E-Discovery Can be Criminal

Posted on March 27, 2014 03:05 by David Hynes

On December 18, 2013, Kurt Mix, a former BP engineer was convicted 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(1); which prohibits individuals from “corruptly… alter[ing], destroy[ing], mutliat[ing] or conceal[ing] a record, document, or other object, or attempt[ing] to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or available for use in an official proceeding.” 

Mr. Mix had been the first criminal conviction stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, indicted in May of 2012, two years after the 2010 disaster. While Mr. Mix was employed at BP, he received ten (10) notices from BP that he was required to preserve all of his spill-related records. However, Mr. Mix deleted a string of texts to and from his supervisor, Jonathan Sprague. While the verdict may be overturned due to jury misconduct, the verdict carries with it a potential twenty (20) years in prison and $250,000 fine. His sentencing is set for March 26, 2014. 
While there is little likelihood that your client or company will be under such heavy scrutiny from the US government than BP following the blowout, there are lessons to learn useful to minimizing risks in all litigation with E-Discovery (which is to say, all litigation). 

1- Know the data storage policies—Almost all companies with any amount of data will eventually purge their information. Find out your organization’s deletion timetable, and if there are “sensitive folders” which are retained for longer.  If there is a lawsuit, you need to know how soon the standard purging will take place.

2-Establish (or broaden) a Policy—while many companies have some kind of policy, make sure the policy includes all methods of communication and data storage. Does your organization’s policies include texting? According to recent Pew Research Center’s studies, over 81% of American adults text.  Over 60% of American adults use their cellphone for the internet, is your corporate cellphone policy inclusive of this data?

3-Education is Key—Your employees will not understand this intuitively. While most employees will not emulate Mr. Mix and erase sensitive data after being told numerous times to keep it. The organization must make sure its employees do not inadvertently destroy potentially sensitive information. 

4.-Create Fail-safes—Like data redundancy, make sure multiple people in your organization truly knows the policy, and comprehends the risk of not complying with the policy. Whether you nominate Human Resources to better educate, or IT to facilitate information exchanges, make sure there are multiple people who can help you say “stop, it’s time to save.”

5. On the flip side—Quickly determine if you need to identify and use an e-discovery forensic specialist. It is possible to recover deleted texts, emails, photos, and other ESI. As technology is constantly changing and individuals’ sense of privacy may change, be proactive, and have a procedure of dealing with sensitive information.  

The year has brought some pretty big rulings on what we are seeing with E-Discovery legal decisions.  The impact of E-Discovery will continue to evolve. Following well-written and comprehensive internal protocol will help protect your company against the harsh rulings of document retention pitfalls. 

David Hynes is an associate at the Carter Law Group. His practice areas include insurance defense litigation, environmental and regulatory compliance. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact the Carter La Group LLC, at 504-527-5055. This article does not constitute legal advice, is not applicable to a factual situation and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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Mediation – Past is Prologue

Posted on February 28, 2014 03:08 by Joseph A. Kaufman

Contemporary mediation defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as “a method of nonbinding dispute resolution involving a neutral third party who tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution,” can trace its roots back to ancient civilizations.  As a method of dispute resolution mediation has been used in a variety of cultures for more than 3,000 years. The historical record includes references to the use of mediators in commercial cases in Phoenicia and Babylon, and ancient Greek and Roman civilizations were known to resolve disputes through mediation as well.  

Mediation can be thought of as an innately human activity that civilizes us and keeps the peace.  In a deeper sense, forms of mediation can be found in religions across the globe.  In that religious context, Paul directed the Corinthians to appoint people from their own community for the purpose of resolving disputes rather than submitting disputes to the court for resolution. (I Corinthians 6:1-4). Buddha encouraged adoption of the middle way or middle path as the means to achieve calm, vision, insight and, indeed, enlightenment. Additionally, Native Americans employed their own non-violent dispute resolution techniques long before the arrival of Europeans on the Continent.  Some similar dispute resolution processes can still be observed today in the tribal councils in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  

Recognizing the long historical use of mediation as a means of peacefully resolving disputes is worth remembering the next time you find yourself mediating a case.  The historical roots of mediation are also worth acknowledging as societies continue to embrace new technologies that can potentially change the way contemporary civil disputes are resolved.  

