in Creole.We've been privileged to get to know Chris Cotton over the last couple of years as he's become an integral part of Counsel On Call's Nashville attorney team. His stories from his time spent in Haiti are well-known in our company, and his work with the Hands and Feet Project has been a source for inspriation for many of us (at right: Chris in Jacmel with orphan Merci Dieu, which mean "good God" in Creole).

So when the earthquake struck Haiti last Tuesday, Chris instantly became a source of news for our staff through his communications with people on the ground in Jacmel and put an even more personal face on the tragedy. Chris was interviewed as part of a local news story and the HAF project has been profiled on several national media outlets in the last few days, and the stories change with each passing hour. Chris was able to break away and chat with us for a few moments:

What are some of the latest updates?

It’s been a really tough, but great weekend… as of Sunday morning, no aid had reached Jacmel since the earthquake last Tuesday… 40,000 to 70,000 people were cut off from medical aid, food and water for five days. But yesterday the first private planes began landing at the Jacmel airport, which was great. I think five or six were able to land during the day and they expect 25 today (Jan. 18).

How big of an area is Jacmel?

Geographically it’s not that big of an area, and it’s about 25 to 30 miles south of Port-au-Prince, but it’s only accessible by one road, which was completely destroyed in the earthquake. Jacmel is a base for about 70,000 people and we know that there are at least 5,000 dead, 20,000 to 25,000 injured, and 75% of the buildings were destroyed. So that means there are at least 30,000 people with no shelter in the community, which is really just hard to get your head around. 

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Haiti Is On Our Minds

Like millions of others, we've been watching the developments in Haiti very closely and have been struck with the magnitude of the tragedy and the monumental job ahead -- in the coming hours, days, weeks, months and years.

It has been especially difficult for one of our Nashville attorneys, Chris Cotton, who helped build and open an orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, in 2005-06, as part of the Hands and Feet Project. He has been communicating with friends in the area and the HAF website is posting updates from Jacmel; the stories are amazing, disheartening, tragic... the full range of emotions. Jacmel is completely cutoff from Port au Prince and other areas that could potentially provide supplies; the situation is truly dire.

We plan to post a Q&A with Chris on Monday, but in the meantime we'd like to pass along a link from CNN story on the HAF Project's orphanage. If you're in the Middle Tennessee area, Chris says to watch Ch. 4 (WSMV) at 6:30pm for a story they're doing on HAF and Haiti. In the meantime, we'll keep the people of Haiti and their families and friends in our thoughts and prayers.


In the summer of 1986, Congress found itself in the grip of confirmation hearings for a new Chief Justice and a new Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States. Warren Burger had retired to (ostensibly) serve as chair of the Constitutional Bicentennial Commission; Justice Rehnquist was nominated to move to Chief and Antonin Scalia to take the junior-most position on the Court.

I watched those hearings with much interest, not knowing at the time that later that year I would become one of the Court’s newest hires. I would assume the role of Staff Counsel shortly after Chief Justice Rehnquist took on his new position.

In times like these, I’m often asked about the confirmation process and what I remember of those “battles” in the mid-80s and about the atmosphere in the building (“Was it abuzz? Was it the only topic of conversation?”). During my three-plus-year tenure in the Staff Counsel role, I witnessed two additional battles – calling them “hearings” is a misnomer – that of Robert Bork (unsuccessful) and of Anthony Kennedy (successful). If I remember correctly, Douglas Ginsberg (poor guy) never made it to the hearing stage. Anthony Kennedy is sworn in as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court on February 18, 1988. Chief Justice William Rehnquist administers the oath and Kennedy's wife Mary holds the family Bible as President Reagan looks on.
Of course the justices never said anything about the hearings or the nominee; even Justice O’Connor, who often rode to work with me because we lived near one another, was mum on the topic. The closest I ever got to a statement about the hearings was a comment on Bork’s notoriously scraggly beard. The court staff, exhibiting its historically insular nature, was similarly quiet. No one wanted to be on record commenting about a potential new boss, or probably more accurately, you simply did not discuss those matters at work.
Judge Robert Bork
Law clerks were another matter entirely and the regular Thursday evening casual get-togethers were often filled with analysis and opinions when a nominee was being vetted. I also attended an anti-Bork rally – solely to observe – and stayed out of sight in the back for fear of being seen or worse appearing on the news, a potential employment-ending event I'm sure. (The button I snagged at the event remains one of my favorite political mementos, however.)

Since my years there, the Court has almost completely transformed. Judge Sotomayor’s hearings are the ninth confirmation event since my time there and I have been caught up in the drama and pathos of each one. Here are a few things I’ll be looking for during the hearings:

  • Will anyone ask questions about any of the thousands of decisions she has authored or is this all about speeches, personal matters and grandstanding?
  • How she will explain the statements that are currently all over the mainstream media?
  • What role, if any, will her ethnicity and gender play in the hearings?
  • Will any of the senators discuss her diabetes and other potential health issues?
  • How will the Committee function without the normally verbose Joe Biden?
  • I just want to watch Arlen Specter. From top dog to lowest-ranking democrat, there has got to be something of interest there.
  • Sen. Sessions was passed over for the Federal Bench in 1986, in part for being “racially insensitive.” Will this shape his questions? Will we be able to tell?
  • What will be the most asinine line of questions and the easiest lot?

