It is always pleasing when one is asked to write an article on a particular topic but especially so for me, when 3 SA individual contacts and one SA law firm have specifically asked to me to write this one. It is something I have written about in the past but obviously it has become more relevant as connections and interest grow. I must say that I have been delighted, even humbled, at the large number of views of my posts - the last one attracting over 3000 views globally. Of course, my main drive is to help SA and the ever increasing number of contacts and communications from within SA is more than heartening, but I am fortunate to have many contacts all over the world and their input, knowledge and experiences serve to motivate me further.
I should begin by mentioning some of the recent highlights of my working life here in SA which will also partly answer the title of this post. Obviously, most of you know about my initiative to have SA’s Rules of Discovery amended and I have no further update on that at the moment except to say that I understand that the High Court Committee have (or are about to) made their recommendations about it to the main Rules Board of the DOJ. I am not privy to the content of those recommendations, nor would I expect to be. Continued patience is the order of the day!
A few weeks ago, I was a panellist at a law firm eDiscovery event at which they invited a number of their corporate clients. It was a well attended and excellent event and highlighted the innovative and determined manner in which this law firm is embracing the digital era in dispute resolution, competition and investigations. In fact, this was the third occasion that I have spoken at this particular law firm so, either I am doing something right or they keep inviting me back in the hope that I will! I am fortunate to know a large number of individuals at this practice and often proffer my advice on specific matters or best practices.
Currently, I am also advising a smaller law firm in JHB on the use of technology generally and eDiscovery specifically. This is so satisfying because many people say that eDiscovery technology in particularly, is only for the “big boys”. Of course that is not the case, and indeed quite the opposite because, as I often say, using eDiscovery technology levels the playing field. When I worked in the UK many smaller law firms felt intimidated by the “big boys” who had greater resources and it was extremely enjoyable to help SME’s “compete”. I will always remember a UK lawyer who was a sole practitioner in a small industrial town in the North of England telling me once that the Civil Procedure Rules relating to eDiscovery “only applied in London”!
Staying with law firms I have also agreed to do eDiscovery presentations at two other law firms one of which is set to include their Candidate Attorneys by way of training. There are still numerous law firms in SA handling this type of work with whom I have not engaged face to face and all I can say here is that the ball is in your court.
Another part of my work involves service providers here in SA and I am also regularly contacted by those outside SA, particularly software hosting providers, many of which are interested in seeing if their solution would be appropriate here. As I have mentioned previously, I now know the strengths and weaknesses of all of the eDiscovery service providers in SA and as such am able to advise law firms and their clients. In a previous post I talked about the eDiscovery solutions that are available in SA through service providers and I repeat that if and when the Rules change then I would expect to see a growth in service providers and technical people. Also do not be surprised to see providers from other countries establishing here. Right now, I am advising one significant SA service provider on numerous aspects of eDiscovery including software and best practices and I regularly meet with another. I also have a relationship with 2 providers of complementary solutions to law firms and both are watching the situation closely and hoping to expand their services into eDiscovery with my help.
Corporations and institutions are interesting as they benefit most from the use of eDiscovery technology yet, traditionally, they have been the “slowest” to take up advice and help other than from their lawyers or accountants. I have seen this change over the years elsewhere and just hope the message is getting across to these entities here in SA. Certainly I hear more interest when I speak at events at which they are represented so let us see. Obviously their main objective should be the cost savings which the technology will achieve but it will also help to find the right documents quicker which could accelerate or improve the outcome of a matter.
I must remind everyone that I do not process data nor do I sell any software nor exclusively align myself with any one particular provider. This means that I can be objective about what can be done and by whom. I maintain my independence in this way but I would never rule out the fact that this could change if I think that it would be in the best interests of the eDiscovery industry here along with my clients and contacts.
When I was speaking on the panel that I mentioned earlier, I was asked at the end to give a one line message by way of conclusion and my message was, “Don't wait for the Rules to change, eDiscovery is here in SA right now, embrace it”. That is my concluding comment in this post too coupled with the fact that the earlier that proper experienced advice is sought in a matter the more beneficial that advice will be. Contact me for help and advice or for my eDiscovery presentations and remember that I make no charge for the first consultation!