Going On's.....This 'n Thats.....

Fighting computers
Tough week?  Take a few moments to enjoy our guest blogger, Celia Elwell, RP and senior paralegal, who sends us interesting links and articles.  Enjoy!

Judge Throws Out RICO Claims Against Johnson & Johnson, by Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer

Federal Judge Dismisses BP Oil Spill Fraud Lawsuit, by Maureen Cosgrove, JURIST

Jury Awards $900 Thousand In Age Discrimination Case, by Ellen Simon, Employee’s Rights Post Blog

Third Circuit Okays Collection of DNA from Criminal Suspects, by Nathan Koppel, Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Preparing Americans for Death Lets Hospices Neglect End of Life, by Peter Waldman, Bloomberg

LegalZoom Sued by Alabama Bar Group for Unauthorized Practice, by Stephanie Rabiner, Strategist, The Findlaw Law Firm Business Blog

The Grey Area of Unauthorized Legal Practice, Law Librarian Blog

Handle Loaded E-Discovery Tools With Care, by Sean Doherty, Law Technology News

Are Student Cell Phone Records Discoverable?, by Joshua A. Engel, Law Technology News

Conn. High Court Dismisses Criminal Case for Discovery Abuse, by Christian Nolan, LTN Law Technology News, Law.com

Writing to Persuade, Legal Writing Prof Blog

So Your Screwed up That Research Memo to the Partner, Now What?, Legal Skills Professor Blog

Typography for Lawyers - the book, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer

The Importance of Printing it Out, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer)

In a Field of Reason, Lawyers Woo Luck Too, by Benjamin Wieser, The New York Times

10 Reasons Why Most Lawyer Blogs Are Boring, by Cordell Parvin LLC, JD Supra Blog

Why Facebook's Facial Recognition is Creepy, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, PCWorld

Spies Like You?, by Josh Hyatt, CFO Magazine

5 Tips for Selecting PPC Keywords, by Jason Tabeling, Search Engine Watch

Gmail’s New Features: A First Look, by Eric Mack, PC World

Google Plus for Lawyers, Legal Skills Professor Blog

Online CLE Session: 60 iPhone and iPad Apps in 60 Minutes for Lawyers, iPhone J.D.

MoreLaw Lexapedia (includes Verdicts and Decision, Recent Case Law Updates, and other valuable links)

Plain Language (a federal government website - check out Tips and Tools)

Asset Search Blog published by Fred L. Abrams, Attorney

Municode (free access to most municipal codes)

Legal Tech West Coast: A Wealth of Information

Dollars Risk & Responsibility vs. Cost Control:
Managing eDiscovery’s Great Balancing Act
A Session Presented by Bill Speros 
LegalTech West Coast 2011

Guest Blogger:  Raul Estravit

Legal Tech West Coast – what a wealth of information! On Wednesday, May 18, I attended the session given by Bill Speros, lead counsel handling all of the e-discovery and litigation processing matters related to the Madoff case. Certainly a case that gives him great credibility.  Speros concentrated on risks and responsibilities in the management of the ediscovery process such as what to look for in keeping costs down and the allocation of responsibilities to all parties concerned. 

He covered solutions on predictability vs. consistency; the merging of responsibility with authority; management of ESI attributes; and providing visibility into asymmetric knowledge and skills.

It is difficult for law firms to determine or even guess the exact cost of discovery with regard to predictability versus consistency.  A set of data often thought to be manageable, often grows into a huge endeavor when ediscovery and labor costs escalate during the culling process.  This is a critical point where the framing of the issues and negotiations between the opposing parties can help make culling options easier and less costly to manage.

Speros referred to the “what if costs”: those costs based upon fear or extortion factors generated by an aggressive opposing side.  These factors add costs that are surprisingly reported to be about 40% -60% of the total costs of an ediscovery project. This statistic has raised concerns that expanded discovery could force settlements based upon costs rather than law. Often, cases have been settled as soon as one of the parties figures out it would be far more economical to pay rather than play.   

Management of ESI Attributes
Law firms frequently give responsibility for managing a case to pivotal core people in the ESI phase such as a seasoned paralegal, staff attorney or onsite project manager.  These professionals have hands-on experience running large document intensive ESI and database driven projects.

Provide Visibility in Asymmetric Knowledge and Skills
Personnel staffing ESI projects should be given clear lines of responsibility and be part of ESI planning and strategic management.  They should be given a voice in meetings.  Analysis of projects reveals teams that are successful are those that have been included in the execution of the project.

Knowing the source of the data can give you a certain idea as to the amount of data a particular custodian may have but it is not a definitive way of knowing the total amount that could be mined.

