eDiscovery Leaders Live: Chad Roberts of eDiscovery CoCounsel
Chad founded eDiscovery CoCounsel, pllc in 2013 after a successful twenty-year career as merits counsel representing consumers in complex litigation. Continuously AV rated since 1996, he holds an Engineering Science degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated with high honors from the Florida State University College of Law. He has been a litigation partner at both a large, multi-national law firm (Holland & Knight, LLP) as well as a small boutique trial firm (Spohrer & Dodd, LLP) and has won multi-million-dollar verdicts as lead trial counsel. At eDiscovery CoCounsel, Chad focuses on discovery motion practice in federal courts, information governance, analytics, and information retrieval technology.
Chad started our discussion talking about the transition he made from trial lawyer to someone focusing on eDiscovery. He delved into how and why historically plaintiffs’ counsel have been weak with respect to eDiscovery, and how that is changing. Avoiding the word “empathy”, he looked at the plaintiffs’ bar’s growing sensitivity to challenges faced by producing parties – and advocated for a corresponding increase on the other side of the V. Turning to the golden triangle of people, process, and technology, Chad highlighted project management and the value it brings to the litigator’s table. Chad closed on a positive note, remarking that “this is a great practice area for young lawyers”.
- [3:29] The transition from trial lawyer to eDiscovery maven.
- [5:40] Plaintiffs’ historical structural weakness with respect to eDiscovery.
- [6:31] Chad’s path to eDiscovery enlightenment.
- [7:28] Learning to appreciate the nuances of eDiscovery from the plaintiffs’ perspective and address the challenges inherent in the adversarial process.
- [10:11] eDiscovery’s comparative lack of cringe worthiness.
- [11:30] Plaintiff’s growing sensitivity to the challenges faced by producing parties.
- [13:30] And maybe a growing sensitivity on the part of conventional, institutional defendants as well.
- [15:03] The people-process-technology golden triangle.
- [16:45] The importance of project management and the opportunity it presents.
- [20:45] What makes for more effective eDiscovery project managers and processes.
- [23:25] Recommending Mike Quartararo’s book on project management.
- [24:20] General project management and eDiscovery project management: compare and contrast.
- [29:17] Closing on a positive note: “This is a great practice area for young lawyers.”
Key Quotes by Chad Roberts
- “It was a more challenging transition [from trying cases to focusing on eDiscovery] for me than I ever imagined it would be…. It started with my old partners calling up and saying, ‘Hey, can you come back and help us with this technical thing cause you’re kind of a gearhead.’….”
- “We [plaintiffs’ counsel] were, collectively, a group of lawyers that because we never had a big corporate client and went through the drill of having to produce electronic discovery out of its native environment into a producible, reviewable format – we just didn’t know what we were doing.”
- “[The adversarial process of holding your cards] doesn’t work for electronic discovery. It’s not a good culture for conducting electronic discovery.”
- “We always tell our clients, when you get these big bad ESI protocols and you write all this cool stuff in there about transparency and all these things, you have to read it backwards. You have to read it the context that this applies to me as well, I’m going to have to do all these things.”
- “As plaintiffs are more and more pulled in to having to produce the run-of-the-mill things of a consumer’s electronic discovery environment, it’s going to make us more sensitive to these challenges and tasks.”
- “I thought this would all be easier than I found it to be. As a trial lawyer you’re like, ‘I’ve got the hard part. This lit support, back-office group, that’s the easy part.’ It’s not the easy part.”
- “Whether lawyers realize it or not, they are trying to be project managers.”
- “If you’re a youngish lawyer and wondering where do I go for guidance, the best advice I would give you is, don’t Google ‘best business practices’ or don’t Google ‘how to be a great litigator’. Go search out project management skills.”
- “I would start with Mike Quartararo’s book, for people who want to embrace [discovery project management]…. It’s a nice way of describing the project management skillset in the legal context.”