Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico

109_east_palaceI write from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where, joined by the amazing Judge Paul Grimm,  I have the enviable annual task of talking with employment law specialists about e-discovery at a venerable ALI CLE event called Current Developments in Employment Law.  Housed at the charming La Fonda Hotel, I am just steps away from 109 East Palace Street, the portal through which all civilian scientists and their families passed on their way to nearby Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project (so named to deflect suspicion from the real locations in Los Alamos, NM and Oak Ridge, TN).  Today, Los Alamos is world famous for the role it played in the creation of the atomic bomb; but back in 1943, Los Alamos was the most closely guarded secret in the world.  Officially, it didn’t exist.  You couldn’t even send mail there.  Instead, all communications came addressed to “Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

When in Los Alamos, I never fail to visit a little gem called the Norris E. Bradbury Science Museum.  The Bradbury has incomparable exhibits exploring the lives of the many ordinary and extraordinary people who changed the world at an old ranch school in the high desert.  It’s also a great place to get up close and personal with a nuclear warhead.  Admission is free, but you still need to pass through military checkpoints to come into town.

It will come as no surprise that I am passionate about computers.  Heck, I could look at computers all day (and often do)  But, you may be surprised to learn that computers played a big part in the development of the first Los Alamos A-bombs (code named Fat Man and Little Boy).  Los Alamos had the finest computers that money could buy.  Why am I so enamored of computers from that long-ago era?  Check out this clip from the new television series, Manhattan, to find out.

They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Unconscionable

Before I limited my law practice to work for courts and counsel, I was a trial lawyer working for contingent fees.  For 20+ years, I never charged for an hour of my time.  I funded the cases, did the work and was paid only if I recovered damages for my clients.  I charged 40% plus expenses; so, for the most part my clients and I shared roughly equally in the outcome.  At the time, I thought my fees proper, and they were certainly “industry standard.”  Everyone charged about the same, not from collusion but from plagiarism: lawyers didn’t draft fee agreements; we copied them.

But as I look back, I see that I could have charged less—even much less—and still have made a good living.  The only limits on what I could charge were the marketplace, where I saw no competition on price, and ethical precepts dictating a lawyer may not charge an illegal or unconscionable fee.

So, as someone who made a lot of money charging more than I needed to, I’m prompted to ask:

What are unconscionable charges in e-discovery?

I’m prompted by an affidavit, a sworn statement of an e-discovery expert leading a national litigation support vendor.  I won’t name names, because this post is about practices, not people.  But the affidavit shocked my conscience.

Continue reading

Richard G. Braman, 1953-2014

Braman,-RichardIt took eons for wind-borne grit to form the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona into greatness.  It took barely 16 years for Richard Braman’s grit to form The Sedona Conference and guide it to greatness.  I’m saddened to report that Richard Braman has died after a long battle with cancer.  Richard was just 60; but, in his too-brief life, he moved something more intractable than mountains; he moved the law forward in a reasoned and just way.

Richard Braman led all of us in the “Sedona Bubble” to lay down swords and use an advocate’s more powerful weapon, dialogue.  Richard carved out room for cooperation in an adversarial system of justice.  Some thought Richard’s Cooperation Proclamation naïve; but, Richard Braman was no naïf.  He was an accomplished trial lawyer who knew the trenches yet understood how much more could be won on level ground.

Perhaps it was Richard’s keen appreciation for jazz—he’d owned a jazz club in Minneapolis—that allowed him to see how discord and harmony could co-exist. I don’t know his inspiration; but, I know he was right.

I’m also certain that we have lost an extraordinary lawyer—a gentleman, a gentle leader and a true visionary.  The next time an opponent is a bit more reasonable, a bit more straightforward in an e-discovery conference, take a moment to thank Richard Braman.  My sympathies to Richard’s family, his co-workers at The Sedona Conference, his partners at Gray Plant Mooty and the many friends, foes and colleagues fortunate to have known him.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 2:00 PM in the chapel of Greer’s Mortuary of Sedona, followed by interment at Sedona Community Cemetery.  Rest in peace, Richard.

