Technology: 7th Circuit e-discovery committee’s efforts paying off

Survey data from Phase 2 of the pilot program shows positive results

Since 2009, the 7th Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program Committee has been conducting a multi-year, multi-phase process to develop, implement, evaluate and improve pretrial litigation procedures that would provide fairness and justice to all parties while reducing the cost and burden of e-discovery consistent with Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Committee developed and promulgated “Principles Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information” (Principles), which have been adopted in live cases by trial judges throughout the 7th Circuit. The Principles’ goals are to encourage and incentivize early and meaningful discussion about e-discovery issues before they have a chance to grow into worse problems, such as allegations of spoliation; to require competence on technical issues that come before the court; and to generally promote education on e-discovery among the bar.

The judge survey data agrees:

  • 78 percent reported improved cooperation (22 percent greatly)
  • 75 percent reported that the Principles increased or greatly increased the fairness of the e-discovery process (19 percent greatly)
  • 66 percent reported that the Principles increased ability to obtain relevant documents

The judges reported no negative impacts.

One innovation of the Principles has been a clear success: Principle 2.02, which introduced an “e-discovery liaison” with the intention of preventing a bunch of lawyers and judges trying to resolve a technical issue without any technical expertise in the room.

Under the principle, the liaison can be anyone who is available and competent to discuss the technology issues that are the subject of the dispute. The liaison can even be the lawyer in the case. But a lawyer who lacks the technical competence must either acquire such competence or involve a liaison who possesses the necessary technical expertise.

Contributing Author

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Thomas Lidbury

Thomas A. Lidbury is a partner in Drinker Biddle & Reath's Commercial Litigation practice and leads the electronic discovery and records management group. He advises clients in...

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Contributing Author

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Michael Boland

Michael J. Boland is managing director of Drinker Discovery Solutions LLC, a subsidiary of Drinker Biddle & Reath, which provides electronic discovery services including processing and advanced...

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