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.

The Client's Best Interest

Recently I participated in a conference call with a prospective client about a voluminous e-discovery assignment. The call involved all of the players: several of us from Counsel On Call, the corporate legal department and its outside counsel (a prominent East Coast firm). These collaborative meetings are occurring more frequently now, which is refreshing. 

This trend roots from the determination that most law firms were not created to handle today’s e-discovery, but are better positioned to oversee and manage the discovery phase of litigation at a macro level. The client wants to save money on the review, let the law firm manage the process, and have an efficient communications process -- so a team approach involving corporate counsel, law firm lawyers and companies that provide litigation support services is practically a requirement today. It is this collaboration -- and open communication from the assignment's onset -- that ensures an excellent work product, as all of the players are working at their best use from Day 1. The process is more efficient, quality control is central and it ultimately better serves the client's interest and goals. It’s a business-partner approach.

Buyng into this approach is a big step for a law firm to take, but a very necessary one because legal departments need real business solutions and cost containment. The days when a firm can justify the cost of 50 associates (at $250+ per hour) conducting a large e-discovery review are over. What was somewhat surprising about the conference call, however, was that the law firm was Counsel On Call’s biggest advocate, as opposed to viewing us as the competition. But it seems that many law firms realize -- some organically, some by necessity -- that developing quality partnerships can be an asset to their practice (and put them in a better position with their clients). The ABA also seems to recognize (and bless) this outsourcing trend, as its Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently came out with Formal Opinion 08-451 outlining lawyers’ obligations when outsourcing legal support services.

Much like what this law firm coordinated (and what legal departments are insisting upon these days), it's always good to get everyone at the table together, bring all the challenges/issues out, and discuss the best possible solutions. We're seeing a lot more of this, and it's because a lot of money can be saved throughout the process by collaboratively hammering everything out on the front end.