Monday, May 3rd, is my first day of work at my new law firm, Jackson Lewis, LLP. My new business email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. My new office address is: 390 N. Orange Avenue, Suite 1285, Orlando, FL 32801. The head of litigation bold enough to hire a full-time e-discovery specialist, to whom, along with the Board, I direct-report, is Vincent Cino. Vinny is based in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a visionary and good guy, truly, or I would not have made this move. If you can dream up something good to say, email Vinny to help make him feel better about this decision. No doubt he’s already wondering about a new hire that asks for more computers, monitors, and software than most lawyers see in a lifetime!
You have probably already heard of Jackson Lewis, but just in case, it is a speciality law firm that limits its practice to labor and employment. This is broadly defined to include a host of practice areas, including e-discovery in litigation. Upon my arrival, the firm’s work related services will also include a couple of my favorite transactional e-discovery areas, electronic records management and policies, and e-discovery readiness programs and training.
Jackson Lewis is all over the country. It has 45 offices and about 640 attorneys. I will be joining the firm as a partner and will be the new chair of the electronic discovery practice group nationwide. I will also be the partner in charge of the firm’s litigation support group of IT professionals, an opportunity I never had at my old firm. I’ll be going for multi-disciplinary teamwork to better serve our clients and save them money.
I like the firm’s motto that summarizes its speciality practices, shown below. My wife sometimes accuses me of the same thing! But what can I say, I love my work as an electronic discovery lawyer, and no, I do not plan to become a labor and employment lawyer. I will continue to limit my practice to e-discovery services, as I have done now for four years. The main difference is that I will now be supporting a truly national law firm and their litigation activities, and one that is in the hot-bed of e-discovery controversies, namely employment law. Zubulake was not an employment law case for nothing, and the same holds true for one of the hot cases of the day, some say the most important of 2010, Rimkus v Cammarata, 2010 WL 645253 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 19, 2010) (non-compete case).
I am excited about this change to a national law firm, but believe me I do not change law firms lightly. My old firm, Akerman Senterfitt, had been supportive of my efforts in e-discovery. I will always consider Akerman to be the best general practice law firm in Florida.
I have worked for a law firm my entire legal career, which now spans 30 years. Yet this is the first time I have left one law firm to join another. All of my prior changes in firm affiliation were through law firm mergers. Although I was very reluctant to leave my friends at Akerman, the opportunity to head up a truly national practice, in a core area, was an opportunity that I could not pass up. Especially since it did not require me to move from my hometown of Winter Park, Florida. One of Jackson’s many offices is located in downtown Orlando, just a few block from my old office at Akerman.
This blog will continue to remain my own. The views and opinions expressed here will continue to be mine alone (or that of another author for blogs and comments they write here) and not that of my law firm, my clients, or even my own family for that matter. (I have to say that now because Adam Losey, who is an associate at Foley & Lardner, has become a well-known e-discovery expert of his own, and naturally, like any two lawyers, we do not agree on everything!) See here for the full disclaimer of this education-only blog.
My blog has always included many employment law cases because e-discovery is often important in such disputes. Although the number of employment cases discussed here may increase somewhat as my own awareness increases, I will continue to report and opine on e-discovery issues in general, no matter what substantive area of law they may arise. That is the beauty of an e-discovery speciality. It is an area that can be of service to any substantive area of law and can arise in any field of litigation, save only a very few, like appellate practice, where there is no discovery.
Based on my experience, and speaking to many other practitioners and judges, the three areas of law today where e-discovery is most prominent, and most likely to be an issue, are employment law disputes, matrimonial disputes, and anti-trust. There are no national matrimonial law firms, to my knowledge, and even if there were, I am not so sure I would want to work in that area. Antitrust is interesting, and I have been involved in a few such cases as an e-discovery specialist, but this area of the law is not exactly the hotbed of activity it once was (many years ago), and there are very few national firms that specialize in that area. That leaves employment law as the area of substantive practice where difficult e-discovery issues are most likely to develop. It also provides the best opportunity to lead and help develop a uniform law in various parts of the country, at least in the federal arena. That is my goal. I hope to make a difference and promote the ideals of Rule 1, teamwork, and proportionality.
Some of you may know that I have some personal experience as a trial lawyer in a few of the substantive areas that come within the scope of employment law. I have handled some extremely large government fraud employee whistle-blower cases, both for the defense and the government qui tam relator (i.w. – the whistle-blower employee). In fact, my first big e-discovery case was in a Qui Tam case defending a large supermarket chain.
I have also handled ERISA litigation disputes for over 20 years and developed one of the first state-wide practices in Florida in ERISA defense. This is the area of law that considers claims by employees for employment benefits, such things as health insurance, disability, life benefits and pension benefits. I was typically representing insurance companies in ERISA work and got to know them all.
I also handled many non-compete and trade secret theft cases as a commercial litigation lawyer. Indeed, these were some of my favorite cases. Going way back, my first two trials in 1980 in my first year out of law school were wage and hour cases in federal court. (Yes, in those days there were still many trials and you got to orchestrate them right out of law school.) They had to do with overtime claims.
Wage and hour cases, either single claim or class actions, are one of the many kinds of federal cases that Jackson Lewis employment lawyers handle every day. I will not be involved in any of these cases in my old role as a trail lawyer. No, those days are over. I much prefer now to limit my practice to the discovery of writings, which means e-discovery, because almost all writings these days are on computer. I will support and help the trial lawyers by dealing with the many thorny e-discovery issues that come up, so that they can focus on the merits of the case. I will also continue to help corporations, governmental entities, and other large organizations with electronic records retention and management issues and with e-discovery readiness, compliance, and training.
My move to Jackson Lewis will be quite challenging and time demanding I am sure, but I will continue with my educational efforts and will, for instance, remain as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Florida. I will also continue in my CLE efforts, but expect the focus will now change somewhat to labor and employment related events.
I will also continue in my training seminars for corporate law departments. Corporate training programs, either beginning or advanced-supplemental, can help a company to save money in litigation and better manage e-discovery risks. They work well when, as I prefer, they include not only the entire law department, attorneys and paralegals, but also key representatives of IT and management, especially records management, and when the company adopts the team approach that I advocate.
We will see how things turn out, but since Jackson Lewis is a speciality law firm, and is not a direct competitor with most firms or attorneys, I expect that the number of requests for my services from other firms and companies will increase. I am working as an expert witness now in a few matters. I am especially interested, as readers of this blog well know, in the best practices for preservation and search, and advocate strongly for advanced technology, multi-modal search methods and creative processes in the area of search and review. If you are undertaking or defending such an approach, please let me know. Assuming conflicts clear, and I am not too busy supporting the 600+ attorneys at Jackson Lewis, I do enjoy assisting other attorneys and companies in these areas. About the only groups that I am consistently conflicted out of at Jackson Lewis are labor unions, any others should not be a problem. So let me conclude with my new personal motto: