Postcard from Munich

By | 22nd November 2011

Worryingly, I have realised that it is almost a lifetime ago that I was last in Munich. Actually that is not quite true because I was there about 5 years ago to watch a performance of Pygmalion in which my daughter was acting, but, fun as that was, my memories of Munich are from the late 1960s and consist of snow bound streets and noisy Fasching parties with what I would today call music which is far too loud. It was definitely very different from the more sober surroundings of the Kempinski Munich Airport Hotel where I found myself last week for the IQPC Information Retention and eDiscovery Exchange conference.

The promise of three sunny and cold days did not materialise, indeed a number of us found ourselves fogbound in London and/or Munich and/or were diverted via Nuremberg.  Not that it mattered in the end as we were soon cosily ensconced in a comfortable hotel with a good programme of talks and interesting one to one meetings with General Counsel from a variety of the largest companies in the world.The whole shebang was beautifully organised by Abby, Marija, Katie, Alex and others who bustled about ensuring that where meetings did not or could not take place the slots left vacant were filled with others or timings rearranged. Add to that an excellent dinner at what is said to be the oldest brewery in the world, the Weihenstephan at Freising founded in 1070 and the three days were a great success. I have to confess that my dinner companions would probably have preferred not to have had the famous Munich white sausage with sweet mustard Munchener Weisswurst mit Senf, which I pressed on them but they all appeared to enjoy the meat, dumplings and sauerkraut!

Last time we attended a similar conference some years ago the mood of the gathering was overly concerned with how lawyers’ fees might be reduced, but the vibes from this conference were much more upbeat.

In no particular order, I noted:

  • Interest in how the first year of PD 31 B and the Electronic Documents Questionnaire were working.
  • Use of social media was on the rise and companies were keen to discuss how this should be managed. The old chestnut of who owns the names on an employee’s LinkedIn account came up again and again. I have written about this before.
  • Third Party Litigation Funding was discussed particularly after the announcement that Investec has entered the market.
  • Litigation costs were an ever present issue.
  • Predictive coding was the hot topic.

I have complained before that jargon often intrudes between the lawyers and an understanding of our industry. I believe that “predictive coding” is fast becoming jargon and I prefer the admittedly clumsier and less elegant phrase, technology assisted document review (“TADR”). It seems to me that TADR describes exactly what is going on in the process whereas predictive coding tends to sound rather like having your fortune told at a fairground. We all know (at least I think we do) that one of the things lawyers hate about technology is the fear of losing control of their documents and anything which smacks of magic is likely to frighten them away. TADR is easy to understand as a concept and if you want to know more about the intricacies of the process there are a number of providers who will happily tell you. I have been asked to talk to a senior in house lawyer on a lawyer to lawyer basis to discuss the pros and cons of TADR and I hope that I will not allow the words “ predictive coding” to pass my lips other than to explain that it is what techies call TADR! Incidentally, I am not sure what other technologies exist in the current marketplace for TADR but those who had heard of TADR were aware of the two with which I am familiar, namely Equivio Relevance and Relativity’s Assisted Review (well done kCura for getting the word “assisted” into the name!)

All in all, it was a very positive conference which might be characterised by the delegate who said to me that she had now accepted that electronic discovery/disclosure was not something to be afraid of but rather was something which was likely to be present in any piece of contentious work, which she and her client needed to consider and understand and which, in the right hands, can be made to work for the benefit of the client.

A large Stein of Weissbier to that! Munich likes you – Munich mag dich – as the city’s motto has it.

Photo Munich Justizpalast, 19th cent. (Wikimedia Commons)