Contemporary mediation has its roots in dissatisfaction with the civil litigation process.  In addition to sometimes being less than civil, litigation can be and often is extremely expensive, both to the parties and the state.  Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger remarked upon the problem: “We may well be on our way to a society overrun by hordes of lawyers, hungry as locusts, and brigades of judges in numbers never before contemplated. We have reached the point where our systems of justice—both state and federal—may literally break down before the end of the century.”  Remarks at the American Bar Association Minor Disputes Resolution Conference (May 27, 1977).  “For many [civil] claims, trial by adversarial contest must go the way of ancient trial by battle and blood…”  Warren E. Burger, 70 A.B.A.J. 62, 66 (1984).  In light of the inherent burdens litigation places upon those involved, in 1976 Chief Justice Warren Burger invited Professor Frank E. A. Sander of Harvard Law School to present a paper at the Roscoe Pound Conference of 1976.  This historic gathering of legal scholars and jurists discussed ways to address dissatisfaction with the American legal system and to reform the administration and delivery of justice.

Professor Sander’s paper Perspectives on Justice in the Future urged a widespread adoption of non-litigious forms of dispute resolution, not least of which was mediation.  State legislatures took up the call and became focused on the development of mediation, and law and business schools joined in the research.  In 1979, the CPR (Conflict Prevention and Resolution) Institute was founded, backed by companies and professional firms, and began to explain the idea of mediation.  Getting To Yes by Harvard Law School Professors Roger Fisher and William Ury was published in 1981.  In 1983, Harvard Law School, MIT and Tufts founded the Program on Negotiation.  Two years later came Pepperdine’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.  By the late 1980s, the Association for Conflict Resolution and the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution were established. Mediation rules were then codified and amended throughout the United States.  Consequently, mediation as an integral part of the civil litigation process developed and virtually all litigators are now as familiar with mediations as they are the court room.    

Over the years, lawyers and non-lawyers have found numerous benefits to mediation over trial.  First and foremost for the non-lawyers is the cost.  While mediators and mediation facilities charge fees (in addition to the fees charged by the lawyers for each party), the mediation process is generally much quicker and much less expensive than litigating a case through trial. Perhaps most importantly is the fact that mediations are completely confidential.  This confidentiality allows parties to discuss the true strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases in a truly open and honest manner without the risk of educating the other side.  Another benefit is control.  A party can mediate and control the outcome or go to trial and give control to 12 complete strangers – who can never truly know as much about the case as do the parties – and who certainly do not care about the outcome of the case (at least not to the degree as do the parties).  

As the development of mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution has changed the way cases are litigated and resolved, technological advances may now bring changes to the way we mediate those cases.  Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a form of alternative dispute resolution which brings technology to the table to facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties.  Moving the mediations online and with the assistance of software developed specifically for the purpose can potentially change the way mediations are conducted in the future. Processes that were once assisted by the Court or third parties can now be moved online, from the initial filing of a claim, the appointment of a neutral, the sharing of evidence, to real time hearings and the ultimate resolution of a matter.     

ODR has the potential to take the human element out of the process with technologies like automated negotiation and blind bidding.  Parties can submit several offers and if the bids of both parties come within a predetermined range or dollar amount, then the technology automatically settles the dispute in the midpoint of the offers. Using technology to settle the case encourages the parties to reveal their bottom line offers and demands, splitting the difference when the amounts are close.  In addition to letting the technology work for you, ODR mediations can be mediator assisted. As these technologies are embraced and the number of ODR companies offering these services continues to grow, it is possible that mediations of the future will look quite different than mediations of today.  Even so, the end result - the peaceable resolution of disputed claims – will remain the same.   

DRI’s ADR Committee is devoted to addressing issues of interest to ADR professionals, attorneys and their clients. The ADR Committee explores the practical implications of using arbitration, mediation and negotiation as cost effective and time-saving alternatives to litigation, and is a key resource on staying up to date with the latest trends and developments in the field of ADR.  For continued information on ADR, please consider joining the ADR Committee.   

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Settlement negotiations can be tricky and knowing what you can and cannot ethically say can mean the difference between a valid and invalid settlement. According to a 2009 survey by Professor Andrea Schneider, director of the Dispute Resolution Program at Marquette University Law School, a sizable minority of litigation attorneys incorrectly answered that they do not need to correctly respond to a direct question about settlement authority. See Art Hinshaw, Peter Reilly & Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Attorneys and Negotiation Ethics: A Material Misunderstanding, 29 Negotiation Journal 265, 269 (2013).  According to the survey, 38.14% of the ninety-seven (97) participating litigation attorneys incorrectly responded that they did not have to admit the amount of their settlement authority if directly asked. Id. at 269-270. Pursuant to the American Bar Association’s Rules on Professional Responsibility, an attorney’s valuation of a claim and a party’s settlement intentions are enumerated exceptions to what constitutes a material statement in negotiations. Id. at 268. However, the specific limits of authority that a client has given a lawyer to settle a case is considered a material fact. Id. Therefore, an attorney must truthfully respond when directly asked about his or her settlement authority.

