This is the e-Discovery Team‘s 500th blog. Since my first blog of November 10, 2006, entitled Basic idea of e-Discovery, I have written a blog every week. Now, more than eight years later, I am reflecting on the journey. The Grateful Dead’s lyrics come to mind: What a long strange trip its been! I realize that it is time for a change, and this will be my last weekly blog. Going forward this blog will switch to monthly publications (perhaps more for breaking news), and will also change writing style. The new slogan on the top banner is a good clue of future format. As Jason Baron pointed out to me with a sly smile when considering this move last month, the change is reminiscent of the transformation of Life magazine from a weekly to a monthly in 1978. Unlike Life, however, my subscriptions are up, and e-Discovery Team has never been more popular. The Posse List ranked this blog as the Number One ‘go to’ blog on e-Discovery out of the 407 that they follow. A private survey late last year shows it is the second most popular blog in the country for corporate counsel on e-discovery, behind only The Sedona Conference. Unlike Life, I make this change purely for personal reasons, and not because of waning readership.
Part of My Life is an Open Blog
Unlike Life magazine, I have no advertisers to please, and nothing to sell. This is a personal service, a payback to the legal profession for all that it has given to me and my family. My payback has been to share some of my adventures with law and technology. In 2006 I phased out of my civil litigation practice and focused solely on e-Discovery. I did this out of love of the challenge, and the subject, but also because I saw that we were living in dangerous times. Law was, and still is, in danger of being outpaced by the blindingly fast advances in Technology. Law and Technology seemed to be dangerously disconnected in 2006, and our system of justice imperiled. I saw that my fellow trial lawyers were lost and confused by the new forms of electronic evidence. I saw a strong need for lawyers like me to step up to the plate to try to narrow the gap.
As a person who loved both law and technology, I knew I was uniquely qualified to help the profession in that way. Plus my then law firm, Akerman Senterfitt, supported these efforts, as they needed these skills to handle the big cases. Then in the Fall of 2006 I was inspired, completely out of the blue, to address the professional gap problem in a new way. I decided to try using a then very new writing medium, a blog. There were very few law blogs then, although now there are hundreds, which in itself is another reason I do not feel compelled to continue at this intense pace. I think it is time for a break, to spend more time with my beautiful family.
I have used this blog to share in near real time the insights that arose from my legal practice and studies with these new challenges. There has a personal price to pay for this effort, the countless lost weekends, the thousands of hours of writing. Ask Molly, my wife, she will tell you about it. I feel that I have paid my dues, and earned the right to step down completely, but I still see even more dangerous times to come. The gap has narrowed, but still remains. So I will keep speaking, but less often, and with a different tone. I am reminded of the famous line in the movie, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where Mitty shares the motto of Life magazine:
To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.
Every Sunday Night
As most readers already well know, almost all of my 500 blogs were published on Sunday night. Soon I will enjoy a leisurely dinner instead, that is, at least three out of four weekends. My weekend blogs started in 2006 with just a few hundred words, but quickly morphed into several thousand word essays. In the last several years I have taken to writing multi-part blogs in the 10,000 plus words category. For example, my blog last week, Information Governance v Search: The Battle Lines Are Redrawn, was 5,032 words.
Almost all of my weekly blogs pertained to my current life’s work and passion, the new legal speciality of electronic discovery law. None were easy to write, but they became a habit, a creative addiction. From the start I set a standard for myself to write for all levels of readers at once: beginners, intermediates, advanced, and the elite. Writing for all levels at once is a major challenge. Most law bloggers I see aim for the beginners and intermediate. That is where the numbers are, and newbies are easier to write for. Plus, it is easier to skate by with easy stuff when your target is not your peers. Still, my friends and colleagues, the advanced and the elite, have always been my favorite. Plus these readers are the movers and shakers of the industry. If you want to put a dent in the e-discovery universe, they are who you need to reach.
From the beginning, I also wanted my writing to be web-based hyper-linked and image filled. I thought a blog on e-discovery should be as cutting edge as the subject. Finally, I wanted it to be creative and fun to read. I have often failed, but those were my goals. If you have ever smiled or learned something from this blog, hopefully both, then it has been worth the effort.