I’m ready for this bit of political theater and suggest you soak it in as well. We could see a couple more opportunities in the next few years, but who knows? I say don’t miss the chance.

It seems, if you believe the pundits, that Judge Sotomayor may soon be Justice Sotomayor. No one can predict what kind of Justice she will be and those who try may be surprised (see: Blackmun, Stevens, Souter et al). One thing is certain if she is confirmed: she will be assuming one of the most select and revered positions in our nation. I wish her Godspeed.

Podcast: What Works In E-Discovery, Cost Savings

The second podcast with LegalTalk Network's In-House Legal show is now up.

Richard Stout, director of our Litigation Support Division, and Dennis McKinnie, executive director of our Atlanta office, discuss all things e-discovery: Why the review rate is important, early case assessment tools, what e-discovery savings should really look like, the importance of outside counsel, and why every in-house department should have a discovery process it controls, among other things.

The 13-minute interview begins around the 13:45 mark. The podcast is also available on iTunes for free download.

We hope you'll check it out and let us know what you think.

Podcast Available: How In-house Departments Can Save 20%

In-House LegalLegalTalk Network's In-house Legal program has asked Counsel On Call to participate in three podcasts. The first of these is available now: 'How In-house Departments Can Save 20%,' featuring Jane Allen. Jane discusses different areas of savings and different approaches -- and debunks myths about what has to happen to cut 20% out of a legal budget.

The other interview on the podcast is Rees Morrison from the Law Department Management Blog, who provides good insight into the challenges legal departments are facing.

The show is also available on iTunes for free download - just search for 'in-house legal.'

Jane's interview starts at the 12:35 mark and runs approximately 10 minutes. Subsequent shows in the three-part series will focus on e-discovery and the rest of the discovery/litigation support process, as it is certainly an area we're speaking to a lot of clients about. We hope you'll listen in and let us know what you think.

Podcast: How A Legal Department Can Save 20%

Jane AllenJane Allen, Counsel On Call's president & founder, will appear on LegalTalk Network's In-House Legal podcast next Tuesday, Feb. 24, with host Paul Boynton. The topic: 'How in-house departments can save 20%.'

The show can be heard and/or downloaded (free) by visiting LTN's website or on iTunes by searching for 'in-house legal' starting on Tuesday. 

Here's a summarized excerpt from a question about the common reaction from in-house clients when learning that significant budget cuts need to made:

"Often the first reaction involves gut-wrenching thoughts about cutting staff and getting rid of outside counsel. We like to sit down and walk through the ways the 10-20% savings can be achieved without making wholesale changes to the department ... There is always going to be work that should be sent to outside counsel. There is always work that should be done by in-house attorneys. And there is typically a middle ground of work that can be done by really talented attorneys at rates less than $100 an hour ..."

We hope you'll set a reminder and are able to listen in at some point next week.


Q&A: Sue Dyer, Senior Litigation Counsel, HCA - "A Repeatable Process"

Sue Dyer has spent the last seven years in Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)’s 50-attorney legal department and, as Senior Litigation Counsel, has been on the front lines of HCA’s development of a national e-discovery approach and protocol, a ‘repeatable’ process from which the company is already seeing benefits.

The largest for-profit hospital operator in the U.S., HCA had $26 billion in revenue in 2007 and was #87 on the 2007 Fortune 500 list. Ms. Dyer was nice enough to speak with Lawdable about HCA’s litigation (and specifically e-discovery) initiatives:

Lawdable: Discuss how the management of the e-discovery process has changed in the last 2-3 years, and/or how HCA’s approach has evolved.

SD: We are light years ahead of where we were just two years ago. Even though we’ve been focused on e-discovery for several years, in the last two years we’ve spent a lot of time educating ourselves about our IT systems and the multitude of e-discovery products on the market. Our goals have included the development of accurate and cost-effective processes that are repeatable. We’ve identified partners that share our belief in collaboration and that can help us accomplish these goals and, as a result, we have been able to implement many initiatives in the last year. Our approach also evolves with the evolving law in this area and the development of available technology.

What we’ve seen is that, with a repeatable process, we are able to collect data from one e-discovery project that guides us on each subsequent project. The data collection also helps us to better predict the expense of subsequent and/or similar cases.

L: Talk about your e-discovery communication process (and what you establish) with outside counsel and other legal service providers. How do you manage the process?

SD: We are actively involved at the beginning of each project in order to get the team acquainted with each other, to identify the location of the effected data and to participate in the project planning. Due to our large geographic footprint, we work with a lot of

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Coming Next Week: Q&A With Sue Dyer, HCA

Next week, we'll post a Q&A with Sue Dyer, Hospital Corporation of America's Senior Litigation Counsel. HCA owns and operates approximately 168 hospitals and 113 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and London, England. Sue and HCA are doing a lot of great things, so it should be very informative.