A Guide to Forms of Production

forms_iconSemiannually, I compile a primer on some key aspect of electronic discovery.  In the past, I’ve written on computer forensics, backup systems, metadata and databases. For 2014, I’ve completed the first draft of the Lawyers’ Guide to Forms of Production, intended to serve as a primer on making sensible and cost-effective specifications for production of electronically stored information.  It’s the culmination and re-purposing of much that I’ve written on forms heretofore, along with new material extolling the advantages of native and near-native forms.

Reviewing the latest draft, there is much I want to add and re-organize; accordingly, it will be a work-in-progress for months to come.  Consider it a “public comment” version.  The linked document includes exemplar verbiage for requests and model protocols for your adaption and adoption.  I plan to add more forms and examples. Continue reading

Pilcrow and Thorn. That 70’s Cop Show, Right?

I’ve lately been immersed in the minutiae of load files while trying to complete a primer on forms of production and craft a load file exercise for the workbook students will use in the upcoming Georgetown E-Discovery Training Academy.

By the way, there’s still time to register for the ultimate e-discovery master class cum boot camp—a week in Washington, D.C. studying electronic discovery with a dedicated faculty, getting down and dirty with data.  You promised you were going to get your arms around the e-stuff; now is the time, and the Georgetown Academy is the place.  June 1-6, 2014.  I’ll sweeten the pot: Use the code EDTAREFERRAL when registering and take $300.00 off the price.

While sojourning in load file hell, I stumbled upon a tidbit of information I thought other e-discovery groupies might find mildly diverting.

Our Sesame Street words for today are Thorn and Pilcrow.

I refer, of course to the two symbols that serve as familiar field delimiters in Concordance load files; those persnickety text files that carry metadata and other information into e-discovery review tools.  In order for tabular data to be discretely searchable, it has to be set off (“fielded”) from other data by a separator.  On paper, we do this with vertical and horizontal lines, drawing rows and columns.  We literally delineate the fields of data so first names don’t wander into, say, last names or street names.  To accomplish the same end with digital data in load files, we use delimiters, such as commas, tabs or, in the case of Concordance load files, thorns and pilcrows.

A Thorn looks like this: þ and a Pilcrow looks like this: ¶
When seen in a load file, they look like this:

load file

If you’re like me, you’ve been happily calling pilcrows “paragraph symbols” for quite some time, and had no idea that very pregnant capital “I” was called a thorn.

But here’s the cool part: Thorns were very nearly a part of our modern English alphabet.  No kidding.  Apart from our boundless delight communing with thorns in load files, we nearly see a thorn every time we come across some cheesy shop that calls itself “Ye Olde This or That.”  The thorn was once a character standing in for the letter combination “TH” and pronounced the same way.   So, many signs in jolly ol’ England once read “þe” pronounced “the.”

Over time, what with old English scripts and fading paint and such, the thorn morphed into the letter “Y” and all those “þe Olde Curiosity Shoppes” became “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppes.”  Another explanation is that, with the advent of the printing press, countries like Germany and Italy who exported typefaces didn’t use the thorn in their languages; so, they didn’t make thorn type.  Accordingly, those who thought the letter Y served as a reasonable facsimile started using it in lieu of the thorn.

When you see a thorn in a load file, smile.  We very nearly lost her forever.

Hat tip to http://mentalfloss.com/article/31904/12-letters-didnt-make-alphabet

Broken Badly: The Anderson Living Trust v. WPX Energy Production

Breaking BrowningU.S. District Judge James Browning is a fine fellow.  There are many reasons to say so; but the first is that, though he sits in New Mexico, he was born in the Great State of Texas.  Judge Browning kindly spoke to my E-Discovery class at the law school in September 2012.  I’d sought him out because he’d been ably grappling with e-discovery issues in a case styled S2 v. Micron.  In his remarks to my class, he splendidly recounted some of the challenges faced by judges who ascended to the bench before the Age of Digital Evidence.  Judge Browning has one of those C.V.s that could make any lawyer hate him (e.g., Yale, varsity letterman, Law Review editor-in-chief, Coif, Supreme Court clerk); but he’s a good judge and a nice guy to boot.

