Monthly Archives: August 2011

We are not amused

Did Queen Victoria actually say “we are not amused” or was it Queen Elizabeth I?

What on earth were they talking about? Does it matter? Well no, not really but it is fun to try and ascribe words to historical personages and even more so to adapt them to and use them in a more modern context.

Whether Victoria did not like the performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore or whether Queen Elizabeth was not amused at Walter Raleigh smoking his new fangled tobacco in her presence, I suspect that historians will never know. I was intrigued to learn, however, that according to Princess Alice, the then last surviving granddaughter of Queen Victoria, in the late 1970s that her grandmother had told her that she, Victoria, had never uttered these words!

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Stuffs had strange names and were very expensive in the days of the Tailor of Gloucester

Ancient legislation has been much in the news recently what with the 100th birthday of the Official Secrets Act of 1911 and the dusting off and scrutiny of the provisions of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 by countless claimants and nervous police forces (and insurers).

The oldest piece of Statute law in the United Kingdom which has not yet been repealed is the Statute of Marlborough of 1267. Two provisions are still in force, namely the Waste Act of 1267 which seeks to prevent tenant farmers making waste on land where they are tenants and the Distress Act 1267 which makes provision for the recovery of damages (distresses).

Many people would say that an even older piece of legislation is Magna Carta of 1215, although the charter is not strictly speaking an Act of Parliament.

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Spotted, flying goats over London

A concerned reader has recently been enquiring after my health after I wrote  about being struck by a goat in Bishop’s Square in Spitalfields – Sheep from goats, Smart e-Discovery blog, 4th Aug, 2011.

This sort of loose language is of course entirely unacceptable and I apologise for causing concern to my reader and can assure anybody I am fit and well and not in any way suffering from a compressed spine as a result of my encounter with said goat.

If I cannot get away with being struck by an object, whether inanimate or animate, I can try and be engaged, amused, entertained, astonished etc.

Having indulged my penchant for ancient legislation in an earlier post this month, I want to mention an Edwardian Act of Parliament which celebrates its centenary this year. Before alert readers point out that by 1911, King Edward had already died, I want to make it clear that the whole period from the turn of the twentieth century to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 is often referred to as the Edwardian period despite the King’s death in 1910 and the fact the Queen Victoria did not die until 1901!

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Nashville Skyline

Next week sees your correspondent jetting off to the Athens of the South, more commonly known as Nashville, Tennessee or the Music City, for the International Legal Technology Association Annual Conference 2011, known as ILTA.

The conference takes place in the famous Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, said to be the largest non-casino hotel in the Continental United States outside Las Vegas!

It is so large that it cannot apparently accommodate us! We are staying close by and intend to participate in a wide variety of events both in and out of the conference itself ranging from meeting and greeting old friends and new, attending sessions in a bulging programme and visiting the world famous Jack Daniels Distillery (if time permits) and the Walking Horse Celebration.

I have not been to ILTA before and am to be accompanied by my colleague Naj Bueno, one of our Business Development managers.

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End of the beginning

Which is closest to your view of disclosure/discovery?

•Technology created the problem so technology needs to solve it.

•Electronic discovery is often the tail which wags the litigation dog, using up between 50% and 80% of the litigation budget.

•I am afraid not to know it because it dominates every part of the case.

•None of the above.

The debate goes on and what is surprising is how many divergent views there are about a subject which ought by now to be mainstream. After all, no litigator can now be doing his/her job properly if they do not at least consider the use of technology when deciding how to manage the data in the case or deciding on the strategy to be adopted.

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Girl in a septillion

“I get it entirely when you say we should not print out electronic data”, said the trainee who approached me at the end of a recent training session, but, and here she blushed, “what do I say to the partner who insists that I print out the contents of a CD or hard drive?”

It is a very good question. The trainee was right to ask it and there was no need at all to feel embarrassed about it. It is a common problem and illustrates the sometimes yawning gap between the theory and the practice of electronic document management.

The technology in this area has improved exponentially over the past 10 years. The speed and reliability have improved and the cost has plummeted. The problem arises where lawyers think they prefer to use paper rather than work electronically.

How do you persuade a client or a lawyer that they should work electronically when so may appear to prefer to deal with paper with all its imperfections?

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Indefensible?

If you can tear yourselves away for a moment from the grim headlines in the newspapers of tumbling stock markets and idiots rioting in the streets, you will know that I believe one of the major barriers to engaging lawyers in the use of appropriate technology is the widespread use of “technospeak.”

It seems obvious to me that if you are going to try and engage anyone in a process which is unfamiliar to them you need at the outset to set their minds at rest and you will not succeed in doing that if you use language with which they cannot identify. At best their eyes glaze over and at worst they run a mile. What makes it worse in the world of e-disclosure/discovery is that they cannot run far because considering whether to use technology is now firmly centre stage in the litigation process. While they may not be able to run far, they will almost certainly not run back to you if you get it wrong to begin with and they will end up with one of the many other organisations who profess to offer similar services. Last time I put the term “e-disclosure” into Google I came up with 95 million hits, so how on earth does a lawyer or anyone else looking for help decide which one to go for?

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Sheep from goats

As a lawyer, I am all too aware of the tendency of my profession to wrap up ideas and concepts in language which, to the average outsider, sounds like impenetrable gibberish.

The ability of so-called insiders to construct a special language marks out a territory to which outsiders are not admitted or are only admitted upon sufferance or the payment of a hefty entry fee. Lawyers do it, accountants do it, even litigation support professionals do it! Technology is no exception.

Even lovers do it! They have pet names for each other, private jokes and they laugh at things the rest of us do not find funny.

Nothing wrong in that but it is just another example of keeping out those who are not in the club. If you are trying to sell your services, however, that strategy is doomed to fail.

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