RelativityFest London 2018 Highlights

Monday, May 7, 2018

The second annual RelativityFest London was held on 2 May 2018 with over 800 attendees from the eDiscovery community. Several members of Advanced Discovery attended including Emma Young, director, who also spoke on a panel titled “All Roads Lead to e-Discovery” which featured women pioneers who have paved a career path in the legal technology industry.

Kicking off the event, Relativity’s VP of International, Steve Couling introduced CEO, Andrew Sieja, who highlighted Relativity’s 30% growth in international users over the last year, led by markets such as Australia and Switzerland.

The most significant product news surrounded the growth of RelativityOne. Currently, Relativity has 23 customers in the cloud-based platform, and Sieja called RelativityOne “the cornerstone to how we execute our vision.” New features of RelativityOne include a “Sandbox” that allows development and testing in an independent environment, and a tool called Insight for compliance and monitoring.

The hottest topics of the day were data privacy and data security including a kick-off by Relativity’s new Chief Security Officer Amanda Fennell and several sessions on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Session: Rules Regulations and Roles: The Law and Your Part in the e-Disclosure Process

The Disclosure Working Group (DWG) released proposed reforms to civil litigation in November 2017.  This session featured DWG insiders such as Hon Justice Birss and Ed Crosse of Simmons and Simmons who spoke to the reforms of Part 31 of the Civil Procedure Rules (Part 31) together with international experts such as McCann Fitzgerald’s Karyn Harty and Chris Dale.

Sir Colin Birss explained that a key takeaway of the reforms to Part 31 is a mandatory discussion of the issues ahead of the Case Management Conference (CMC), which will be linked to any Extended Disclosure. Additionally, parties can agree on Basic Disclosure of just key documents on which the parties rely or are necessary for the other side.

Crosse spoke to the new menu of options that have been proposed, while Karyn Harty argued against an issues-based approach and said that the Irish courts are moving back towards a more general disclosure from a tailored approach. Chris Dale questioned the practicalities of agreeing on issues up front and having to get back to the courts to bless a new agreement as things change.

Afternoon Sessions: GDPR Last-Minute Prep Checklist and the Cloud Act

With the event taking place only 24 days before GDPR’s implementation date, the room was packed.  Relativity’s Constantine Pappas asked participants for adjectives to describe the GDPR and their replies included “overprotective,” “confusing,” “disruptive,” “innovative,” “challenging” and “overreaching.”

The esteemed panel included covered everything from upfront data mapping and knowing your organisation’s data to appointing a Chief Privacy Officer or Data Protection Officer.

The overall takeaway was that data privacy is here to stay and the threat of a 4% penalty has been enough to get most organisations to pay attention.  Individuals want control and choice over their data and therefore the GDPR is a version 1.0 of the Act.  The panellists encouraged industry leaders to stay out ahead of the changes.

Industry Keynote: Data Privacy, US v Microsoft & the CLOUD Act

David Horrigan of Relativity led an enlightening discussion between individuals on the two sides of US v Microsoft – Hon Judge Francis, a former US Magistrate Judge and Rachi Messing of Microsoft.

Horrigan simplified the two sides of US v Microsoft as:

  • Are nefarious characters using the cloud to move data and hide their acts?
  • Is there a right for one nation to serve a warrant and seize international data?

Judge Francis described receiving the case in 2013 as a “garden-variety warrant application.” The request sought the email from a particular account under the Stored Communications Act (SCA, which was passed as part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) in 1986). Judge Francis found probable cause that a crime was committed under the Federal Narcotics Act and issued the warrant.

Microsoft attorneys made a motion to quash the warrant.  They argued that the content (not metadata) was stored in Ireland and it was as inappropriate to issue a warrant to search data in Ireland, as it would be to “knock down someone’s door in Dublin.”

Messing explained Microsoft has only brought four cases against the US government and this one was important because “it is our commitment to fight for privacy rights of our users where appropriate.”  Although adversaries on the case, the two sides agreed about the arcane nature of the 1986 framework.

Fast-forward a few rounds of appeals and the case was in front of the Supreme Court at the beginning of March.  On 30 March, the Department of Justice moved to drop the lawsuit as moot, and Microsoft recently filed to agree with the motion.  The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or CLOUD Act, on page 2212 of the President’s most recent budget was the reason the Supreme Court would not decide the case.

The centrepiece of the CLOUD Act is a provision allowing the U.S. to establish Executive Agreements under which law-enforcement agencies will be given reciprocal access to data held in each other’s countries in order to investigate and prosecute certain crimes.

Messing concluded that tech industries are supporting the Cloud Act because it preserves the core tenants of the SCA while protecting end-user privacy rights.  He highlighted that any US executive agreements can only be entered into with countries that meet a certain set of criteria such as free speech.

Judge Francis mentioned that the privacy organisations that originally signed up to help Microsoft in the case are highly critical of the CLOUD Act. As of today, no executive agreements have been passed but there is a draft agreement between the US and UK. Judge Francis concluded that maybe the CLOUD Act is not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction towards legislation that meets today’s technology.


The main take away from Relativity Fest London was that trust and security are at the heart of major eDiscovery issues from cloud-based storage to data protection. As an international company that employs the most Relativity Masters in the world, Advanced Discovery and Consilio are well placed to innovate and lead in an analytics-based, global eDiscovery world.    

About the Author

Kathleen Kristiansen is a solicitor and former litigation associate who has worked on the law firm side, the corporate side, and the service provider side, including at Slaughter and May and Gibson Dunn.  In addition to litigation, she is experienced in eDiscovery project design and management, complex document review, and the use of technology-assisted review.  She has worked in Switzerland as well as London.

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