The survey also found that 22.9% of the participants incorrectly responded that you do not need to correct an opponent’s misimpression of a material fact based on an erroneous statement. Id. at 275.  According to the RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, an omission of a material fact can be unethical in certain cases. Id. at 272.  Most importantly, the law of fraud for both tort and contract law requires correction of a misimpression. Id. (Citing RESTATEMENT (SECOND) TORTS, §551(2)(e) and comment l 1977; RESTATEMENT (SECOND) CONTRACTS, §161(b) 1981). Although attorneys generally do not have a duty to correct a misunderstanding of the facts by their opposing counsel, they do if it is based on an erroneous statement.

Wondering what other ethical dilemmas you may encounter on the road to resolution? Consider attending the 2014 DRI Women in the Law Seminar, Clients and Counsel: Partnering for Success Seminar, which will be held February 5-7, 2014, at the FireSky resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The seminar includes an interactive mediation/negotiation workshop for in-house and outside counsel.  Chrys A. Martin of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP will explore the ethical issues that need to be foremost in the mind for both in-house and outside counsel from the time negotiations begin until the settlement agreement is fully executed. Click here to register today. 

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The Art of Negotiation

Posted on October 8, 2013 03:33 by Sarah E. Lovequist

There have been a number of attempts in the past 15 to 20 years to significantly increase the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), particularly mediation, by parties to civil and commercial disputes. Several law schools now offer comprehensive ADR courses, and courts regularly certify mediators to help facilitate expedited case resolution. Likewise, judges presiding over class action or mass tort/MDL litigations regularly schedule mediation proceedings at or before the initial case management conference.

According to BTI's "Litigation Outlook 2014" survey, 60.7 percent of clients expect to see a jump in litigation matters, yet resolution rates are expected to reach nearly 40 percent. These statistics, coupled with findings from AlixPartners' "Litigation and Corporate Compliance Survey," that 84 percent of corporate legal departments are trying several ways to lower legal costs, including resorting to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), indicate that counsel should quickly hone mediation and negotiation skills.
Short of enrolling in a class at one's local law school or signing up for a one hour CLE on the topic, a practicing attorney has several avenues to take to improve her ADR skills. One such avenue is attending the 2014 DRI Women in the Law Seminar to take advantage of the Seminar's Mediation/Negotiation Workshop. This interactive Workshop includes sessions on both ADR and the art of negotiating, and is designed for both in-house and outside counsel. In addition to this groundbreaking Workshop, the Seminar as a whole promises to offer both practical and networking sessions aimed at enhancing the practicing attorney's total being. 

The 2014 Women in the Law Seminar will be held February 5-7, 2014, at the FireSky resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Register today by visiting here

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It was reported on February 20, 2013, that President Obama appears to have selected federal air regulator, Gina McCarthy, to take over for Lisa Jackson as head of the EPA.  The news indicates that the executive branch intends to build upon the agency’s recently-validated efforts to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in the face of persistently anemic congressional action on the issue.

The likelihood of increased regulatory, as opposed to legislative, involvement is further evidenced by the reactions of various legislators who oppose GHG controls.  For example, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was quoted as saying, “[t]he administration should be looking for someone who will end the standard of ignoring congressional requests, undermining transparency and relying on flawed science…Instead, it looks like they may double down on that practice.”  “Obama Expected to Tap McCarthy for EPA, Moniz for DOE,” http://www.law360.com/articles/417045.

In other words, if President Obama is going to make climate change a legacy issue for his second term—which seems to be the case based upon statements made in his inaugural  and State of the Union addresses—he is going to have to revisit his previously-stated aversion to doing so primarily through top-down regulation.  But how is he going to go about doing that?  The issue of climate change was conspicuously absent from the topics discussed during the 2012 presidential campaign, and any increased attention it has received in recent months might deservedly be credited in significant part to Hurricane Sandy.  Nor does it help that the administration has offered up few, if any, real details about its future climate-change-related regulatory agenda (see, e.g., http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/climate-change).

Until that plan is made public, outside observers must rely on a review of EPA’s past successes and ongoing initiatives in order to predict what the future has in store.  However, it seems clear that an emboldened EPA will likely pursue all or some of the following initiatives with increased vigor and political support in the coming months and years.



·         New Power Plants:  EPA is expected to finalize a rule, originally proposed in 2012, requiring new fossil-fuel-fired power plants to be constructed with carbon capture and sequestration technology.