The first several hundred of my blogs were made into five books, two by the ABA, two more by West Thompson, and a fifth I made myself for iBooks. A few years ago I got bored with the whole book exercise, and started making the blogs into an online training program, e-Discovery Team Training. They started off with a program for law students, and it later morphed into a program for anyone interested in the subject. I also spun off parts of the e-Discovery team blog into a bewildering (even to me) array of sister websites, including one of my favorite projects, a web that collects the best practices for legal services in e-Discovery, EDBP.com. Although this is not a complete list, the main ones I use now are:
- AI Enhanced Review
- Bottom Line Driven Review
- E-Discovery Best Practices
- E-Discovery Team Training
- Face Book E-Discovery
- Hacker Law
- IT & Law
- Legal Search Science
- PreSuit: Compliance using AI
- You Tube: Losey Channel
- Twitter by Losey
Some of the 500 blogs, indeed some of the best, were not written by me. They were guest blogs written by others, but edited, proofed, imaged, and published by me. I count them as part of my 500 because, well, many took almost as much of my time as when I wrote them myself. Still, they helped make e-Discovery Team the dominant blog it is. My guest blogs include many of the elite in the profession, including Judge Scheindlin, who also appeared in one of my books, Jason R. Baron, who contributed more blogs than anyone, Maura R. Grossman, Gordon Cormack, the late great Browning Marean, Thomas J. O’Connor, J. William (Bill) Speros, Shannon Capone Kirk (who contributed two of my rocking favorites), Kristin Ali, Mary Mack, Bill Hamilton (who contributed many), David Cowen, Sonya Sigler, Michael Simon, Judge Ralph Artigliere, and many others. A few as yet relative unknowns have contributed as well, including: Samir Mathur, Lawrence Chapin, Simon Attfield, and Efeosasere Okoro, Jesse B. Freeman, and James Cook. And, of course, who can forget the open letters to the judiciary by Anonymous, a lawyer in a big firm whose identify I will never reveal. I repeat my thanks to one and all who have helped me make this a truly team effort. You are the elite, and you are welcome to stay and contribute again.
The Future of the e-Discovery Team Blog
The two hardest parts about writing this blog have been its frequency, every week, and its wave-length, by which I mean its multilevel readership target. I have always tried to write for a general audience and for specialists. I tried to included multiple levels in each blog. No more. Sorry dear newbies. But you have plenty of other choices now, and you can still keep reading this blog, of course, but it may be much more difficult.
Writing for all levels at once is much harder than you would think. It also makes for much longer articles. I have had to spell things out and focus on clarity, so that a beginner could follow long with some effort (ok, maybe a lot of effort), and an intermediate level reader could too. But here is the real trick, I also wanted the same article to be of value and interest to advanced readers, to my friends and colleagues. They used to be called the Sedona bubble people, although, truth be known, that expression is, alas, already passé. Insiders know what I am talking about.
I am addressing the frequency challenge by changing to a monthly format. I am addressing the wavelength challenge by dropping the lower scales. After this blog, I will not worry so much about the beginners and intermediate level readers. I will instead focus on the elite. I will write to peers, not students. I will not even address simple topics. I will not take the time to spell everything out. Starting next month, this will be a blog for advanced readers only.
I am sure that such writing will be easier and shorter. I am not getting callous, nor uncaring. There will still be resources a plenty for the newbies. Moreover, I will continue to maintain, even expand and improve, the e-Discovery Team Training program. The online training will remain oriented to beginning and intermediate levels. Plus, there are another 406 blogs out there for beginners. I have done my part. Let others serve the newbies.
Advice to Fellow Bloggers
My advice to other bloggers, take the time to do it right and please, keep a dimension to it that is light. Law is too serious a subject not to include some humor. Be creativity too, and do not treat a blog like a paper article; use graphics, reader polls, comments, video, even music, and, of course, hyperlink.
As an example of creativity, one of my favorite blogs is the one I wrote entirely in rhyme back in 2007: The Poetry of e-Discovery: People Not Only Make Mistakes, They Lie, Steal, Cheat and Fake. Another is my science fiction tribute to Ray Bradbury where I wrote a story about document reviews in the future. A Day in the Life of a Discovery Lawyer in the Year 2062: a Science Fiction Tribute to Ray Bradbury. Another is a blog where I started with a fictional recreation of a courtroom drama based on the legendary 18th Century case: Armory v. Delamirie, 1 Strange 505, 93 Eng. Rep. 664 (K.B.1722). The Chimney Sweep Boy and the Goldsmith: the Ancient Origins of the Doctrine of Spoliation. I always tried to have some creativity in every blog and include larger cultural references. Do you know the slogan of my online training program? That’s another point, try to make your blogs interactive. Invite participation. One way communication like tv is just sooo last century.
