As an eDiscovery Consultant in South Africa am I making a difference?

A year ago I wrote about how an eDiscovery Consultant adds value - and now, one year on, I thought it would be useful and informative to write an update on that. This sets out what I have actually done, or am doing with regard to eDiscovery in SA, obviously maintaining confidentiality  at the same time!  One of my motivations for writing this post comes from my friend Andrew King, eDiscovery Consultant in New Zealand, who is very supportive and he and I exchange communications, help, and advise on a very regular basis. Andrew wrote consecutive posts on this topic which I commend to you.

You see, Andrew and I have both worked in litigation support in London, UK and then moved to another country (in Andrew’s case his birth country) and established an eDiscovery Consultancy in an environment where there was little or no eDiscovery knowledge or industry. Andrew has worked very hard for over 5 years now in NZ and has been extremely successful, promoting the industry; educating and informing; working ridiculously hard on driving a change in the Rules of Civil Procedure to incorporate eDiscovery; and now adding real value to many law firms and their clients, advising and working with them. This has helped to inspire me to put in the effort that I have over the last 2 years or more to, almost single- handedly, drag SA into the 21st century as far as eDiscovery is concerned. 

SA Law Firms - I have made eDiscovery presentations to a number of law firms in SA and continue to do so. These are very well received, provoke excellent questions and comment, and undoubtedly succeed in my aim of education and information. They have also all resulted in my being contacted afterwards with requests for information and advice, and, in a number of cases actual engagements. Many firms have used my talks as training exercises for their teams and some have used my content to help them bid for work from corporate clients. As I say I have been engaged by law firms on specific cases and generally on eDiscovery matters. I advise on strategy, solutions, costs etc. using all of my 30+ years litigation experience linked with my 15 years experience of litigation technology. I have acted at meetings with lawyers, clients, and Counsel giving advice as to what is appropriate in a case by way of eDiscovery.

SA Service providers - I have connected with the majority of SA’s eDiscovery service providers and enjoy a very good relationship with them. A number have sought my advice on specific matters and I am about to finalise a formal arrangement with two providers to act as their Consultant, whilst still retaining my independence. It is important for me to know precisely what each provider can offer and what technical skills and experience they have. Now that I have a good handle on that, the strengths and weaknesses, pro’s and cons, etc. of service providers are all part of the information that I must have in order to perform my duties effectively.

SA Advocates, Attorneys and Judges - so many have contacted me and I have advised a large number on eDiscovery. It is interesting that many tell me that they need and want their instructing law firms to embrace technology so that they can use it too - there’s a challenge!

SA corporations and institutions - curiously, this is the most difficult area with which to engage and I say, curiously because these bodies are the ones who would benefit most from having their matters dealt with using technology. Some are enlightened and I have good communications with them whilst others are clearly burying their heads in the sand. With one or two notable exceptions, many in house legal teams are simply not embracing or demanding that their external lawyers use all of the facilities available to handle their cases. This is a marked contrast to the position elsewhere in the world where the corporate “dog” definitely “wags its tail”. 

Global contacts - I am a lucky guy!  One of the reasons for my good fortune is that I know a great many people all over the world in my chosen industry of eDiscovery and the level of support and encouragement I receive on an almost daily basis never ceases to amaze me. It is not only the UK, where I worked for more than 15 years in this industry, but from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Dubai, Hong Kong and more. The majority tell me it is because they see what I am trying to do here in SA having lived through it themselves in their country. One person in the UK whom I have known and respected for 15 years has recently established his own Consultancy in London and told me that my work in SA had inspired him to do so and frankly this comment humbled me. Equally, having these contacts means that now I am in SA they have someone to turn to for advice and assistance in respect of matters that arise here, and I have been, and am involved in a number of engagements which emanate from outside SA. I am also co-chairing a Data Protection in SA conference in Cape Town in November, with a fantastic line up of speakers - you can see the full agenda here.

In summary, I write blog posts (this will be the 37th since June 2015!); I meet and communicate with lawyers and law firms giving advice and assistance; I put people together; I am contracted to help in certain cases; I have driven an initiative to change the Discovery Rules in SA; I give eDiscovery presentations and I am kept very busy by my thousands of contacts. Am I making a difference? It is not for me to judge but my commitment to put and keep SA on the global eDiscovery map is stronger than ever.