Conference examines electronic discovery legal issues

Published: October 20th, 2008

Category: News

electronic discoveryIt would be difficult to find anyone who is not impacted by the battle over legal issues related to the management and storage of electronic information—from e-mail, to Web pages, to e-commerce, to personnel files. This rapidly evolving area of the law has already caused headaches for corporate lawyers and information technology staff trying to develop policies and procedures to deal with the tidal wave of information flowing through digital channels.

“The Levin College of Law is one of the first law schools in the nation to offer a course in what is being called ‘E-Discovery,’” said UF Law Dean Robert Jerry. “We’re very pleased that, thanks to Adjunct Professor Bill Hamilton, we are also now the first to co-sponsor a conference on the topic with the very well-respected Sedona Conference.”

An “E-Discovery Evening” will be held 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, on the law school campus in the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom. The event is primarily for law students and faculty, but is also free and open to the public. Those attending from outside the University of Florida should RSVP to or 813-227-6480.

Hamilton teaches the E-Discovery course at the law school, and helped set up a prestigious panel to discuss the changing world of e-discovery at the conference.

“The University of Florida should be very excited about its leadership in this area,” said Hamilton, who also serves as co-chair of Holland & Knight’s e-discovery team. “Other law schools have got to step up to the plate and teach electronic discovery because it’s a critical skill out there that judges are looking for. It’s almost a survival skill at this point. That’s why The Sedona Conference® has come here in recognition of Florida’s leadership in the e-discovery education world for students.”

The Sedona Conference® is a non-profit, non-partisan law and policy think-tank, and an international leader in e-discovery best practices.

“Sedona has initiated a law school outreach program and this is the initial featured program,” Hamilton said. “Sedona’s mission is really educational, and it’s designed to try to bring best practices to the legal profession.”

The “E-Discovery Evening” panel be composed of practicing attorneys, in-house counsel and a federal Magistrate Judge with expertise in electronic discovery. The panel and audience will engage in collaborative discussion of current e-discovery issues and will examine the issue from the perspective of the courts, in-house counsel, retained counsel for the plaintiff and defendant, addressing issues such as current professional e-discovery standards, how zealous advocates collaboratively manage e-discovery, what corporations are doing to manage the data deluge, when courts impose e-discovery sanctions and the expanding roles of e-discovery specialists in government, businesses and law firms. The panel will be moderated by Ken Withers, a distinguished e-discovery writer.

“Ken is one of the ultimate e-discovery gurus who was there at the very beginning,” Hamilton said. “He first worked with the Federal Judicial Center and joined Sedona approximately a year ago to become its executive director. Ken is one of the founding fathers of e-discovery.”

The panel members will be: The Honorable David Baker, United States magistrate, Middle District of Florida; Ralph Losey, noted e-discovery writer and shareholder at Akerman Senterfitt; Patrick Oot, Verizon, director of electronic discovery & senior counsel; and Joseph P. Guglielmo, Whaley Drake & Kallas, plaintiff e-discovery expert.

The four panelists will speak about e-discovery from their perspectives and will take questions from the audience.

The second half of the conference will consist of a hypothetical problem shared with the audience in advance. Hamilton expects the audience to participate in working through the various aspects of the problem.

“E-discovery is an exercise in judgment,” Hamilton said. “There are few hard and fast bright lines. When you’re practicing as a technology counsel or e-discovery counsel, you’re making decisions all the time. Those decisions require judgment; you have to have informed judgment. What we’re going to do is watch the panel exercising their informed judgment. And that judgment can be challenged. We expect it to be challenged from the audience.”

Hamilton stressed how important e-discovery is becoming with the world’s technological advances. Just one e-mail can easily end up in hundreds of places.

“The data is just dispersed everywhere,” Hamilton said. “For example, I send an e-mail to my students from work. That e-mail is on my computer at work at Holland & Knight, it’s on the servers at Holland & Knight, it’s on the servers here at the law school, and it’s on 30 different computers of my students here. They may forward it, they may store it in separate locations, they may put it on a storage device, or they may delete it. That’s just one e-mail. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands and you begin to get a picture of the digital deluge.”