Please do not be afraid to write the truth. You have a First Amendment right in this great country, use it. Express your opinions. Our ancestors have given their lives for that right. Censors beware. I will fight you. I will counter the chill whenever I can. Like all attorneys in the U.S., I have sworn an oath to uphold our Constitution, and I take this seriously. We are all endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. These are precious freedoms, and so is our Bill of Rights, including especially the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
My personality is to tell it like it is. I do not mince words. I am not afraid of a fight. I relish the opportunity to stand up for truth and justice. That is one reason why I went into litigation. Be bold fellow bloggers, be honest. Do not be afraid to take on controversial issues. Only write about what you are passionate about and care enough to do it right. Style matters. That is how to build your readership.
But also be smart about your writings. Look out for the reptiles and sharks out there who may sneak up on you. Assume that everything you write could end up on the front page of the NY Times. Do not say something stupid, nor slanderous, and of course, never provide (nor solicit) legal advice. Keep it educational, write smart, and keep it a matter of your opinion, no one else’s.
Take courage from the fact that none of my 500 blogs has ever been used against me by opposing counsel. If that ever happens to me, I will thank them for recognizing my expertise, and then explain that was then, this is now. The facts and circumstances are different. Of course, I never lie nor distort in a blog. I say what I mean. I tell the truth. That is the real reason why my blogs are not used against me. I say essentially the same thing in court. Walk your talk, or shut up. Nobody want to read a poser or empty opinions. Still, having said all of that, whenever I write a blog I remember the NY Times rule, and remember that everything I write could be used against me in a court of law. That is what I mean by writing smart.
In over eight years of blogging I have only taken down one of my blogs after a complaint (I do not count that in the 500). It happened about six years ago after a certain very powerful business person / celebrity who, unbeknownst to me, happened to be a client of my old firm, took offense to my telling the truth. (Hint, this guy has a funny hairdo and is famous for two words.) My partner asked me to do it in such a nice way, that I decided to oblige and took it down late Monday morning. Everything was fine, it was not such a great blog anyway.
I have, however, somewhat revised blogs from time to time, but that was always voluntary on my part. The ability to change things is one of the beauties of online writing. Aside from the one incident I mentioned, I have never been pressured to shut up. I have had negative reactions to be sure, but as a life long litigator I am used to that. I enjoy speaking truth to power. It is both a strength and a weakness, but it is who I am.
Your writing, like your actions, should be true to yourself. For me that means being direct. I will say what I think, and not just in writing, but in speaking too. That is how I operate. That is why people trust me. (Speaking of trust dear bloggers, do not ever quote people without their permission. Keep secrets.) I am honest to a fault. It has taken me years to accept certain social lying conventions as a polite necessity, like “My, you look great.” But I will never lie about anything important. I will tell you what I really think. Again, that is who I am.
That may not be you, so do not try to write that way if you are not like that. If you are the kind of person who always pussyfoots around everything like a crab, then write that way too. You will get many politically correct, devious followers like yourself. Above all else, be true to yourself. Do not try to copy another.
I also suggest that my fellow bloggers check out my disclaimer and use something like it. Do not use your blog for marketing, or to try to get new clients. Do it s an educational service, a personal adventure, or do not do it at all. Marketing blogs are crap. Everybody knows that except the marketing departments.
Writing and teaching is a great way to get to know a subject better. There are many benefits to writing a blog. I have learned a lot about my speciality and myself. I urge all to give it a try. The tradition of writing is a long and honored one. Its inner rewards can be great, and if you happen to receive some public recognition for your efforts, all the better. But that should never be the primary goal. The writing should be an end in itself, a flow or zone of satisfaction and happiness. Otherwise, try something else. Tell your marketing department to go jump in a lake. We do not need any more boring blogs.
Conclusion and New Beginning
You may have noticed that I always end my blog with a Conclusion. This is a habit from decades of writing legal memorandums supporting motions. This time it is a final conclusion, but also an introduction of what I hope will be a coming good. I will continue to try, and, as the Wherefore clauses of my motions seeking equity say (there is no law that you read my blog), pray that you will grant my request to continue to be a reader. I invite one and all to at least try out to remain on the e-Discovery Team.