·         Existing Power Plants:  Finalization of the rule governing CO2 emissions from new power plants will force EPA to address the same issue with respect to existing facilities.  EPA is expected to address this by requiring each state to adopt its own emission standards pursuant to guidelines issued by the federal agency.


·         Refineries:  The terms of a 2010 settlement agreement required EPA to issue a GHG rule for refineries by November 2012.  The agency did not comply with that deadline and expected to act on the issue this year.


·         Oil & Gas Operations:  EPA finalized emission standards for oil and gas operations in 2012.  Several states subsequently filed a notice of intent to sue the agency for its failure to include provisions that directly regulate methane.  EPA has indicated that it will revise the final rule in 2013.


·         Mobil Sources:  EPA has proposed a rule designed to ensure that transportation fuel sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewable fuel.


·         Climate Adaptation Plan:  EPA released its draft Climate Adaptation Plan this month, which discusses the impact of climate change on the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission and describes how EPA will factor climate change adaptation into new regulations.  The public comment period runs through April 9th.


DRI’s Climate Change Task Force will continue to monitor developments in this evolving area of the law, and will submit regular blog postings and articles discussing relevant events.

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On January 25, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) lacked a sufficient quorum of members when it issued a finding that Noel Canning had violated the National Labor Relations Act.  See Noel Canning v. NLRB, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 1659 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 25, 2013).  On the date that the NLRB issued its findings against Noel Canning, three of its five members were sitting after appointment by President Obama, without Senate confirmation, under the Recess Appointment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The problem, according to the court, was that the “recess appointees” had been appointed while the Senate was in pro forma session, not recess, thereby making the appointments invalid.  With only two validly appointed members sitting on the NLRB, the Court of Appeals held that the NLRB lacked the necessary quorum to take any action against Noel Canning.

The court’s ruling potentially invalidates all NLRB rulings since January 4, 2012, the date of the recess appointments.  And because two of the unconfirmed appointees continue to sit on the NLRB, all NLRB decisions going forward may be called into question.  The NLRB does not appear phased by the court’s ruling, however, and continues to issue decisions.  It is expected that the NLRB will continue with business as usual until the Supreme Court weighs in on the issue.

On February 13, 2013, President Obama asked the Senate to confirm his re-nomination of NLRB Members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin.  That same day, various Republican House of Representatives leaders sent a letter to President Obama and NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, requesting that the President nominate “four qualified individuals” to the NLRB and that the NLRB cease all activity until confirmation of the requested appointments.  While each branch of the government weighs in on this issue, employers and their attorneys are left with the challenge of interpreting the current state of labor law.

We look forward to gaining insight on the recess appointee controversy, as well as the NLRB’s recent decisions and agendas, from Lafe Solomon, Acting General Counsel for the NLRB, during DRI’s 36th Annual Employment and Labor Law Seminar, to be held May 1-3, 2013, at the Arizona Biltmore, in Phoenix, Arizona.  If you have not already registered for this exciting event, please access the registration information here to secure your spot today.

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People often ask me why they should join DRI. After all, there are lots of organizations out there for lawyers.  Joining a legal association costs money and can take away from billable time. 

So then, why DRI? 

Bang for the buck. 

That’s right. Bang for the buck. There is no other group that will give you back as much as you put in.   If you are looking for a way to expand your referral network, enjoy the highest quality continuing legal education, and make friends that will last a lifetime, there is no other place to go. 

But don’t just take it from me. After all, I’ll admit it. I’m biased. I love DRI and the Women in the Law Committee (WITL).  It’s been the most personally and professionally rewarding organization I’ve ever been involved with in my fifteen years of practice.  Instead, let me share with you what several dozen other women had to say about the WITL Committee.

In June of 2012, nearly three dozen women gathered together in Chicago for a WITL Committee Leadership meeting.  During the meeting, I asked the women in the room to tell me why they joined DRI’s and the Women in the Law Committee.  I wanted to know if the same things that drew me to this dynamic group were the things that others recognized as well. 

The result was overwhelming. As I stood at the blackboard and wrote down the words and phrases that the women in the room called out, I realized that we had something very special - - something that so many other women would want to be a part of. 

So, what did the women in the room say about WITL?  Here are some of the things they said:
-Skills development
-Business referrals 
-Genuine friendships
-Lots of opportunities
-Women helping women
-Professional growth and development
-Leadership training
-Cross-generational access to other women lawyers
-Means to help younger women lawyers
-Positive impact on community
-Mentoring inside and outside of DRI
-Opportunity to meet in-house women
-Inspiration and “re-charging”
While these items are from all women, they can all be said of all DRI committees.  If these things appeal to you, then consider joining DRI and one of our 29 substantive law committees (including Women in the Law).  After all, when’s the last time you did something so beneficial to your legal career that was also “fun”!

