by Howard J. Reissner
CEO, Planet Data
The State Capital Legal group held its 2017 annual conference in Denver on September 7-9. The group consists of midsize firms from all of the United States (usually located in the state capital) and 45 foreign countries. The main purpose of the group is to educate the member firms about leading trends in the legal industry, such as business opportunities, market changes and technology developments and to foster a network of cross referral opportunities across the member firms in various jurisdictions
The SCG conferences always have an overarching theme that establishes the foundation for the panel discussions. This year’s theme was the Internet of Things (IOT). In support of the group’s mission to educate about new niche opportunities that are a fit with the firm’s strengths, the panel discussions explored new business opportunities for the firms by developing expertise in IOT related issues such as security, privacy, regulations (both Federal and State), privacy, contracts and lobbying.
It was noted that many startups are entering the IOT market with various internet and “App” enabled technology offerings. These new companies require guidance in all of the previously noted areas, but will also may need guidance in business establishment formats (eg: corporate, LLC, or LLP), licensing contracts, personnel issues and protection of their Intellectual Property
The SCG member firms are particularly well positioned to capture these opportunities because of their proximity to key governmental personnel and the legislatures in their jurisdictions.
Early stage companies require the types of services that in general are outside the market segment of “Big Law”. These entities need a lot of personal attention, explanations, and creative, cost effective legal advice. The SCG firms have the ability to provide niche expertise and solutions to these growth companies.
A second track which was sponsored by Planet Data, was a panel that addressed the opportunity for the member firms to compete for State initiated litigation. The presentation focused on the recent State entity filings of law suits against the manufacturers and distributors of Opioids. These litigations have a focus and scope that are similar to the tobacco law suits filed in the 1990’s. The States are claiming substantial damages to their populations and health care systems as a result of the explosion of opioid addiction amongst their populations. The panel was kicked off by Marilyn Gartley, Asst. Attorney General of South Carolina, and Mike Wade, CTO of Planet Data. Mike and Marilyn described and demonstrated some of the basic concepts of ediscovery, data searching and culling, and validation. Utilizing Planet Data’s Exego platform, the participants were provided an overview on how to approach an investigation of large data sets to establish that there is sufficient information to commence a legal action.
Jim Batson, of litigation funder, Bentham IMF then described how the member firms could secure the financial resources that will enable them to sustain a long term contingency based case against an opponent with much greater resources. Jim emphasized that this type of strategy can help level the playing field, while freeing up the firms’ assets for other purposes.
Mike Berman of Rifkin Weiner, eDiscovery expert, noted author and law professor presented an extremely engaging primer on how to handle Electronically Stored Information (ESI) at the outset of the case. Mike shared a series of clever slides describing real scenarios of people posting criminal action on Facebook (admissible evidence), failing to preserve data, and most amusing, the manner in which spoliation caused Tom Brady some pain off the field in the “deflategate” soap opera.
To reinforce the timeliness of this presentation, on September 20, 2017 major news outlets reported that a group of states investigating the opioid painkiller industry (including New York, California, and Tennessee) has stepped up their probe with a new demand for documents from manufacturers and distributors of these drugs.