The blog beginning next month will be different: shorter and more advanced. I have no idea at this time what I will write about in my first monthly blog, but after eight years of doing this weekly, I have complete trust in the muse. What I do know is that the next blog will have a new style. I am about to hit the gas pedal and accelerate in my thought expressions. Of course, beginners will not be barred from my blog (assuming they behave). It is just that I will no longer spend sentence after sentence so that they can more easily follow along. The Mahayana days of the e-Discovery Team blog acting as a big boat to carry all across the great water are over.
I am about to take off and see how fast this car will go. At this point I need a bigger challenge and need to write to a more select readership. I need to stop teaching undergraduate courses so that I can focus on research and advanced topics. I need to take my thinking to the next step, as well as enrich other aspects of my life. If some readers end up confused in the coming months, which is probably inevitable, they can drop this course. They need not feel too bad about that. Things are already going crazy fast. They will see our back to the future traces from the other 406 blogs out there. Some may come back later and begin to be able to follow along. I have helped build this car and now yearn to find out how fast it will go, and more importantly, where is will take the e-DiscoveryTeam.
The team of readers here may get smaller, but not necessarily so. The numbers of real experts in the field is growing, especially among the young. I have to think of the future generations. I have to see how far and fast the core team can go. That will make it easier for next generations of lawyers to keep up with their technology peers. Life is not about playing it safe. The techs are moving fast and they need legal support, not to mention grown up supervision. Society without the stabilizing force of law and justice is far too dangerous. Law must move just as fast as technology and science to remain relevant. Accept this responsibility and run with me. We are already close to catching up. They need us in the forefront to help guide the way.
To my friends and readers already among the 1337, the blog should soon become a more enjoyable experience than before. Shorter for sure, and I hope, also more profound, more thought provoking. You will be able to keep up, and hopefully, you will prod me along to go even faster. This is a team effort. That has always been the fundamental message of this blog and will remain. We are just going to increase our pace. I need to find out how fast we can go and where such speeds will take us. The future awaits and will never be evenly distributed. I am done trying. Pure tech gave up long ago, and now I must too, at least in this blog. Others will translate to the lawyers and other e-discovery professionals that we leave behind.
See you next month on the other side. There will be no bubble heads over there, but you will find most of the true elite. As many of you know, the Sedona bubble needs to be burst anyway. The team here will keep leading, including some guest blogs. Starting next month the latest truth will still be heard, even if the wave-length is different. The dangers in the world of litigation remain, and, rest assured, I will continue to speak out. As Walter Mitty found out after seeing a fin, those are no porpoises, despite what the crew may say.
Good job, Ralph. Here’s to your next 100 columns (spaced over the next 12 or so years, of course)!
Ralph and Team,
I have never responded directly to a post before but like many others have taken for granted your weekly comments assuming that you will always have a good read for me on Monday morning. Over the years I have incorporated many of your concepts into our workflow, shared your ideas with my team as if they were gospel, nodded silently in my cubicle in agreement with arguments you have made for and against predictive coding technologies, and share your passion for more “e-training” for attorneys and judges. However, last evening when I read your post I was saddened to learn that something that has become so familiar and reliable is about to end.
Those of us in corporations live in siloes and are hesitant to share information regarding corporate operations for a variety of reasons. Your posts often dealt with issues that affect our operations or those of counsel and vendors we hire. You and your team were a link outside the walls and helped me and my team improve workflows, rethink data collecting, handling outside counsel, etc. You were a 911 of information we could dial up in times when we had questions or concerns about e-data specifics. You offered logic! It seemed we could always find our issues addressed in an old post somewhere.
So thank you e-Discovery Team and Ralph for all the years that you provided support. Thank you for all the years I didn’t thank you. God Speed to your and your family….and I hope Sunday evenings are more relaxed at your house now.
Director, Discovery Services
Sears Holdings Management Corporation
Deb – Thank you so much for the kind, positive feedback. It is good to hear that my efforts have borne fruit. I will still be around, of course, just not as often. I hope you will now make the blog a monthly ritual.
Ralph, your insights have been remarkable and I truly appreciate your tireless efforts. Congratulations on this milestone. I look forward to your future posts.
Ralph, I will be with you after transition to liftoff and flight, and I will do my best to hang on for the ride.
The “Other Ralph.”
It is always a good time to reinvent yourself. Looking forward to the next chapter.
Everyone – Thanks for all of the well wishes, both public and private.
[…] of what I find in upcoming monthly blogs. It is futuristic, but as part of the remaining elite who still follow this blog, I’m sure you will be able to understand. I may even start incorporating this information […]