Data War: Annual French general counsels' meeting

11 October 2013 by Adrienn Toth

Last Friday, Kroll Ontrack sponsored the Annual General Counsel meeting hosted by the Development Institute International in Paris. I was asked to give a 15 minute talk about data control in e-discovery, dawn raids and internal investigation. I have to say that I had no idea what level of interest the forty-something general counsel and the few external lawyers in the room would show in this topic.

As everyone knows, civil law practitioners – particularly those in France - don’t traditionally pay too much attention to ediscovery and legal technologies coming from common law countries.  To illustrate this, one of the speakers who opened the session - a special legal advisor to the French Minister for  Industry Arnaud Montebourg – explained how France and Europe completely lost the technological shift in the 2000’s by letting  US giants (such as Google and Yahoo, e) take control of European citizens’ data and earn profit from that. As a consequence, the French government is now thinking about solutions to help Europeans regain better control of their personal data and its €315 billion value, according to a research conducted by the Boston Consulting Group in 2011.

Handling electronic data is also crucial in legal and regulatory matters. This is what my talk focused on.  Taking the right steps to ensure data is handled properly is a real challenge for French and European organizations dealing with a US discovery requests or a regulatory investigation. The European data protection directive, local data protection and labour laws and blocking statutes form a complex legal framework in situations where companies and lawyers need to collect, process, review and produce data. Alongside legal measures which have to be taken, there are technological tools and techniques that can be leveraged at each stage in a project to ensure data is kept safe and laws are complied with..

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised to see good feedback and some interesting questions from the audience. Hearing from French general counsel who have experience in ediscovery was very interesting and made me become more aware of their challenges: a French company which is not often involved ia US litigation can’t control the discovery process and usually only rely on its US law firm to take the right decisions.  Does this foreign law firm really understand the local challenges and does it have a local team with some ediscovery experience? Anyway, French companies are definitely looking for more local support to be help them take control of their data and of the whole discovery process. This will primarily mean having their data managed at a local level first instead of sending y all the documents requested directly to their US lawyers. A global ediscovery vendor with local teams and local processing facilities can therefore be seen as an indispensable partner to achieve that.