Discover: Brendan Kenny, Founder of the Twin Cities eDiscovery Forum
POSTED ON December 03

I told him not to do it.

The “him” is Brendan Kenny, a lawyer at Blackwell Burke here in Minneapolis. The “it” is the Twin Cities eDiscovery Forum (TCEF), which he founded in 2012.

When I first heard from Kenny about his idea to start the Forum, which meets quarterly and is hosted by a different sponsor each time, I was skeptical. People are busy. Do they really need another meeting to attend? And that was before he told me the Forum’s start time: 7:00 in the morning. I am not a morning person, and I thought the idea had no chance.

Was I ever wrong!

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In a short time, Kenny’s forum has proved invaluable to the Minnesota legal community. I’ve never been happier to have my advice ignored.

The structure of the Forum is simple. People gather—at that early hour—for a half-hour of mingling, followed by a panel discussion where each presenter speaks for ten minutes. Then, attendees break into groups; after a discussion, they briefly present the details of their conversation to the larger group. It’s not only a great way to network with other professionals connected to eDiscovery—plaintiff lawyers, defense lawyers, in-house counsel, academics, paralegals, vendors—it’s a way to stay educated on the latest trends and information.

“The goal of the Forum is to bring together the best minds in the community to share knowledge,” Kenny told us over coffee recently. He modeled the Forum after Friends of eDiscovery groups that are up and running in such cities as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Columbus. What makes his model different is that it’s free, it’s not a CLE, and it’s not directed at a specific discipline—the Forum is for anyone who is interested in these issues.

One of the things we admire about the Forum is the importance conferred on eDiscovery as one of the great imperatives facing the legal profession. Kenny’s passion is remarkable. When he speaks about the importance of eDiscovery to the practice of law, his passion is apparent.

“The strength of the civil justice system depends on deepening our understanding of eDiscovery practices,” he says. “Look, as a lawyer the main ethical rule is the duty of competence to your client. I want to work with the other side as early as possible, about the scope of the case, about the data, because I want to have them not be able to say I haven’t provided them information, and I want to force them to make decisions, arguments, and have them in front of a judge as early as possible so I don’t have to worry about uncertainty with problems arising later.

Kenny tackles the big topics and themes at his forums, from proportionality to spoliation to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). “We get so many people from so many different backgrounds, and they all look at eDiscovery from different perspectives, which is valuable to the discussion,” Kenny says.

eDiscovery is still a mystery to many, so there certainly is a need for this type of high-level discussion. At one Forum meeting, Karl Schieneman, the president and owner of Review Less, said that litigants address electronically stored information at only 40 percent of discovery conferences. In a time where digital data has dramatically growing significance, that number should be at or near 100 percent. When done right, eDiscovery, helps the system work more efficiently. Kenny puts it plainly: “I’m a big fan of the jury system. It’s the one place designed to let people be heard. And if we can develop a common language for eDiscovery that means more cases will be decided at trial on the merits of the best arguments for both sides.”

We may need to invest in an industrial-strength alarm clock to make the TCEF meetings, but we’re sold. Try a TCEF event—we think you’ll be sold too.

About the Author Chris

Author Avatar Christine Chalstrom is the Founder, CEO, and President of Shepherd Data Services, Trustee, Mitchell Hamline Law School and Adviser, Center for Law and Business. She has spoken widely on the Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, Digital Forensics, and eDiscovery best practices. Her credits include presentations to the American Bar Association, Association of Certified e-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), Corporate Counsel Institute, MN Association of Corporate Counsel, MN Association of Litigation Support Professionals, MN CLE, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute. She is an attorney, programmer, and forensic examiner.