I share my admiration of Judge Browning to underscore that I feel a bit of a rat in expressing misgivings about his recent opinion in The Anderson Living Trust v. WPX Energy Production, LLC, No. CIV 12-0040 JB/LFG. (D. New Mexico March 6, 2014).  I think he got it wrong in some respects–not on the peculiar equities of the case before him, but in his broader analysis of Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and in conjuring a Hobson’s choice for requesting parties.  Continue reading

Lagniappe!

BrysonThis is one of those occasional personal posts that has nothing to do with e-discovery.  If you’re looking for the usual fare, please stop reading because this post is about lagniappes.

For the last week, I’ve been in Australia’s capital, Canberra, delivering the keynote speech at the first-ever X-Ways Forensics Users Conference and conducting a forensic witness skills workshop for the Australian Federal Police.  I flew to Australia from New Orleans, where I’d delivered three presentations in a day for the Louisiana State Bar Association.  It’s been quite the busy week; so, after a picturesque drive to Sydney this morning and bidding goodbye to my top bloke and host, Zoran Iliev, I was glad for a few moments to catch my breath in this incomparable city of bridge, bay and soaring Opera House. Continue reading

Becoming a Better Digital Forensics Witness

Bragg_Your WitnessI love to testify—in court, at deposition, in declarations and affidavits—and I even like writing reports about my findings in forensic exams.

I love the challenge—the chance to mix it up with skilled interrogators, defend my opinions and help the decision makers hear what the electronic evidence tells us.  There is a compelling human drama being played out in those bits and bytes, and computer forensic examiners are the fortunate few who get to tell the story.  It’s our privilege to help the finders of fact understand the digital evidence.[1] 

This post is written for computer forensic examiners and outlines ways to become a more effective witness and avoid common pitfalls.  But the advice offered applies as well to almost anyone who takes the stand. Continue reading

Amending the Proposed Amendments

drawing boardToday was ostensibly the last day for public comment on the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  The good news for other procrastinators is that the submission deadline has been extended to accommodate scheduled website maintenance,  The new deadline for submitting public comments is 11:59 PM ET on Tuesday, February 18, 2014.  Over 1,600 comments have been submitted, and I’ve been trying to wade through them, unsurprised at the deep division between plaintiffs and corporate interests.  I can’t recall another time when so much has been spent by corporate lobbyists to influence the civil rulemaking process.  Clearly, corporate America expects a bigger payoff from these proposed amendments than I do.

Notwithstanding their strengths, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that should go back to the drawing board.  Many commentators focus on problems with Proposed Rule 26 and it’s efforts to narrow the scope of discovery.  Some are incensed that proposed Rule 37(e) offers insufficient immunity from sanctions for spoliation, choosing to ignore the fact that the incidence of spoliation sanctions in federal court is historically less than the national incidence of death by lightning strike.  Ironically, those grousing the loudest are the same white shoe-types who play golf in a thunderstorm.

I finally threw my comment on the pyre, I mean pile, or, at least I tried to do so; but, the submission web page was indeed shut down for website maintenance.  That gave me time to solicit your input, dear reader, while there’s still a chance to tweak my comments if you find I’ve made a mess of it.  Here’s what I’m planning to submit: Continue reading

Query the Quintessential Quintet

fab5judges

On Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 9:00am, I’m moderating a plenary session at LegalTech New York where the panelists are a veritable Mount Olympus of e-discovery leaders from the federal bench: John Facciola, James Francis, Andrew Peck, Lee Rosenthal and Shira Scheindlin.  I can hardly imagine a more quintessential quintet of rare knowledge and eloquence!  Kudos to ALM educational coordinator, Judy Kelly, for deftly getting them all to commit.

The judges will be discussing some of what you might expect, e.g., proposed Rules amendments, predictive coding, Rule 502 and expectations of lawyer technical competence.  We will also be exploring a few fresh issues, like the impact all those little screens are having on everyone in and out of court.

There’s still time to add topics and questions of interest to you to the program; so, if you have questions you’d pose or topics you’d explore, please share them here as a comment (or e-mail them to me: craig at ball dot net), and I’ll try to work them in.  Hope to see you in New York!

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