DS1.0 - Day 2 Begins

What a day yesterday was here at the Discovery Symposium in Nashville - my brief posts here can't do it justice. The programming ended with an incredible discussion about the new dynamics of working with law firms ... Brian Edwards (SunTrust), Brian Cadwallader (International Paper) and Jennifer Molinar (Caremark) share some incredible insight and experiences with the group, and not surprisingly this led to a very spiritied discussion. Possibly the most interesting tidbit was regarding the bidding out of every significant matter; Brian Edwards spoke about how beneficial this has been and how his firms understand that SunTrust will walk away if they aren't getting the price/services they're after. The group was intrigued by this and asked several pointed questions.

Some of us (namely me) are probably still a little groggy after enjoying the evening's songwriter's night ... Don Schlitz, who has penned 24(!!!!) No. 1 hits, was kind enough to entertain us. Don is a friend of one of our attorneys, and his wife is also an attorney -- so he had a steady stream of lawyer jokes ready for us, which is always fun.

I'll post more later today...

Everyone is on their way home now, probably somewhat exhausted after another substantive day to close out the Symposium ... we started with a powerhouse panel -- Sue Dyer (HCA), Marty Mazzone (Fidelity Investments), Heather Munday (Georgia Pacific) and Kristen Weathersby (Cox Communications), moderated by Counsel On Call's Candice Reed -- discussing how to create your own discovery team. Over 2.5 hours, these women really broke down how their processes work, who is involved, the challenges they've faced, mistakes they've made and what's most important. Each panelist was asked "If you're just now starting to assemble your discovery team, what would be the first thing you would do?" The unanamous answer was "identify the person in IT who is going to be by my side throughout this process and make things happen." These women were very, very impressive as a group and individually, and as I remarked to someone: "You can see we have some great resources to learn from here at Counsel On Call." We were really pleased that so many people got to hear the information/opinions that we have access to every day.

And that seemed to be a common theme ... our post-event survey responses indicated that there haven't been many (if any) events like this one, that the program was relevant and informative, and truly in the 'best practices' mindset. My biggest takeaway is that in-house attorneys are genuinely excited about the value they can provide to their company in the discovery realm, and many shared some great stories about the reactions they've received when showing the cost savings of the processes they've implemented.

A great event all around ... we'll post some of the best practices that were discussed during the event soon.

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

different outside counsel. Outside counsel is a variable on each project. We try and use Counsel On Call on each project for consistency and knowledge retention in the application of our protocols as well as for data collection across projects.

Once the project launches, Counsel On Call provides regular, sometimes daily, detailed progress reports that include each attorney’s review rate for that period of time, the amount of data reviewed, amount of data remaining to review, marked and unmarked files by reviewer, reviewer hours, and other data. We also request notebooks summarizing the details of each e-discovery project (the data, costs per gigabyte or document, productivity, etc.) and a year-end overview that helps us evaluate our processes and aids our decision-making on subsequent projects.

L: Has the current economic climate forced any changes in your department/legal department? Do you anticipate changes (or further changes) in the near future?

SD: For the past several years, we have been fostering relationships with talented outside counsel who partner with us in our effort to control legal fees and expenses. We do this through creative pricing and the ability to work effectively and efficiently with a lean legal team. The current economic climate just increases the importance of this type of relationship.

During this same time period, our approach to e-discovery has been more fully developed, with accuracy, collaboration and cost-effectiveness as key factors. This is a significant area of expense and, in order to control some of the cost, we’ve developed the approach in which Counsel On Call plays a significant role. Using Counsel On Call as much as we can enables us to obtain quality legal services at unbeatable prices.

As for the future … Regardless of the economic climate, we’ll continue to employ both of these cost-saving strategies, as well as others.

L: What websites (and/or blogs) do you like to visit?

SD: I catch the news on either the Fox News or Tennessean websites. For professional websites, though, there’s just so much information out there. You have to pick and choose what to spend your time reading. I don’t do a lot of Internet surfing. Once I identify a reliable, accurate resource, I bookmark it.

How the information is packaged is important – it needs to be easily accessible and simple to scan. I like the updates I get from Kroll, as one example, and I regularly read the Corporate E-discovery Forum blog.

L: Let’s say you’re about to take a sabbatical, and someone is going to step into your role for the next six months … What advice would you give that person?

SD: I would love a six-month sabbatical! Probably the best advice I could give is to not be afraid to ask questions. HCA is a large organization and it’s challenging to get your bearings at first. Our in-house team is very good about helping each other out, especially the newer attorneys.

I’d also recommend developing a “triage” system. Way more work comes in than you can possibly get through in a given day, and you have to have a method to prioritize. Otherwise you’ll never get anything accomplished.