E-discovery expert praises Hamilton’s curriculum as ‘cutting-edge’
By Andrew Steadman (2L)
The paper trail is disappearing, replaced by a stream of digital documentation.
UF Law students attending the e-discovery lecture on Oct. 10 got a glimpse into how digitization of information is changing the procedure of pretrial discovery.
Electronic discovery expert Craig Ball spoke in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center courtroom to a group of law students and professors. Ball was speaking as part of UF Law’s International Center for Automated Research e-Discovery Project lecture series.
Ball, who received his J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, possesses proficiency in electronic discovery and computer forensics that has made him a sought-after expert. He has served as the court-appointed special master, handling questions of e-discovery, in numerous high-profile cases.
Students from Professor William Hamilton’s Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence attended Ball’s discussion, where he extolled Hamilton’s curriculum as cutting-edge and emphasized the importance of the material.
“What you’re doing here isn’t just making you a better lawyer,” Ball said. “It’s making you a better employee.”
Describing electronic discovery as a “rich river of evidence,” Ball spoke about many practicing lawyers’ unwillingness to embrace the shift from paper to digital documents.
“We are backpedaling,” Ball said. “We are trying to turn digital information into something like the junk that will work in our old systems.”
However, the inexorable flow of digital information means it will soon be impossible to cling to paper documentation. Even now, Ball said, 92 percent of all information is born digitally.
“Lawyers faced with electronic evidence turn away,” Ball said. “They avert their eyes.”
Ball said 70 cents of every dollar spent on e-discovery is wasted, with 70 percent of this waste attributable to lawyers not knowing how to properly conduct e-discovery searches. He said understanding the nature of electronic information is essential to being able to efficiently search through archives that often contain thousands of individual documents.
“Electronic information is inherently three dimensional,” Ball said. “In a certain sense, electronic information is even 4-D, because it carries a temporal aspect.”
A large amount of digital information lies below the surface, from geolocation data stored in photographic files to data shadows, which are the traces of digital files that are left behind even when the files are deleted or altered.
“Often, what we change is as revealing of our state of mind as what we turn over,” Ball said.
Some lawyers are quick to dismiss electronic discovery as only being important in big cases with rich clients. Ball explained how electronic discovery can have an impact even on small personal injury suits, which seem far removed from the corporate cases that are most often associated with poring through masses of electronic documents.
For example, the onboard computers in cars track speed and braking, and that information is saved when the car is involved in a traffic accident.
“We can depose, if you will, that automobile,” Ball said. “We’re no longer at the mercy of the person on the corner, who may or may not be paying attention to what happened.”
Ball went on to explain how electronic discovery can uncover the texts sent by the drivers prior to the crash. The majority of cell phones are now equipped with GPS sensors, and geolocation data imbedded in the text files can help pinpoint where the drivers were prior to getting into their vehicles.