Lana A. Olson
Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC
400 20th Street North
Birmingham, AL, 35203 
(205) 581-1514

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The Cloud with a Silver Lining?

Posted on February 5, 2013 02:48 by Chad Godwin

The "cloud." It’s a term all of us have become familiar with, but also one that many of us give little thought to within the context of our law practices. That, however, is likely to change, as an increasing number of firms are going to be faced with the choice of keeping their data and/or applications local, moving them offsite, moving them to a true data cloud, or employing a combination of on and offsite strategies. What are the cost benefits associated with these choices? What are the security issues that must be addressed? These are questions that IT managers are facing on an ever increasing basis. 

The American Bar Association recently addressed this issue in the ABA Journal. The Journal referred to a survey of 438 lawyers, paralegals and technology staffers, who noted that the bar currently seems to be split down the middle, with 46% of respondents opposing a move to the cloud, 45% favoring such a move and 9% providing no opinion. Moreover, the study suggests that small and mid-size firms appear far more willing to make the move than large firms, perhaps due to the investment in locally-based IT and equipment large firms are presumed to be invested in. Somewhat surprisingly, 47% of lawyers favored the move, while only 40% opposed it. This suggests that one of the primary hurdles associated with such a move, data security, is being adequately addressed. Finally, the study noted that 81% of respondents expect the cloud overtake on-site computing within the next 10 years.

The fact that so many respondents view the move as imminent suggests that the legal industry’s primary concerns are being addressed, and that costs associated with moving to the cloud are likely to continue decreasing while security becomes less of a concern. If there’s one constant with technology, it is that it grows cheaper and more accessible with time. As cloud access continues down that path, one has to believe that it will become an increasingly attractive alternative to on-site data and program management.

If you find this content interesting, or are involved in the technological aspects of practicing law, the DRI Technology Committee would like to urge you to join.  There are currently leadership positions available within the committee, along with plenty of opportunities to obtain exposure for your practice.  If you are interested in joining the committee and getting involved, please contact the me at cgodwin@carrallison.com or our Vice Chair, Joe Cohen at JCohen@porterhedges.com for more information on these opportunities.
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A Word from DRI's Membership Committee

Posted on January 31, 2013 01:58 by Jennifer Muse

Welcome!  I have been a member of DRI since 2007.  A partner at a former law firm suggested that I join DRI to develop my practice.  At the first conference I attended (Insurance Coverage and Claims Institute), he introduced me to friends he had made over the years and encouraged me to get involved.  Little did I know six years later, I would be a DRI success story and that DRI would ask me and my new friend, Steve Crislip (a member since 1982), to help get the word out about the benefits of a DRI membership through a Membership Blog.  

On a bi-weekly basis (every other Thursday), DRI and its Membership Committee will use the DRI Blog to provide you with information about the benefits of a DRI membership.  We will provide answers to some of the most often asked questions and help you navigate the waters so that you can get what you want out of your DRI membership.  We will provide you with useful information about the various substantive law committees (i.e., upcoming seminars, the structure of the committee and ideas for how to get involved).  We will highlight some of the best features of a DRI Membership including DRI On-Line, DRI Today, For the Defense, In-House Defense Quarterly, the DRI Member Directory and DRI’s Expert Witness Database.  We will provide you with instructions and ideas on how to update your DRI profile in the DRI Member Directory to make it work for you.  We will also use the blog to shine a spotlight on some of the members who have helped make DRI the organization it is today and let them tell you their success stories and how DRI has helped them in their careers.  

We don’t want the blog to just be about what DRI has to offer.  We want (need) to hear from you.  Ask us your questions.  Let us know how DRI can improve your membership experience so that we can make DRI work for you.    

With that said, DRI and the Membership Committee would like to officially welcome you to its Membership Blog.  We look forwarding to sharing our knowledge and hearing from you!

Jennifer Muse
Anderson McPharlin & Conners LLP
Los Angeles, CA 
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... And That's A Wrap!

Posted on December 21, 2012 04:56 by Admin

As 2012 comes to a close, DRI would like to take the opportunity to thank all of our bloggers and readers from this past year. 

Postings on the DRI Blog were provided by DRI members representing nearly every substantive law committee and practice area. Your efforts have provided quality content and food for thought for your fellow DRI members and throughout the legal community.  

We would also like to thank our officers, board of directors and committee leaders, as well as their companies and firms, for their hard work throughout this past year. We appreciate your support and engagement within the DRI community. We look forward to working with all of you in 2013!

Look for new content on the DRI Blog beginning on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

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