eDiscovery in SA - closing off 2018

As we enter that time of the year in SA when the country seems to close down for a few weeks it is good to look back and see how, or if, we have progressed as far as eDiscovery is concerned. In my first post of the year I asked if 2018 could be SA’s most important year so far in eDiscovery

I would say that it has been a success and many of the signs that I predicted have come to fruition. Of course the major disappointment is that we have seen and heard nothing from the Rules Board about the proposals to amend the Uniform Rules to incorporate eDiscovery - more on that later - and another related disappointment is that POPIA has not yet been implemented despite being passed in 2013 and promised for 2018! Hey ho - this is South Africa, where the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs!

In my post I said that I felt 2018 would be important as it would be the year of the most use of eDiscovery technology in SA thus far and that has certainly been the case. Without doubt more law firms and more cases have benefited from the technology than before and that is really great to see. I also predicted an increase in the number of eDiscovery service providers in SA or at least an expansion of services. Well, we saw the launch of Cloud Essentials as an eDiscovery service provider using the software product EDT and we have seen both FTI and Control Risks ramp up their presence and offerings in SA so that was a positive prediction. I spoke at length about skills and for sure I have seen an increase here with more people moving companies than before. All of the above tells me that the SA eDiscovery market has moved onwards this year which delights me.

From a personal point of view, I have enjoyed my year. I was engaged on a large shipping litigation and arbitration matter; delivered more of my eDiscovery seminars; together with Lextrado, did presentations to law students at two Universities; was a panellist on an eDiscovery webinar; met many new people talking about eDiscovery as well as old friends; oh, and my blog won an award! The latter pleased me greatly, not for me, but because it was ranked 54th eDiscovery blog in the world (and the first from a developing country) where all the ones above it are USA or UK based other than New Zealand, where my friend Andrew King does great work. I was also invited as guest to the Legal Week Awards evening by my great friends at Africa Legal and what a great night that was! 

Towards the end of the year I came across a new solution developed in SAwhich I wrote about in a post as I think it is fantastic and which I highly recommend. 

One of the highlights of the year for me and eDiscovery in SA was the very well attended webinar   I mentioned earlier and this was hosted by Lextrado on global eDiscovery day.  I believe that it was the first of its kind ever to be held in SA and was even attended by people from USA. I was thrilled to be invited to attend as a panellist, and you must know that my posts referring to this seminar attracted more than 2000 views. Huge congratulations to Lextrado for this fantastic initiative. 

Speaking of my blog posts, the one that this year attracted the most views/likes/comments/shares was my post about the use of TAR (Technology Assisted Review). This was something of a surprise to me as this process has not yet been used in SA, to the best of my knowledge and belief, but it clearly shows the level of interest here. 

Ok, and now the elephant in the room that is the proposed amendments to our Uniform Rules. It is now 2 years since I was invited to present to the Rules Board since which time we have heard nothing from them except that they have appointed a sub committee to look at it. We do not know the members of that Committee nor have any of us heard anything from them. My continued frustration led me to seek out Rtd Jdge Ismail Hussain, always a great advocate for the use of technology and an accomplished author, lecturer and speaker. He and I have now become firm friends and he has raised the matter with the Chief Justice and we are waiting to hear from his Chief of Staff. Having the support of Ismail renewed my passion for the initiative which I began more than 3 years ago and Ismail was also a panellist on the webinar I mentioned. In typical fashion, he uttered 2 memorable phrases at the webinar. When he was asked why we have not managed to change the Rules, his response was, “…..because we have a dysfunctional Rules Board…” and at the end he was asked if, in one sentence he would comment upon what attorneys must do with regard to the future of the profession, to which he replied, “Adapt or die”. Great comments both! As I say he and I have now become firm friends and colleagues and here is a snippet of info for 2019 for you. Subject to some minor admin, plans have been agreed with the LEAD arm of the Law Society for 2 day seminars at 5 or 6 sites across the country on the topic of technology in the legal profession. I am to deal with eDiscovery at these seminars and Ismail plus 2 Attorneys will be the other speakers. As soon as all is finalised I will publish details but it goes without saying that I am tremendously honoured and excited about this and looking forward to it already. 

Earlier I mentioned awards - now don’t get excited, I am not about to give out trophies, nor necessarily make this an annual notion, but because this year has been the most active in SA for eDiscovery I am about to nominate a law firm and a service provider whom I feel have done most in 2018 as far as eDiscovery is concerned. The law firm that has used (and is continuing to use) eDiscovery technology on more matters and more than any other law firm in SA is……(drum roll)….Webber Wentzel! Well done Webbers and I am delighted to have been of some assistance to you. With regard to the service provider, one firm has stood out like a beacon. They have been providing a full eDiscovery solution for longer than anyone else in SA; have more cases at any one time in their solutions; possess the first people in SA to become Certified eDiscovery Specialists; and organised and ran the first national webinar on eDiscovery. Step forward Lextrado !! Fantastic achievements this year from Lextrado who, I am sure will go from strength to strength. 

So there it is, another year edges to its close. Thank you to everyone who bothers to read my posts and to all who have contacted me this year. Here is my one prediction for 2019 for the time being - I will be back, invigorated, optimistic, and as passionate as ever. Thanks to you all and I wish you a great festive season and health, happiness and success in the New Year.