I just got back from the 2022 Women in eDiscovery Conference in San Diego last week and wanted to share a quick recap with my top takeaways from the many educational sessions and impactful conversations I had.

First, I want to give a big shout out to all of the volunteers for their hard work making sure this event was a successful one. From my own experience working with events, I know how much coordination, thought, and effort they take. So, thank you again for all the hard work ladies!

Now on to my recap…

The primary focus at the conference was being together again for the first time since 2019. While the numbers weren’t back to the ones we saw in 2019, I felt 150+ attendees wasn’t bad for a return to live events, especially since we are just recently post pandemic. This also allowed everyone a chance to spend time with one another. I enjoyed being on the West Coast seeing new faces and making new connections.

The conference had three tracks: “Knowledge, Network & Revive.” This encompassed educational sessions, relationship building sessions, and lastly, sessions focused on professional and personal wellness in the legal industry, and promoting and supporting women in the legal industry. 

Infused throughout all discussions, both in sessions and socially, was that women still face challenges advancing in the legal profession. The conference attendees discussed how things just have not changed as much as they hoped a few years ago. There is still much to be done! The focus on DE&I is helping facilitate the discussion and finding avenues for women to advance is incredibly important. We were honored to be part of these discussions over the past week.

Discovering Collaboration Tools (e.g. Slack/Teams etc.)

  • Collaboration tools present new challenges in regards to the preservation, retention, and collection.
  • Most collaboration tools, like Slack, have very little native searching capabilities and require specialized tools to ingest, archive and search.
  • Some collaboration tools are new to the market but are becoming increasingly important to users, especially over the past two years.
  • LinkedIn is now integrating into Microsoft Teams but it’s creating new issues like blending personal data to work data.
  • Challenges with single team meetings that have multiple elements (whiteboard, comments, chat, etc.)… do you need to collect from all of them?
  • New protocols, discovery plans and orders are needed to encompass these tools.

Who Moved My Cheese (Career Changes)

Geared towards those considering a career change – whether a professional transition or someone starting out in their career. This session discussed how the pandemic impacted career transitions and what steps you can take now.

  • A growing number of non-traditional careers for those with law degrees.
  • Many women feel pressure to conform to big law or the practicing model.
  • An increase in women being questioned about their decisions… “why did you go to law school if you are not going to practice?”
  • When making changes women are asking themselves; do I have support? how will change impact or benefit my family? how will it affect income?
  • An increase in focus on balance, quality of life, and relocation over the past two years.
  • Women in law/EDD work twice as hard as men to reach the same goals and still find it challenging to manage it all.

It Takes a Village The Art and Science Of Modern Legal Ops

This session covered the sudden shifts in work culture and the challenges brought on by these shifts, including; uncertainty in the economy and managing the changing workforce/the great resignation. The panelists shared stories of how as leaders they faced these challenges and shared their best practices.

  • Effective data collection requires some sort of data governance over all business units.
  • Most companies, even midsize, present enormous complexity.
  • Remember you are dealing with living and breathing evolving organisms. So, every data map is out of date and incomplete, and no IT framework is ever complete.
  • Counsel often doesn’t appreciate the true complexity of the data, the unknowns, and the difficulty of getting answers about data from IT or business units.
  • It is incredibly important to create an environment and structure where you can thrive and shine in your organization.
  • The future of legal ops must consider the metaverse. Everything is to be determined (for example; who are custodians? what is the jurisdiction?).
  • Key issue is what’s “ephemeral” and do we need to make it permanent and preserve it? For example, do we have to turn the record button on for meeting, then collection and preservation?

Impact of Nation State Sponsored Cyber Attacks

This session was set up to allow the attendees to learn how sophisticated threats can compromise the security of your data on a large scale.

A couple of us attended this session. Epiq was one of the panelists and discussed the ransomware attack they encountered in 2020. They discussed what they learned and what they went through during that time. The message was, it’s not a matter of “if” you have a breach, it’s really a matter of when.

Key takeaway: You will be remembered for how you managed the aftermath. It’s incredibly important to have a crisis plan and that it be visited often.

Your crisis plan should include:

  • A remediation Strategy
    • Prevention
    • Service mapping of systems
    • Redundancy & resiliency into your architecture
    • Command & control your decision making. This should include a crisis management plan and a third part list of consultants
    • Communication
      • Retaining external crisis management team
      • Crisis plan
      • Create templates and scripts to act quickly
      • And identify centralized project teams who are responsible for managing the next steps of the crisis

There was an FBI Special Agent on the panel who discussed the Nation Threat Groups and what to be aware of. Really interesting and a little terrifying at the same time… and it was meant to be. We need to be constantly aware of the threats or we won’t be prepared.

  • It won’t be a surprise to know that there is a constant attack from state actors like China and Russia, it is not conventional hot war but it is aimed at many of the objectives of war.
  • China is very open about the technology it is going to steal, usually listing it in their 5-year economic plans to do so.
    • Who are they targeting? It was discussed that they are targeting: Aircraft & Gas Turbines, Biotech, Clean Coal, Foreign Affairs Policy, Political Plans & Intentions, Deep-Space Exploration, Manufacturing and Robotics, Smart Grid Technology, and the list goes on and on.
  • Have a crisis firm, a law firm, and a cybersecurity/forensics firm on retainer before an incident occurs.
  • Law firms are a concentration of high-value data for state-sponsored cyber-attacks and we should consider intellectual property litigation as an example. The panelists stated that it’s still considered a weak link with weak cyber protection, but we are slowly improving.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, there were many other great sessions but we wanted to pick a few to highlight that inspired a lot of additional discussion at the conference.

We will sign off with some great pictures from The 2022 WiE Conference, which highlight the best part about it all, which was being back in person and enjoying a little normalcy with our legal industry colleagues.