In today’s wired world it’s hard to imagine that just 16 years ago, the idea of publishing a law journal exclusively online was revolutionary. But in 1995, the University of Richmond School of Law’s Journal of Law and Technology (JOLT) became the world’s first law review to do just that. Its founders, a group of Richmond law students, rejected traditional print in favor of cyberspace for a new journal devoted to topics at the crossroads of law and technology.

Since its first issue, JOLT’s editors have worked to stay ahead of the ever-changing and increasingly complex legal issues presented by emerging technologies. The Journal has become a well-read and respected scholarly voice, ranking among the top five cited law and technology journals in court opinions, and is regularly cited by academics and practitioners.

“Technology is becoming increasingly important in every aspect of life and in particular in the legal community,” says Hamilton Garnett, L’11, JOLT’s symposium and solicitations editor. “The way people practice law is changing every day and technology plays a significant role in that.”

One area of the law that has changed drastically is discovery, the fact-finding process that takes place after a lawsuit is filed and before it goes to trial. “Discovery records used to be paper copies of documents,” says Stephen Rancourt, ’06 and L’11, JOLT’s Annual Survey editor. “Now, discovery work often produces a CD or hard drive that could have millions of [electronic] documents on it.” This new mode of discovery, or e-discovery, encompasses everything from e-mail and the metadata behind that e-mail, to social networking sites.

“Everyone from big law firms to solo practitioners are looking at social networking and how it can be used in the discovery process to build a case,” Rancourt says. “It is the job of practitioners not only to ask for these materials, but to deal with companies like Facebook that keep these records.”

In recent years many law firms have devoted entire practices to e-discovery. Both Garnett and Rancourt worked as paralegals before attending law school, and both had opportunities to perform e-discovery work. “E-discovery has become an increasingly important area of the law,” Garnett says. “JOLT strives to keep abreast of the issues.”

On Thursday, March 3,  JOLT hosted a symposium, “Electronic Discovery in a World of Cloud Computing, Data Hoarding, and Social Networking,” in the law school’s moot court room. Held in conjunction with the publication of JOLT’s Annual Survey, the symposium featured the survey’s contributors speaking on the latest legal issues in technology and of the application of e-discovery law. About 170 people attended the symposium.

Presenters included keynote speaker Chief Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm for the U.S. District Court of Maryland, who has published some of the most important opinions on e-discovery during the past five years. Grimm presented his article, "Federal Rule of Evidence 502: Has It Lived Up to Its Potential?" 

Other speakers included:

  • Jason R. Baron, director of litigation for the National Archives and Records Administration, presenting his article,"Law in the Age of Exabytes: Some Further Thoughts on 'Information Inflation’ And Current Issues in E-Discovery Search."
  • Bennett B. Borden, co-chair of the Williams Mullen e-Discovery and Information Governance Section, presenting the article he co-authored, "Four Years Later: How the 2006 Amendments to the Federal Rules Have Reshaped the E-Discovery Landscape and are Revitalizing the Civil Justice System."
  • Anthony J. Diana, co-chair of the Mayer-Brown E-Discovery and Records Management Practice, presenting on e-discovery and social media.
  • Maura R. Grossman, counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, presenting the article she co-authored, "Technology-Assisted Review in E-Discovery can be More Effective and More Efficient than Exhaustive Manual Review."
  • Leslie A.T. Haley, senior assistant ethics counsel for the Virginia State Bar, presenting on the ethical hazards posed by the digital age.

“We wanted to build a symposium and annual survey that would be practical and relevant for the average practitioners,” Rancourt says, “and not be bogged down in technical speak. How can an attorney who doesn’t deal with e-discovery every day utilize the new rules and case law to their advantage in building litigation?”

“Working on JOLT has confirmed that technology and the law is something that I really want to make a career out of,” Rancourt says. “JOLT has done an excellent job in finding the hot topics in law and technology and soliciting leaders in the field to publish in our journal.”


Photo by mansikka. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommerical 2.0 Generic.