Starting off eDiscovery with a date range and a set of key words will certainly limit the amount of data at the “first bite of the apple” or at the source.   However, if you do not get exactly what you are seeking and need to go back to the third party e-discovery vendor to re-run the data search with a more modified set of terms and date ranges, you’ll most definitely rack up costs. Clearly, here is a situation to be avoided.

I was amused at the frankness from Speros.  One way to keep costs down, he said,  is to try and squeeze third-party vendors.  In this new economy, this technique could now become the norm. These days, vendors are struggling to keep a constant work flow.  Therefore, they are willing to negotiate price more than ever when you go back for a second bite at the apple.

The value of the content must be weighed against costs.  Is the data current or archived?  When data is archived, the data is sprawled and spread out over various formats. Piecing it all together could cost quite a bit of time and technology.  Even if the data is on a hard drive, it could have sections deleted and need more forensic handling. Forensic data can look like “confetti” which in turn becomes more costly to produce.   

How do you produce ESI data without the proprietary database or application? Exporting from certain types of applications make it virtually impossible to use without the application itself.  In this scenario, the data is incomprehensible.

In certain cases, courts have placed the burden of purchasing the application on the requesting party.  If they want the data that badly, they should be ready to pay for it.

Does the data you are seeking go so far back that it was once owned by a different corporation?  Many corporations and companies are bought and sold over time. One would think past records are kept but actually, that is not always the case.  If the data goes far beyond the time the present corporation has been running  operations, you may be out of luck. There is no real obligation to keep records from the last business that operated the company.  However, if the data is accessible, you have to produce it unless it is just too expensive.

Quite often, lawyers ask the court for relief from the cost of producing documents electronically.  Just as often, they come to court without a specific example of costs, driving judges crazy. No lawyer enjoys being singled out for wasting judges’ time when the judge sends them back to figure out the costs.

I am a big fan of one of the topics covered by Speros. We call it weekly meetings but he calls it “trial-logue”, a great phrase for constant communication between the team members. I really cannot count how many times the lack of communication created a monster of an issue that could have easily been resolved by a phone call.  Hopefully, this phrase will become widely used in the language of legal technology.

Speros concluded by reminding us that a cohesive team is one that is utilizing the talent of each member for the successful operation of a well-run and less costly ediscovery project.  These are some of the finer points that lead us in the right direction and allow for the timely production of data without sacrificing quality.  That is the art of Litigation Technology and well run ediscovery projects.

Is Your State One of the Top Five Worst for Lawsuit Fairness?

Do you know how your firm ranks in terms of lawsuit fairness? The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) released its survey ranking the states with the best and worst legal climates in the country. According to the survey, the states with the worst legal climates are California (46th), Alabama (47th), Mississippi (48th), Louisiana (49th), and West Virginia (50th). The states with the best legal climates are Delaware (1st), North Dakota (2nd), Nebraska (3rd), Indiana (4th), and Iowa (5th).
The survey also shows that a state’s legal climate affects how and where a company does business and creates jobs. Two-thirds, or 67%, of the 1,482 corporate lawyers and executives contacted say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, such as where to locate or expand their businesses. That is up 10% from just three years ago.
“With one in ten Americans out of work and record-high jobless rates in states like California, states can no longer afford to discourage new business and new jobs as a result of a dysfunctional legal climate,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “States, particularly those at the bottom of the list, desperately need more jobs, not more lawsuits.”
Harris Interactive conducted the survey Lawsuit Climate 2010: Ranking the States by telephone and online from October 2009 to January 2010. The respondents—general counsels and senior attorneys or executives in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million—were asked to rank states for their overall treatment of tort, contract, and class action litigation. Among other elements, respondents also ranked states for the impartiality and competence of its judges and the fairness of its juries.
Can Hollywood come to the rescue?
ILR also announced a new national advertising campaign called “Jobs, Not Lawsuits,” which will include movie trailers to be shown on more than 300 movie screens throughout the country. The two-minute trailers feature the stories of businesses that were the subject of costly lawsuits substantially impacting their companies. In one story, an after-school youth basketball facility in Sacramento, California, was forced to close after legal bills from fighting a lawsuit drained the company’s finances.
“The silver screen is the perfect place to tell these true stories of businesses that have been victimized by an unfair legal system,” Rickard said. “We want people to see the real life consequences of these lawsuits.”

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.Skd258502sdc

If you live in any of these states, what do you tell your clients?

Source: www.instituteforlegalreform.com

Website: Famous Trials

This admittedly bare-bones website was created & is maintained by professor Douglas O. Linder at the University of Missouri-Kansas Law School. Linder says:

"My vision was to create the Web’s largest collection of primary documents, images, essays, and other materials relating to famous trials from Salem to Simpson. Trials have long struck me as wonderful vehicles for exploring history and human nature. What better way to understand the 20s than reading about the Scopes, Sacco-Vanzetti, and Leopold and Loeb trials? What provides better insights into the nature of evil than reading the transcripts of the William Calley court-martial or the Nuremberg trials? Would not the Amistad, Shipp, Scottsboro Boys, Sweet, and “Mississippi Burning” trials provide an excellent launching point for a discussion of racism in America?  I wanted these materials to be made readily available, in an easily digestible form, for everyone from junior high students to law professors."

