Seton Hall Law School’s Technology and 21st Century Small Firm Practice Conference

I truly enjoyed speaking at Seton Hall Law School’s Technology and 21st Century Small Firm Practice Conference in March. Stepping out from Newark Penn Station immediately brought me back to the last time I was at Seton Hall, some 16 years before. It was 2001 and just two weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC). Since we lost our law library at the WTC, Seton Hall opened its law library to Port Authority (PA) lawyers to do legal research.

At that time I was working as a litigation paralegal for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. We were headquartered on the 68th floor of the North Tower. Fortunately, I was late for work on 9/11, which was rare for me. For weeks, the entire law practice was in disarray. We had so many motions on the docket and were so short staffed, I was making court appearances and requesting adjournments.

Several months later I was asked to lead a new department, the Litigation Management Unit, to digitize and manage all off the legal case files lost on 9/11. We scrambled to set up scanners and design and implement a kludgy Microsoft Database to handle images and document metadata. My team captured metadata by hand, i.e. the To, From, Bcc, CC, Subject and a brief description of the document body, for more than 10 million documents in less than three months. The metadata was recorded so documents could be identified in case they were needed for trial.

In 2001, most attorneys still requested that every page of an electronic discovery have a printed hard copy for review. Summation and Concordance were cutting edge and predecessors to kCura’s Relativity and other online review platforms. kCura was still a software consulting firm and the first release of Relativity wasn’t even in beta yet. At the PA we were still bate stamping documents by hand and printing forests daily. The phrase “eDiscovery analytics” didn’t even exist. There was no Facebook or Instagram. Flip phones outnumbered Palm Pilots and Apple was struggling financially.

Today, we can process and capture the metadata for 10 million documents in a day. We then use near deduplication, email threading, and analytics to cull down document collections to expedite review and save on eDiscovery costs. These technologies all rely on metadata to perform their core functions.

So much in eDiscovery technology has changed since 2001, but the reliance of metadata is still as profound as it was in 2001. This event has given me the opportunity to reflect upon how far our industry has come and how far I’ve come professionally. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent a firm like RVM, share my wealth of knowledge with the legal community, and reflect on how our industry has changed since 9/11.

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