By Roberta O. Roberts (4JM)
UF Law Adjunct Professor Bill Hamilton (JD 83) shows how proving infidelity in a divorce case can be as simple as scanning Gmail.
“A spouse chats with a lover on Google Talk about a rendezvous, not knowing that every single Google Chat is archived and can be accessed through the spouse’s Gmail account — such as during discovery in a divorce case,” Hamilton says. “or perhaps the spouse has a Match.com page that says ‘single and looking for love.’”
These are among the scenarios that Hamilton lays down for students in his classes, which are among several e-discovery offerings at UF Law. The college started e-discovery classes in fall 2007 and now offers seven credits of instruction each year. They include Introduction to Electronic Discovery, Advanced e-Discovery Seminar and online e-Discovery.
This year, Hamilton taught two, two-credit courses in the spring and fall (Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence), and Adjunct Professor Ralph Losey (JD 79) taught a threecredit online course in the summer. Losey said the classes routinely run out of spaces for students.
Hamilton’s classes are structured in three phases that focus on each of the components of the e-discovery process to help build students’ management and competency skills. The fi rst phase focuses on the characteristics of electronically stored information, case law and other secondary resources and how it has created problems in practice and in the courts. The second phase focuses on how to conduct e-discovery — what types of notices to send, when to talk to the IT department and how to negotiate with the opposing side. The last phase involves solving hypotheticals, primarily from Hamilton’s own experience as a practicing attorney. Then students get to try to solve an e-discovery problem on their own.
Jonathan L. Mann (3L) praised Hamilton’s class for giving him a new way to look at litigation.
“I learned that the landscape of litigation has changed and continues to change as a result of the digital revolution,” Mann said. “Professor Hamilton’s class allows UF Law students to stay ahead of the curve.”
Hamilton and Ralph Artigliere’s (JD 77) recently released book, LexisNexis Practice Guide Florida E-Discovery and Evidence, serves as a practice manual for litigators and judges and as a textbook for students.
But Hamilton said staying ahead of the curve really means moving as fast as the Internet. “Staying current is the key to making this work,” he said. “The course changes to some degree every year so it is not a static course. Case law is coming out on a monthly basis that is altering the way we do things so we’re very attentive to trends. New tools and technologies are quickly emerging. This is an area of law and practice that is on the move.”
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