• July 27, 2011

Update (July 27, 2011):  Chief Technology Officer Mark Lanterman’s declaration in response to the opposition’s claim that discovery responses ordered by the Court would cost $36,000,000 was filed yesterday in this discovery dispute before U.S. Mag. Judge Janie S. Mayeron (D. Minn.).

In a nutshell, Lanterman suggests that the opposing tech, Jeff Stoneking, made numerous unwarranted assumptions regarding the data ordered to be provided and wildly overestimated the likely cost.  Lanterman concludes by saying his company would bid the job for 1-2% of Stoneking’s $36 million estimate (i.e., no more than $720,000 (which is still hardly chump change, of course)).

Original Post (July 25, 2011):  The practice of law, and perhaps litigation in particular, is composed of 99.8% WORDS.  They might be spoken or written but, one way or the other, words have been central to the work of lawyers and courts for centuries.  (The other .02% ingredient is composed of pictures, which are reportedly each worth 1,000 words although digitally altered images might have altered the exchange rate more recently.)

As we all know (though maybe none yet fully comprehend), something has happened to words, these simple building blocks we use.  We can now more or less store more words in a storage device the size of a pinhead than any one person could read in a lifetime (and reproduce the words infinitely at almost no cost).  The ramifications are enormous, if not comprehensible.  

One of the most obvious pinch-points where American law bumps into with Moore’s law is e-discovery.  Lawyers think in terms of “documents.”  Our culture moves away from such things, toward “data.”  Lawyers are constantly asking IT support questions like, “how many documents do we have?” and getting an incomprehensible responses, like, “A few gigs” (or, God forbid, “A few terabytes”).

Lawyers, particularly those that handle large litigation with substantial electronic discovery must either have deep technical experience or they must have translators.

A recent declaration filed in a case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota highlights the issue.  (The case has also been the subject of other recent Minnesota Litigator posts.)

Data worth noting:  (1) in a typical “document” production, there are “around” 75,000 “pages” per gigabyte; (2) a typical “document reviewer” reviews “60 documents per hour.”

(It is ironic that technicians translate computer data into “olde English” (that is, “documents” and “pages” when, in reality, these often do not exist as such) but, often, courts and lawyers are simply otherwise clueless.)

(For those interested in the particular case — Brown v. Ameriprise, here is Ameriprise’s recently filed brief in support of its motion for summary judgment.)

Here’s another recent e-discovery imbroglio, in which an e-discovery expert suggests that restoring back-up tapes, as ordered by the Court (U.S. Mag. Judge Janie S. Mayeron, (D. Minn.)), could cost as much at $36 million.

Finally, for those interested in a related issue of electronic data and “self-authenticating publications,” go here and here.  (For civil litigation nerds, Greg Joseph and his boutique NYC litigation firm are a gold mine.)

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