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June 14, 2011

Georgetown Academy Wrap Up


GrimmFacWe wrapped up the Georgetown E-Discovery Training Academy (or EDTA as it came to be called) on Friday with a final exam and closing remarks from judges John Facciola and Paul Grimm (right, click to enlarge). 

There were two striking differences between this course and other continuing legal education presentations I have both presented and attended. The first was the mix of technical and legal material. The second was testing: Michael Arkfeld and I both took the “pre-test” given by Craig Ball on Monday morning and even we struggled with the answers. Craig then spent the first two days covering forensic acquisition and review of documents at a technical level that was difficult for even accomplished e-discovery veterans to follow, but was highly successful in conveying the necessary level of information. 

That was followed by two days of lectures from Arkfeld using his outstanding material in his Electronic Evidence and Discovery treatise, which comes with his renowned e-discovery checklists, a set of documents I find invaluable in my consulting practice. And throughout those four days we had additional presentations by  Facciola, Grimm, Jason Baron, and Maura Grossman. (See prior posts below.)

The final day was taken up with an exit exam and mock Meet and Confer exercises by all the students, who had been broken up into teams based on their scores on the pre-test. This exercise was a 30-minute meeting, observed by one of the two judges and finishing with a critique of their performance by the judge.

GT611 Finally on the last day, we were treated to a mock expert witness examination by the judges, who both demonstarted their ample skills as trial attorneys. Facciola in particular displayed a withering cross-examination style that often left the witness at a total loss to explain himself. 

The results were striking, as Craig Ball reported to all the faculty: 

"Almost half the class doubled their scores from the pre-test to the final, including the lowest scoring student, whose score increased from an abysmal 15 on the pretest to a very respectable 82 on the final. As gratifying, students who arrived possessing considerable knowledge of the discipline saw marked improvement, too. Of the 12 who scored highest on the pre-test, 11 added at least 20 points to their final scores." (Click photo to enlarge.) 

Initial feedback from the students were very positive, with comments such as " ... the 2011 Georgetown Law Ediscovery Training Academy was the very best e-discovery program I have ever attended," and "Thanks again for helping to make this conference such a meaningful experience for so many of us." Even Reid Trautz, incoming chair of the American Bar Association's TechShow, stopped by one day to observe. He remarked on my LinkedIn page that it was  ".. a unique educational expereince taught by the best and the brightest minds in e-discovery."

But perhaps the most telling remark came at the end of a "Meet & Confer" exercise when Facciola asked one of the attorneys if he could have made these same arguments two weeks before attending the EDTA. The immediate response was "no."

Years ago, while I was a student at Johns Hopkins I was also a substitute teacher in the Baltimore Public School system (most of my family is in the education field and I almost followed that same career path). The Hopkins professor who ran the program — to get us out there teaching — said to us  “Anybody can teach you guys, you're the best and the brightest. The real challenge is teaching the people who are lost.”  

The EDTA pre-test scores showed we had a fairly high number of students who were lost — and by the end of the week they were found thanks to this course.  That, to me, is our greatest achievement. As Craig Ball put it, "We brought the tide, and all boats rose."

Photos: Tom O'Connor 

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