Postcard from Boston

By | 25th October 2011

Why are you here? What do you do? Who is Millnet? Are you going to set up in the US?

Before I went away I mentioned that I had had the honour to be invited to the Fall Conference of the Litigation Counsel of America. What a splendid occasion it was in the beautiful city of Boston.

As the old postcards used to have it (although I cannot actually mark the spot) if you look closely at the above photograph at about 2 o’clock from the top of the Arch in the centre of the picture you will get some idea of the view to be had over Boston Harbor from my hotel.

The interesting domed structure below, rather like a mini St Paul’s cathedral but without the current crop of protestors, is the Foster Pavilion on the waterfront and the venue for the welcome conference reception and traditional clambake.

I must confess it was an interesting experience being the sole Englishman among about 150 US trial and appellate attorneys, or litigators if you will. Once I had answered all the questions about why I was there and what I did, I was able to enjoy a fascinating couple of days seeing how US lawyers get their CPD points (or CLE accreditation as they prefer to call them).

What is wonderful about US lawyers, apart from their welcoming generosity is the way in which they understand immediately what you do when you explain that you are involved in the provision of litigation support services. I have to say that is not always the case in the UK but in Boston everyone I spoke to was comfortable with the concept and everyone knew about the need for and the importance of managing electronic documents. What is more I do not think I spoke to anyone over the whole time I was in Boston who had not had considerable experience of the use of one or more pieces of electronic document software/hosting platforms as part of their normal practising lives.

My visit was facilitated by the wonderful Carol Owen, a partner in the Trial and Appellate practice of Nashville law firm Waller Lansden, supported by her fellow partner and co speaker Joseph A (Woody) Woodruff who heads up their financial service litigation group and who is a veteran of nearly 30 years of business and tort litigation.

“Sex Lies and Videotape” was the intriguing title of their joint presentation at the start of the first day when for 90 minutes they kept us enthralled and amused by a tale of everyday folk involving a secret husband, hidden files and the end of a business involved in the business of litigation.

Following refreshments sponsored by Indianopolis firm Ice Miller represented by partner Adam Arceneaux, we launched into a discussion of how to (or not to) conduct a corporate investigation presented by Gary T Lafayette of San Francisco based Lafayette & Kumagai LLP.

Littler Mendelson partner Denise Drake took us through some of the intricacies of class actions in the US Supreme Court following which we were treated to a fast moving and highly octane charged review of dirty litigation tactics presented by Don Maciejewski who practices out of Jacksonville, Florida and whose title was “Dealing with the Rambo Litigator – A Matter of ethics and civility”. Highly entertaining and I know Don will not mind if I metaphorically award him the prize not only for a riveting talk but by representing the firm with the best name at the conference. In the UK we have few firms with long names preferring where possible to have one or possibly two names in the firm name and we would all be bowled over by Zisser, Robison, Brown, Nowlis, Maciejewski and Cabrey PA!

The next speaker was DLA Washington DC partner Sharie A Brown who told us some home truths not only about the FCPA but also the UK Bribery Act.

The highlight of the conference was the Black Tie dinner and induction of Fellows with its presentation of the President’s Cup to 2011 president Sharla J Frost of Powers & Frost, Houston, Texas who presided splendidly throughout the proceedings, induction of a number of new fellows of the LCA and a special presentation to Justice Janie L Shores of Alabama. I was honoured to be at her table for this event and seated next to her daughter Laura, a partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP in Washington DC.

Justice Shores’ award was wonderfully introduced by two partners of Cunningham Bounds of Mobile, Alabama, Steven L Nicholas and David Wirtes, the latter of whom had clearly known the judge for a long time and was able to recount a funny and moving series of anecdotes about her long life, law practice and civil rights involvements.

As if that were not enough, we then had a keynote speaker, Ray Persons of King & Spalding in Atlanta introduced by next year’s president Ric Gass of Gass Weber Mullins LLC from Milwaukee.

Cognac and cigars (wonderfully un PC!!) rounded off a memorable evening. In typically unself conscious American fashion, even this last event was sponsored by one of the firms present, Cooley Manion Jones LLP of, inter alia, Boston.

The conference continued with a masterful exposition of how to prepare a trial witness. I suspect we none of us in the UK give this aspect of trial presentation sufficient or indeed any thought! If you need to know more, Daniel Small of Holland & Knight of Boston is your man.

We were then treated to a tour de force by Dr Ann Greeley of DecisionQuest of State College, Pennsylvania. Described as one of the nation’s leading trial consulting firms, DecisionQuest assist lawyers in developing case strategies, witness evaluation and preparation and jury selection. It was intriguing to listen to not least because we encounter so little of this sort of thing on this side of the Atlantic.

The final speaker was David Aronowitz of the Gnoesis Group of Columbus, Ohio who told us how to understand change by reference to inside and outside counsel. Certainly some home truths there from a senior in house lawyer about outside lawyers he has encountered and how they do not (all of them) get it right!

The conference was smoothly run and operated by Steven Henry and family (Dottie, Megan and Sarah Beth) ably assisted by Jessica Sullivan and Julia Land without whose help the lone Brit would have been in trouble. Fortunately, the girls were all happy to answer my questions as they said they liked my accent!!

Two other matters of note occur to me. I was delighted to meet Jim Berriman and his colleagues Lynn Turgeon and Bob Soucy of the Evidox Corporation. Based in Boston, they are CaseLogistix hosting partners for the six states which make up New England and were generous with their time and lunch.

Also a special mention to Emily Schulman who gave up her Saturday afternoon and evening to show me round the Law School at Harvard. Emily is a partner in the Boston office of Wilmer Hale and is also on the faculty at Harvard where she is a visiting lecturer. It brought back old memories of my own university days as we strolled round the buildings, in and out of Gothic halls and through law libraries where students were labouring over bright screened laptops and there was hardly a law report in sight! Unforgettable, as Emily’s pass got us into places to which I suspect the general public do not ordinarily gain access.

So, is Millnet about to set up operations in the US? I don’t think so or as the politicians say, we have no current plans to do so. There are many vendors operating in the US and the legal marketplace is well served in that regard. Where they need help is in relation to collections, hosting, analysis and review (as well as hard copy services) outside the US and that is what we will concentrate upon.

At the same time, I must give thought to working out how I can get myself invited to the next LCA meeting in Santa Barbara, California in May 2012!