An e-disclosure protocol developed in a collaborative initiative by practitioners and legal IT specialists has been approved by the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) for use from 1 January 2014.
It is designed to help with larger document cases in the TCC by setting out a template for the parties to follow. It guides them on how to extract electronic digital data from the clients repositories, through to sorting and processing that data in accordance with e-disclosure requirements.
The joint initiative involved the Technology and Construction Solicitors Association (TeCSA), the Technology & Construction Bar Association (TECBAR), and the Society for Computers and Law. They also had some help from disclosure industry specialists.
Nabarro construction dispute partner Steven Williams, who chairs TeCSA’s e-disclosure sub-committee, said the protocol would be a step-by-step “roadmap” that would help smooth the necessary – and potentially contentious – processes that the parties need to go through when sifting through huge masses of electronic data.
Various decisions had to be made co-operatively, on such things as “getting rid of duplicates, agreeing search terms to filter out irrelevant or privileged material, and conversely to use keywords to identify relevant material”, he said.
The TeCSA/TECBAR protocol includes a template document designed to provide structure for discussions between the parties from the beginning of the case through to trial. It also helps to record agreements reached on methodology, which the judge can use in the case management process.
Mr Williams said the protocol supported the Jackson reforms, in particular in helping practitioners to price up e-disclosure as part of budgeting required under the reforms. “Very early on, they will have made a number of decisions on how they are going to conduct e-disclosure which will make the scope more definite and pricing easier.”
The judge in charge of the TCC, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart, told an e-disclosure training event in London this month that the judges of the TCC had been consulted on the protocol during its development and “support its adoption in appropriate cases”.
He said that from 1 January the court could order parties to adopt it unless they both agreed to an alternative. With the court’s approval, they could agree “suitable or case-specific modifications” to the protocol. The TCC’s guide would be revised and updated to reflect the e-disclosure protocol, along with other Jackson reform developments, he said.
A comprehensive guide to the protocol has been written by Andrew Haslam, the founder of Allvision, an IT consultancy to the legal industry, and a member of the e-disclosure protocol working party.