CDOLR Senior Staff Writer, John-Paul Yezzo, had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with Ignatius Grande, who offered his perspective on the evolution of electronic discovery, his illustrious career, and his latest role as adjunct law professor at St. John’s University School of Law.
As Senior Discovery Attorney at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Ignatius advises case teams and clients on how to best leverage the latest technologies and e-discovery practices to efficiently guide matters from initial document preservation and collection through to review and production. By putting strategic processes in place, Ignatius helps clients manage their e-discovery obligations in the most efficient and cost effective manner. He also advises clients on information governance issues, the management of their social media presence, and the collection of social media information. Ignatius has represented companies in all areas of electronic discovery and information management, including advising clients on document retention policies, methods of collection, and representing clients at 26(f) conferences and in e‐discovery court hearings.
Ignatius is also an author and frequent speaker on the topics of electronic discovery and social media law. Ignatius is a member of The Sedona Conference Working Group on Electronic Document Retention and Production, serves as co-chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Social Media Law Committee, and teaches a course on E‐Discovery at St. Johns University School of Law.
Q: What motivated you to start working in the field of litigation, and, in particular, E-Discovery?
A: From a young age, I always had an interest in litigation. After graduating law school, I clerked for Judge James Munley of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania for two years, which gave me a great perspective on litigation. Then, in 2001, I started practicing and quickly realized that electronic discovery was going to become a more prominent part of the litigation process and that understanding technology was becoming much more important in the practice of law.
Q: Since electronic information is an intangible item, what are some of the more common issues that arise for your clients in e-discovery practice?
A: Clients will often ask about the best ways to manage the enormous amounts of data that they create on a daily basis. I will work with clients to focus on what needs to be preserved and eventually needs to be collected in any given case – this can affect not only the scope of the litigation but also the cost. E-discovery is becoming a much more complicated area than it used to be. Emails and documents saved on a computer or server used to be all that clients needed to worry about, but in recent years that has changed. Courts now expect parties to be able to preserve text messages, instant messages sent through corporate systems, and also different forms of data saved on the cloud. Companies are also realizing that they need to have a better grasp on the data that they create. This is a developing area where I have been keeping busy lately, and where I think there is a lot to be learned as far as the new ways in which people are communicating and the resulting data that is being created.
Q: Your bio says that you help put strategic processes in place for your client – can you elaborate on what those processes entail?
A: It is important to have in place processes that can be repeated for cases so that you are dealing with discovery in a cost efficient and effective manner. Some of these processes involve collection – a set manner to be able to preserve or collect data for a particular case. Also, I assist clients in focusing on the key documents in a given case – that may include using analytics and other forms of early case assessment to quickly find documents early on. But more often, it’s setting up the use of predictive coding, or using search terms and other calling methods to focus on what’s going to be most relevant for that particular case, and to set up a review in a defensible and cost-efficient manner for the client. I will also put in place processes when it comes time to review documents – with the aim of performing document reviews in a cost effective manner.
Q: You also manage clients and attorneys on their social media presence…how cognizant should attorneys be of their social media presence? How important is it?
A: I think it’s very important for attorneys to maintain a social media presence, but they need to do so in an ethical manner. I also serve as co-chair of the Social Media Committee of the Commercial & Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association and our committee has put in place guidelines for attorneys not only in New York, but around the country, setting forth the different areas where attorneys have ethical obligations. Our Social Media Ethics Guidelines, which were updated this year, have been cited in ethics opinions and in periodicals across the country. I often advise and educate clients on social media ethics issues. In addition, our corporate clients are using social media more than ever before, and it has become increasingly important in all litigation matters to see what publicly available social media information might help our case. I work with different tools that can preserve our clients’ social media sites and allow us to research opposing parties’ social media presence.
Q: In handling issues for clients, do you work mostly by yourself or on a team? How big is the e-discovery practice at your firm?
A: We have people in all our offices, including in Europe, who I will work with on these kinds of issues. Depending on the case, we will put together a team to deal with the issues at hand.
Q: From my research on your background, I see that you had multiple positions in different capacities such as working as in-house counsel, consultant, and now senior discovery attorney for a large firm. What are some of the nuances that made each of those positions distinct from each other?
A: Each position allowed me to see e-discovery and information governance from a very different perspective that is helpful for me in my current role. It is important to truly comprehend the data footprint at a client and to understand the needs of in-house counsel. All parties involved in litigation and electronic discovery are on the same team and it is important to know how to work together effectively and efficiently on a particular case.
Q: What changes and/or improvements have you noticed in e-discovery practices since you first started practicing law? Any trends that you have noticed that you think will continue?
A: The whole concept of predictive coding and technology-assisted review wasn’t around when I started practicing. This is definitely a game-changer in the manner in which you can get through large amounts of data and focus on the most relevant information. I do think that’s an area that will continue to grow and there will be new tools and methods of finding the relevant information for a case that will make the process even more efficient.
Q: Do you have any advice for law students who are interested in e-discovery practice?
A: It is important to educate yourself about what e-discovery is and a big part of that is keeping up with technology and what types of technology will affect a litigation or investigation. A young attorney can be a great asset to a case by understanding how text messages can be collected or the intricacies of the various forms of social media that can be used – in a given case, it can be key to know how of the various social media platforms that are out there work.
Q: What types of clients do you work with?
A: We represent all kinds of clients, but especially pharmaceutical companies and financial institutions.
Q: How prominent is e-discovery in relation to the Commercial Division?
A: The New York State courts have really caught up to the Federal Courts in recent years. The Commercial Division has made a concerted effort to address e-discovery in issuing new e-discovery guidelines that address everything from pertinent information to be discussed in preliminary conferences to the use of privilege logs to the potential clawback of privileged information. These are some of the same issues that have been at the forefront of federal case law and, which are also addressed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence.
Q: In 2013, you began teaching an e-discovery course at St. John’s University School of Law. What inspired you to begin your role as an adjunct professor?
A: I come from a family of teachers — both of my parents are teachers, so teaching is in my blood. Having the opportunity to teach at St. John’s Law School has been great. I believe that it is vital to educate law students on electronic discovery and on the importance of technology in legal practice. I have really enjoyed teaching and I have been very impressed with the level of students that I have worked with. I think St. John’s does a great job of preparing their law students to practice law in a rapidly changing legal market.