The Wi$dom of Collaborative E-Discovery (Especially in Smaller Cases)

Sometimes it seems like it all comes down to money, doesn't it?  Especially now, so many of us are looking for ways to work - and litigate - smarter, leaner, and cheaper.  Fortunately, some of the finest legal minds are hard at work on solutions to costly e-discovery conundrums, and, luckily, many valuable resources are just a (free!) mouse-click away.

So much of what we know about the outlines of E-Discovery law comes from multi-million dollar, bet-the-company litigation between corporate behemoths.  But what about the everyday family law or small business disputes that are the bread and butter for most attorneys across the country?  How do you get the information you need and protect your client from sanctions without spending more on e-discovery than the case is worth?

Sharon Nelson (who writes the clever E-Discovery Blawg "Ride the Lightning") and John Simek created this helpful podcast highlighting both the e-discovery opportunities and pitfalls for the practitioner in smaller litigation matters.  Key topics include finding a vendor for smaller cases, the dangers of using a company's own internal IT folks on e-discovery projects, how to preserve electronic evidence in a cost-effective manner, and calculating expert expenses. 

A particularly helpful pointer Nelson and Simek offer:  cooperating early and often with opposing counsel, especially in smaller cases, can get you what you need and save you money.  The Sedona Conference® agrees, and its Cooperation Proclamation invites lawyers to abandon the traditional adversarial mode and work more collaboratively during the discovery phase of litigation so that counsel and parties can devote more "time and attention (and money) . . . to litigating the merits of the dispute." 

Wow - cooperating with opposing counsel?  For many of us - whether in-house or outside counsel - that represents a huge cultural shift.  Then again, with a huge percentage of litigation costs devoted to discovery, supporters of the Proclamation argue that, far from abandoning the obligation to be zealous advocates for their clients, lawyers who take a collaborative approach to discovery issues save their clients money and can focus on the substantive legal and factual issues in dispute.  You can read more here and here

In these tough economic times, which have led companies large and small to cut their legal departments and litigation budgets, and with numerous jurisdictions starting to adopt rules encouraging cooperation and collaboration in discovery, collaborative discovery appears to be the wave of the future.  "Cooperative Discovery Bytes" has an interesting ring . . .