Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

Blogging LegalTech West 2008: Keynote Speech by Chevron’s Charles James

Posted by rjbiii on June 27, 2008

First, if you aren’t able to attend LegalTech, you can watch a live feed, including an occasional interview, at a live feed provided by Orange Legal Technologies.

The Keynote speech was made by Charles James, VP and General Counsel of Chevron Corp. Mr. James received his bachelor’s degree from Weslayan, and earned his law degree from the National Law Center at George Washington University.

Mr. James discussed his role in helping to modernize the legal department, and to help it navigate the choppy waters caused by the emergence of ESI and electronic discovery as a substantial factor in litigation. He pointed to three major areas that had been affected by the modernization: legal billing, the incorporation of an e-discovery processing platform into in-house IT processes, and the implementation of a document management system. While Chevron is justifiably proud of its progress, Mr. James said that the process had been very difficult; more difficult than he had imagined that it would be when he started the overhaul.

He listed the three major “failings” for which Chevron had been responsible during the process:

  1. The desire to elicit input from all constituencies caused confusion and created something of a politically charged atmosphere where turf wars broke out, and decisions devolved into contests that parties “won” or “lost.” In retrospect, more guidance from technical experts was needed.
  2. He and other leaders were “overly seduced” by the lure of the idea of automation. By striving for maximum automation and minimal human intervention, Chevron’s managers produced convoluted workflows that needed a “dose of reality.”
  3. Finally, Chevron underestimated the scope of change management necessary to implement the new systems. Mr. James noted that the average attorney at Chevron at the time he assumed his position was 52, and that to have expected these lawyers to have an hour of training, and adapt to the new environment was unrealistic.

He listed his top three frustrations with vendors in the eDiscovery space:

  1. The common practice of “grossly overselling” practicality, functionality, and inter-operability of our solutions. He said that the three phrases had come to loathe are: “seamless integration;” “complete enterprise solution;” and “that functionality isn’t included now, but it’s coming in the next upgrade, which will be in beta…soon.”
  2. The lack of inter-operability between different programs, residing in different areas of the EDD workflow. Quoth Mr. James, “as Rodney King said, can’t we all just get along?”
  3. Finally, he wished that vendors would quote realistic conversion and implementation costs.

His final remark was a challenge to vendors: he said that after the country’s legal system “is fixed,” effectively ending the e-discovery gold rush, he hoped that vendors would put as much zeal into crafting KM solutions as they currently do with EDD.

The three main tracks available for attendees today were:

  • Evolving E-Discovery Issues and Methods;
  • Corporate Perspectives on EDD; and
  • Advanced IT

There were also tracks on Practice Management and Emerging Technology. I attended presentations on the Corporate Perspectives track for the first two blocks of time, and then had to leave for a couple of events with clients. I’ll blog more about those presentations (“Building a Discovery Task Force,” and “Navigating the Legal Hold Process and Technology”) later.

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