Professor Linder told The New York Times that "...the most important trial of our age occurred in a small courtroom in Dayton, Tenn., in the summer of 1925, when a jury was asked to decide whether a high-school biology teacher violated a new state law that banned the teaching of evolution." The Scopes "Monkey" Trial took place in 1925.

Being a baseball fan, my favorite event described (& richly annotated) is the Chicago Black Sox Trial (1921).

If you like history, you will definitely enjoy this site...

"Sunshine and Judge Seidlin"

Have to point to this very smart blog post about Judge Seidlin, of "judging on TV" fame:

"In 1933, Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis advised, 'Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant.' True to this notion, Florida is known as the Sunshine State not only for its weather -- it has long been a leader in open government. But when it comes to cameras in the courtroom, does openness serve an injustice?

"After watching Judge Larry Seidlin's on-camera antics in the Anna Nicole Smith proceedings, Norm Pattis thinks so. At his blog Crime & Federalism, he says Seidlin singlehandedly rests the case against cameras in the courtroom. 'The judge sniveled and emoted like a pro se in traffic court for the cameras today, when he gave the lifeless body of Anna Nicole Smith [PDF] to the lawyer for her five-year-old daughter.'"

Highly recommend reading the entire post (& links)!

Paralegal now jury coordinator

It's all about making jury duty sound like fun -- or at least time well spent:

"Most people aren't thrilled to be called for jury duty. They think they are too busy, can't afford to miss work, or need to be home caring for their children.

"Mary Poston considers it her job to change their mind -- or at least make them feel like their time in the courthouse is well-spent.

"Poston, 56, is Mecklenburg County's jury coordinator. She summons 66,000 Mecklenburg County residents for jury duty each year.

"She's also the person you contact if you can't make it the day you were called. She's the one who checks you in when you arrive, tells you how the system works, and makes sure you get paid.


"'I want you to know that the time you spend waiting is being put to good use,' she said. 'Just you being here in this room changes what happens in those courtrooms. You are one of the most important parts of the system.'"


"This is Poston's second career. She spent 25 years at Pillowtex.

"When the company closed, she went back to school to become a paralegal. Poston, who lives in Kannapolis, did an internship with Mecklenburg's jury coordinator and then applied for the job when he was promoted.

"She said she'd always liked it when she got called for jury duty. And she hoped to land a state job after Pillowtex because she thought it would be more secure. She's been coordinating Mecklenburg's juries for about two years."

NY Trial Court Online Case Access

Legal Dockets Online describes new enhancements to New York State's case information databases:

"Supreme Court and County Clerk dockets, decisions, monitoring, and calendar access is finally consolidating and improving. If you practice in New York, be prepared to be impressed. Here is a summary of the state's major case information databases now available to the public:

"This system provides past, present and future case information for New York State Civil Supreme Courts. WebCivil provides online access to information about cases in Civil Supreme Court in all 62 counties of New York State. You may search for cases by Index Number or the name of the Plaintiff or Defendant, look up cases by Attorney/Firm name, and view Calendars for each court.

"Case Search - Find all New York State Civil Supreme Court cases by index number, party and firm name.

"Court Calendar Search - Find calendar information by county, justice and part.

"Attorney/Firm Calendar Search - Find calendar information for an attorney or firm.

"Document Search - Find published decisions by index number and county."

Find much more helpful info in the full article...

"Paralegal breaks the fashion law"

Can't quite figure out if this story is mostly funny or sad. Of course, 'dress for success' is usually a good idea, right?

"A colourful Toronto paralegal is seeing red after his forceful ejection from court for a 'fashion crime.'

"Ex-lawyer Harry Kopyto alleges that a Toronto cop 'manhandled' him out of a Scarborough court yesterday after a justice of the peace adjourned a case because of Kopyto's attire.

"When city prosecutor Janet Stoeckl complained about Kopyto's multi-coloured, open-neck shirt and his textured burnt-orange jacket, speeding charges against Kopyto's client, Paul Lamy, were brought to a screeching halt.

"According to Kopyto and Lamy, the JP - whose identity neither man can provide - said Kopyto's jacket 'clashes' with his shirt and was 'a breach' of court decorum.

"Kopyto said the JP suggested a white shirt and a dark suit.

"When Kopyto retaliated and complained about Stoecki's 'spike-heeled, pointed shoes and loud purple top,' the JP ordered: 'Mr. Kopyto, leave this courtroom.'"