An Aerial View of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists

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The third annual Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS) Conference was held again this year at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fla. We had great lodgings for sure, but they did not order the warm weather in so-called sunny Florida. Next year’s conference will be moved to May in order to compensate for this unruly weather. I guess I can’t complain too much; there are colder places in February/March, especially this year.

The gathering seemed to be a bit smaller than last year, but it was a really good group of professionals. There were several good sessions in addition to lots of opportunities to mingle and meet everyone. The information presented focused on a number of areas but a lot of them could be labeled within technology assisted review (TAR), social media and various ‘best practices’ within the industry.

It seems everyone is starting to dabble in TAR by various names (computer-assisted, technology-assisted, predictive coding, etc.). Much of the discussion went beyond simply being comfortable with the subject matter but included discussions on how to properly validate the process, workflow and output to make sure to achieve your goals and benchmarks.

The use of social media in litigation has not become as big as it was originally projected to be in 2013. However, its presence in cases continues to grow. Tweets, Facebook pages and many other networks are more routinely being collected and produced in litigation than ever before. We can only imagine that this will increase over time. We were told, for example, that instant messaging is the norm for business communications in some Asian countries instead of email. It’s certainly something we’ve been anticipating for a couple of years here in the states and that our technology partners are well prepared for.

The ‘best practices’ within the industry sessions included the following: dealing with data privacy issues of the EU, preventing malpractice or having ethical issues overtake you, and following a process to meet your budget, review and production objectives. There it is again: Success always comes from having a process and following it. As we always tell clients, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to ensure there is a process that is documented, defensible and ultimately repeatable in a future matter. Here are a few quick hits on the good, the ‘OK’ and the bad of the conference:

The good: It was a gathering of practitioners of e-discovery, folks who actually do this day in and day out. Lawyers, consultants, paralegals, IT professionals and technology vendors provided a good mix. It was refreshing to hear war stories from those who deal in process and who want to perfect the best practices of a growing industry. While the conference overdid the ‘experts’ language a bit, it really was a good group of professionals who work exclusively in this industry that had a lot to share on how best to accomplish goals. In the end, process always wins out. It’s best for clients, budgets, meeting deadlines and your own sanity.

The ‘OK’: While the topics were timely, the presentations this year seemed a bit elementary. There were too many presenters on each panel and not enough variety of speakers from one panel to the next (seemingly lots of folks did multiple panels). Variety is good for the soul. I would encourage the ACEDS team to expand the speaker selection and let each panel have a bit more time to develop its topics and provide more time for Q&A.

The bad: My constant pet peeve: too much time on introductions. For example, the first session didn’t start on time and resulted in the panelists not being able to talk until we were more than 35 minutes into the program. This limited the Q&A time which is often a very helpful part of the conversation. Then again, I’ve been to conferences where this would have been a good thing!

The moral of the story is that it wasn’t perfect. But what conference ever is? I appreciate ACEDS’ attempt at bringing together the best of breed within e-discovery people who are well versed in this field. My philosophy is the more we focus on best practices, the more clients will rely on us to help achieve their goals. All in all, it was a good event filled with useful information and solid connections with other e-discovery specialists.


ACEDS Returns With A Splash

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Well, the ACEDS 2012 (Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists®) conference is over: another practical e-discovery conference at a great location (the Westin in Hollywood, Fla.) is in the books.  It seemed to be much larger than its inaugural year and a good mixture of lawyers and other e-discovery practitioners.

It was especially good to return this year having passed the CEDS examination last fall, which tested many areas of the e-discovery process, from technology to project management to budgeting, etc.

Topics at this year’s conference included dealing with social media, best practices in project management, succeeding in catastrophic cases, e-discovery malpractice, and numerous others. The format was again fairly tightly controlled, with each speaker giving eight to nine minutes on a topic followed by questions and answers, with the moderators trying to keep everyone on task.

The speakers were knowledgeable and usually quite practical in their application of points, although too much time was spent on bios and introductory remarks, which took away precious minutes from the speakers (some of whom were slighted on time). This is always the most difficult component of a conference and for the most part it was pulled off successfully, however. I liked that so many different speakers were used, and while several spoke on more than one panel there were no domineering performances that left you wondering why they were on a panel.

