Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Join me March 1, 2013 for E-Discovery Conference

I'll be speaking on the following panels at next week's ACEDS annual E-Discovery Conference: What Florida’s Bouts with New E-Discovery Rules Teach Lawyers and Corporations Florida’s first ever rules for discovery of electronically stored information in civil courts just took effect. They caused a sea change in the way the state’s many trial attorneys practice, and have imposed novel burdens on the Florida court system, parties in litigation, visiting litigants, and the multitude of large and small businesses inhabiting the state. The rules have created some efficiencies in civil procedure, but they have also tested the infrastructure of county and circuit courts from Pensacola to Key West. Though Florida is not one of the first to join the E-discovery fray, its legal and corporate diversity, division of rural and metropolitan areas, and abundance of international businesses make it a melting pot that lawyers, rulemakers, and E-discovery professionals nationwide and at the federal level are eying closely. What new liabilities and opportunities have the rules created, and how can you learn from them? Where are lawyers, litigants and judges most vulnerable to the perils of electronic evidence? What tools and services do you need to excel at E-discovery as the volume of your client’s data balloons? How can you navigate the rules to reduce costs? Can mediation by an E-Neutral save money? And how do you protect against E-discovery malpractice? On this panel, legal experts from across the state, including the attorneys who crafted the rules, will give you important lessons gleaned from this unsettled legal terrain. Double-Edged Sword of Social Media-- Boost Your Bottom Line While Avoiding Risk As Facebook hits one billion global users and Twitter approaches a half billion, it’s safe to say that social media is here to stay. Some organizations and law firms have embraced it for the unique marketing and networking avenues it affords, and the business it can drive. Others pass on its benefits because of the clear reputational and legal risks it presents. Social media can open doors to engage stakeholders and potential clients, but it is hard to monitor and even tougher to incorporate into existing information governance frameworks. The stakes are high. When the threat of a lawsuit strikes, it is crucial to know who is saying what, where it is located, and how to preserve and collect it for litigation. How can you use social media to drive business success, while reigning in the dangers it presents? What does an effective employee social media policy look like, and how can you integrate it with compliance policies that are already in place? How do you govern social media in the cloud? What are the best ways to preserve, collect, and produce social media? And how do you decide which methods are best? In this panel, e-discovery and technology experts from top organizations and law firms show you how to use and regulate social media in a way that is safe, effective, and profitable. More about the E-Discovery conference here:

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Farmer and the Cowman could be Friends

An Oregon measure just approved by the state senate judiciary committee there encourages malpractice mediation before lawsuits are filed. Both doctors and trial lawyers are actually behind a bill creating a new mediation process for patients injured by medical mistakes. Governor John Kitzhaber, himself a physician, called the agreement “the holy grail of medical and legal politics," something he reportedly never thought he’d live to see. The legislation is touted as a potential benefit to the practice of medicine and thousands of patients. The effort is aimed at reducing medical liability claims, yet puts no restriction on the amount of money a jury can award for medical errors. Critics say it will do nothing for ever-increasing premiums for medical liability insurance. Under the process, injured patients confidentially discuss the error and a possible settlement with the tortfeasor through the assistance of a professional mediator. Participation would be voluntary and the discussions would be inadmissible in court if a lawsuit were eventually filed. Proponents hope this would encourage frank discussion among the parties that could stave off lawsuits. Sponsors claim doctors would have a better opportunity to learn from mistakes and might reduce their ordering of medically unnecessary tests to protect themselves from lawsuits. Oregon lawmakers set a cap of $500,000 on non-economic damages in liability lawsuits in 1987 that the Oregon Supreme Court overturned in 1999. Voters rejected two statewide ballot measures to reimpose caps in 2000 and 2004. The Doctors Company, which insures forty percent of physicians in Oregon, fears higher administrative costs for insurance companies along with higher premiums. Of course, Florida has maintained a mandatory pre-suit screening process in medical malpractice for decades. However, mediation is not a stated option, though underutilized voluntary non-binding arbitration is contemplated following investigation. It is good to see Alternative Dispute Resolution present in a modern debate over medical liability reform, which is always very difficult in producing political consensus. The hope is fewer cases will be litigated and legitimate injuries will be fairly compensated, so that Oregon's health care system as a whole can run more efficiently. The endorsement of the Oregon Medical Association and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association is certainly an indication that perhaps the Farmer and the Cowman are becoming friends; at least out West. See stories here-- and

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lawyers, Guns and Mediation

Recently, there has been news of gun violence at mediation. Given the current debate in this country on guns, I felt it appropriate to make a post about these developments. Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, broke news of an Arizona mediation shooting to Congress last week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control. Attorney Mark Hummels was representing the CEO of call center when litigant Arthur Harmon shot and killed Hummels and his client. Harmon, was later found dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound in shopping center according to Phoenix police. Hummels was president of his local chapter of the Federal Bar Association and covered local and state government as newspaper reporter before attending law school, after which he earned the highest score on the bar exam. Hummels and his client were shot in the lobby following a mediation conference with the shooter. Another victim, unrelated to the mediation, was shot in the hand by a stray bullet outside the office building. A report out of Montana concerns a woman litigant in a lawsuit who pulled a gun on an attorney during mediation. Her request to have a felony assault with a weapon charge dismissed was denied. Prosecutors allege she slammed documents on a table, made a final offer and then pulled out a loaded pistol. A struggle ensued, during which a man was bitten and the gun-toting woman fled, only to be caught minutes later by police. She has been jailed on $1 million bail since the incident. As mediators, we are peacemakers and, of course, encourage non-violent resolution to conflict. No one should have a gun at a voluntary mediation conference, just as there are no guns permitted in our courts. A debate among professional mediators has begun on what feasible safety precautions might be taken for those with a known proclivity for violence. It is now evident this type of violence may arise not only in the family law arena, but in commercial and other areas of litigation, as well. See stories-- (from ABA with multiple news links) and

Friday, February 1, 2013

Iraqis protest as Maliki names mediator

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, appointed a senior Shiite figure to talk to demonstrators about demands as tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims protested after Friday prayers in huge rallies against the Shiite premier, amidst renewed sectarian unrest. Sunni outrage has erupted over alleged abuses and discrimination against the minority sect since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of a Shiite majority. Waving former flags from the Hussein era, Sunni clerics, tribal sheiks and young protesters called for reform of anti-terrorism laws they maintain security forces abuse to target Sunnis and unfairly detain prisoners. Maliki has offered concessions, and even freed hundreds of prisoners. But Sunni protesters grew defiant after soldiers opened fire at a Falluja city rally, killing five people a week ago. They want the Iraqi army to leave the area. Evolving protests challenge an already fragile government that splits posts among Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds, who are deadlocked on power sharing. Since American troops pulled out a year ago, sectarian tensions are running high. As such, Maliki appointed a mediator to dialogue with demonstrators about demands such as an amnesty law and easing of so-called de-Baathification campaign against former members of Saddam's outlawed Baath party. The Shiite National Alliance coalition and Sunni-backed Iraqiya had been positive on proposed reforms and report progress. Baghdad is also struggling with a dispute in the autonomous Kurdistan region over oil and land rights, complicating Maliki's attempts to build alliances with Sunni and Kurdish leaders. See full article here--