March 21, 2014

The Exchange-Still Very Good

by Cary J. Calderone, Esq.
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Even without Browning Marean moderating (best wishes for a speedy recovery to Browning) the Exchange stayed fun and interesting.  In the years that I have attended, I have noticed that eliciting audience participation has become easier for the moderators.  The audience chimes in faster, and with more real-world examples and issues.  It is obvious that the attendees appreciate the roundtable and open discussion format as much as I do. 

The Lead Moderators, Robert Brownstone, Michael Burg, and David Kessler, would do short presentations and/or, initiate discussions with assigned panel members.  But, the audience participation was quick to takeover.  During some of the networking breaks, I asked both newcomers and veterans what they thought about the format.  It was unamimous.  Everyone appreciated the break from traditional lecture/panel style conferences and felt that the interactive style was far more interesting and entertaining.  The only downside is that occasionally, comments can take the discussion off topic and in a different direction.  Sometimes the new direction is more interesting and relevant, but not always.  

As has been my tradition, (What Happens At The Exchange, Stays At The Exchange) and even adopted by the Exchange Moderators, to take efforts to preserve the anonymity of the participants.  Live ongoing notes are taken, and are presented to those in attendance, but there are no personal attributions.  This helps ensure the participants are comfortable speaking about their real pain-points without worrying about an unintended consequence of "sharing."  As one attendee noted, even when you do not hear a solution to your problem, there is a great deal of comfort in learning that many others are struggling with the same issue. 

The number one pain point shared for this event was "keeping up with technology."   Even this crowd, which I believe is representative of the most capable information governance and e-discovery practitioners, acknowledged that the speed of technology innovations, and the sheer growth in the volume of data, is giving them headaches.  The consensus solution is to recognize what your people, processes, and technology, can handle, and then to look to outside vendors or law firms to complete the job for you.  It is impractical for most companies/legal departments to keep up with all the innovations and growth on their own.  

Perry L. Segal, Esq., one of the early panelists, noted that for every technology decision in a company, a member from the legal or IT department has to be involved in the process.  There are too many critical e-discovery, security, privacy, and other IG factors that must be considered at the time of selection.  Companies can no longer afford to adopt new technology and see if it fits into their IG model later.  They have to be pro-active.   Nobody wants to be the next "Target" story in the news.

One observation (lessons on the side) I took away from this event, is that the desire for companies and law firms to handle e-discovery in-house, seems to be diminishing.  Accordingly, the interest in employing trusted outside e-discovery vendors, is growing.  I see nothing to change this trend unless and until the technology used to manage the data, can better keep up with the new technology and data repositories, and still be relatively simple for a non-expert to use.

In conclusion, I was once again very happy I attended this event.  This is true, even though with Browning Marean's absence, I came away with no new good book recommendations or Lifehacker I said, Mr. Marean was missed. 

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