Bill Butterfield died on Tuesday, December 13 after a brief, silent battle with cancer. He was a good man and an exemplary attorney. Knowing that I will never meet him again, I mourn that I cannot know him better. I know well Bill’s tireless efforts to protect every litigant’s right to obtain full and fair discovery. His was a revered and respected voice at The Sedona Conference, where he stood against multitudes who would cripple our right to seek the truth that lives in electronically-stored information. Bill employed canny strategies that the naysayers couldn’t match: He was sensible, practical, courteous and kind. Bill listened. He considered, and he contributed. Bill was a worthy opponent to many, an enemy to none.
Exactly five years to the day before he died, Bill testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee concerning electronic discovery. I watched Bill’s testimony and saw the poise and candor that distinguish a good advocate from a great one. I was invested in Bill’s success as he’d done me the honor of seeking my thoughts about his testimony the weekend prior. We had a nice chat, and I shared a memo with talking points afterward that he encouraged me to publish. I was pleased to see Bill touch on those points in his Congressional testimony, but I don’t imagine they were mine alone. Bill knew e-discovery as well as anyone, and I expect he sought advice from many who till this field. He was wise that way.
I am flattered as well that Bill sought to engage me in his cases on several occasions. For one reason or another, I had to decline each time; so, now I rue having missed the opportunity to work with Bill as his counsel. That would have been nice. I expect I would have learned a lot, for Bill, a former Eagle Scout, set a fine example for us all.
I send my earnest sympathies to Bill’s wife, Susan, his family, partners at Hausfield and many friends. Though I know he will be remembered in many lasting ways, like a scholarship or other commemoration, Bill’s legacy is the balance he brought to the last decade of e-discovery standard setting and rule making efforts. At a time when we really needed someone like Bill Butterfield to step in front of the tanks, we were fortunate indeed that Bill stepped in and stepped up.