“Friends Of E-discovery” Encourage Discussion And Collegiality

The organisation is the brainchild of Pete Pepiton, associate general counsel of Mimecast, an email management solution company in Washington, DC. He jumpstarted the group in Washington nearly three years ago and followed up with an offshoot in San Francisco, which has since disbanded. Next came Pittsburgh and, in December 2008, the Cincinnati Friends of E-discovery held its first meeting. He soon set his sights on Columbus.

In all 35 people attended the first Columbus gathering, including ‘at least two of our District Court judges,’ says Doug Matthews, a Columbus litigator with Vorys Sater Seymour & Pease, who heads his office’s e-discovery subgroup.

What friends are for

The organisation provides a valuable way for members to discuss their e-discovery successes, failures and questions, says Pepiton.  Participants include corporate and outside counsel, plaintiff attorneys and judges. The constant, however, is that each Friends group focuses on ‘people’s approaches to e-discovery,’ according to Pepiton. ‘Corporate lawyers really want to know what their peers are doing.’

Mason Evans, a partner with the Columbus office of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, who wrote the e-discovery promulgations for the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure in 2008, agrees the organisation is extremely worthwhile. He has gained additional insight and knowledge about how to utilise e-discovery to defend his clients and attained a deeper understanding of ‘what plaintiff attorneys are looking for’.

Tom Allman, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law whose career has included stints in both private practice and corporate law, is a leading proponent of e-discovery education. He speaks about it at conferences and seminars nationwide while also acting as an informal spokesman for the Friends organisation.

When the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules met in Austin in early April to discuss whether the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should be amended to address the preservation of relevant evidence in this age of electronic discovery, Allman shared the comments and opinions of members of different Friends groups.

Two other Cincinnati participants are Anne Elmore, director of business processes at Great American Insurance Company, and Scott Kane, a partner with Squire Sanders & Dempsey, who also co-chairs his firm’s internal e-discovery group. Although Elmore is not an attorney, she coordinates e-discovery matters at the company and assists its general counsel in the field. Attending meetings gives her an understanding of the ‘law firms’ and corporate [law departments’] perspective on handling e-discovery,’ she says.

Kane already has plenty of e-discovery expertise but participates in the Friends to ‘hear about and discuss e-discovery issues, challenges and solutions’ with others.    

You won’t find e-friends in NYC

Electronic discovery is clearly an intrinsic part of litigation everywhere in the US, but there are no plans for establishing a Friends group in the Big Apple, Chicago or other large metropolitan areas, says Pepiton. 

The organisation ‘reflects the Midwestern viewpoint on e-discovery’, says Allman, who describes its values as ‘sensible.’