Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

Around the Block (March 10, 2011): EU Privacy laws rankle web-site owners, and Howrey’s possible dissolution caused by E-Discovery Vendors?

Posted by rjbiii on March 10, 2011

Web Operators inside the UK are complaining that E.U. Privacy directives are putting them at a competitive disadvantage. The Government’s Information Commissioner has stated that “explicit consent” must be given by users before sites can place cookies that “track” their activities on their computers. From the Article:

The reaction [to privacy laws] from start ups has been strong and angry. Nick Halstead, CEO of U.K. start up Mediasift, behind the very popular Tweetmeme service, has been vociferous in his condemnation.

“If users are presented with a pop up every time a cookie is going to be set, they are simply going to go to sites outside of Europe that are not hampered in the same way. It will put us at a major disadvantage compared to American sites.

“On our site, if you re-tweet we set a cookie. That cookie remembers other stories you have re-tweeted. Now that should be a useful thing for users. But you could say that is tracking them.”

Mr. Halstead called on governments to tread very lightly…

See a brilliant interactive demo of what the user experience might look like here.

In the chaos now hovering at Howrey, apparently one party being blamed for the firm’s collapse is E-Discovery Vendors. The quote that got my attention:

Another challenge was the rise of third-party document-discovery specialists that could provide litigation support services at substantially lower rates, he said. Howrey, a law firm with many offices in big cities, and thus, higher costs and couldn’t compete, he added.

Perhaps the problem wasn’t competition, but scope creep on the part of the firm. Lawyers should practice law, and manage the process of e-discovery. Competing with technology firms in a technology field when it isn’t a “core business” is a bad idea. The complaint is that vendors were more efficient than was Howrey at processing data. The firm was, therefore, unable to charge above-market prices for its EDD services, and apparently, this was a vital revenue stream for them. My opinion is that the “law firm as technology vendor” model doesn’t work. Howrey is exhibit A.

Leita Walker and Joel Schroeder pen an article on how to locate and use evidence from social media sites. In, Making Your Case with Social Media, they write:

[I]t’s never too early to start poking around. As soon as counsel contemplates suing or believes their client may be sued, they should investigate their opponent’s online presence. Once litigation commences, litigants may restrict their privacy settings — or remove the sites altogether — making it much more difficult to readily access potentially game-changing evidence.

Of course, once discovery commences, lawyers can employ more formal methods of fact-gathering and move to compel that evidence if met with opposition. Interrogatories should seek to identify an opponent’s screen names and relevant social media usage. Requests for production should seek blog entries and social media posts, and requests for admission should be designed to authenticate such information. In addition, counsel should be prepared to talk about social media and its production format at a Rule 26(f) or other discovery conferences.

Finally, before offering such evidence in court, counsel should be prepared to respond to objections related to relevance, hearsay, and authentication. With regard to the latter, the threshold for admissibility is low, and can be satisfied by the testimony of a witness who has personal knowledge that the evidence is what it purports to be. In fact, courts have held that website printouts need not be authenticated by the site’s owner but can be authenticated, for example, by an attorney who testifies that she visited a particular site, recognized it as the opposing party’s, and printed what she saw on the screen. Jarritos, Inc. v. Los Jarritos (2007).

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