One main takeaway on the programming is that I’m still struck (and somewhat amazed) that the industry has been slow to embrace that e-discovery projects require project management. While this is generally an accepted notion on the technology side of the process, it seems not everyone has accepted (or is just slowly adopting) that everything from budget forecasting to people management to documented repeatable processes also needs project management. Speaking from personal experience and watching it happen on dozens of projects the last few years here at Counsel On Call, that’s where you get your efficiencies, your productivity and in the end your success.

It is no longer acceptable, in my opinion, to take a project, throw people at it, and invoice the client when you’re done. Instead, you need to be able to know where you are at every step along the way and diligently benchmark, track and report it – and your client needs access to that same information as well. Budget awareness, project progression awareness, complications that might impact the budget or timeline, collaboration with inside/outside counsel and technology partners, etc., are each integral factors in a successful e-discovery project and for future matters.

In the end, clients hate the ‘gotcha’ moment. Project management and transparency of process are meant to reduce and hopefully eliminate those moments. At the very least, the steps along the way will identify those events that could quickly spiral out of control if not picked up on as early as possible.

One other note: This year there seemed to be more technology vendors than before. While it is important to have great sponsors for such events, I’m sure hoping it doesn’t become overwhelming with booths like so many other conferences. These vendors were each given a time to briefly speak and provide several tips but were not supposed to make it an infomercial. Many succeeded while others failed. Perhaps the ACEDS committee should have this segment pre-planned much like they do each of the other panels. The concept is good but the execution left something to be desired.

Overall it was another solid event for ACEDS, and I’m looking forward to more in the future. They are worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with the organization.

And then of course there were the fabulous accommodations. The beach is always a great place to learn about e-discovery. Just saying.

No Better Place Than Florida For A Little E-Discovery

Well, the ACEDS 2011 (Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists®) inaugural annual conference is over. Beyond our own Discovery Symposium (I’m admittedly biased), for my money it was one of the best, most practical e-discovery conferences I have ever attended. And the venue: wow! Hollywood, Fl., in March sure beats New York or Washington in winter (no offense. I’m just saying….)We love talking e-discovery, especially here.

The schedule included a wide range of topics: social media and cloud computing, the inner workings of how a computer saves information, data mapping, and ethical considerations in e-discovery. Unlike other conferences I’ve attended, this one kept me awake for the most part with a fast-paced program and diverse speaker list.

Sessions were tightly controlled and methodical. The panels were three or four individuals with slightly different topics or emphases and each speaker was given eight or nine minutes to talk. This was followed by both orchestrated (pre-planned) questions in addition to audience participation.

The speakers themselves were a good mix of attorneys, litigation support and IT professionals each coming from and speaking to their unique perspective. The speakers acted like they wanted to be there (which you cannot always take for granted.) They were not solely focused on case law or an academic approach to e-discovery but each session was very practical, current and relevant. It’s also worth mentioning that the moderators did an excellent job of not allowing any one speaker or audience member to dominate the time.

One area for improvement for next year is to spend less time in the introductions of each of the speakers. Some sessions took 20 minutes or more to get going. We have the bios in the materials; no need for reading me their résumé. I also would have liked to have had a better sense of who was in the audience (attorneys, litigation support and IT professionals.)

While I certainly learned many things, my biggest takeaway from the event was confirmation that our team here at Counsel On Call is doing the right things, looking at the right issues and is, in fact, ahead of the curve on many of these topics. The world of e-discovery changes daily, it seems, and we are constantly making efforts to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture while stuck in the weeds. Going to events such as ACEDS is very helpful to gain that perspective and hear from people working on many of the same issues as we are.

I hope to be at the Second Annual ACEDS conference in March 2012. Check out ACEDS on-line and on Twitter or at the conference hastag. I also hope to continue the dialogue with some of my new Twitter friends now that we’re each back at our desks (follow me here).

Speaking of being back at home, leaving the conference was difficult. Ft. Lauderdale was 78 degrees compared to Nashville’s brisk 40 degrees. Welcome back to reality.