Martin Felsky has contributed to the work of several legal technology organisations, including Sedona Canada, the E-Discovery Implementation Committee, the Uniform Law Conference, the Canadian General Standards Board and CanLII. One of the highlights of his career has been serving as an adviser to the Canadian Judicial Council on technology and information security issues for more than 30 years. His professional career is outlined at www.linkedin.com/in/martinfelsky.
Describe your career to date.
Since law school, I have always focused on one mission: getting lawyers to use technology effectively in the practice of law. I have done this in a variety of ways: through professional firms, and as a CEO, speaker, educator and independent consultant. I graduated from law school at the dawn of the age of personal computing. I was very fortunate to work in a variety of settings over the years, all of which provided me with practical learning and experience. As a lawyer, I worked at two of Canada’s largest law firms, and for a few years managed my own firm too, which we dubbed the “law firm of the future”. As an entrepreneur, I co-founded a pioneering evidence management company and ran it for almost 10 years; I am now at one of the Big Four accounting firms, where I lead the Canadian electronic discovery and information governance practice.
What led you to focus on e-discovery work?
In my practice as a legal technology consultant, clients were calling for help with large volumes of discoverable data. In the absence of standards (prior to Sedona and EDRM), I sought to provide as much guidance as I could, realising that this challenge was only going to increase over time.
How has the legal market changed since you started your career?
The legal market for technology services has grown enormously, but there are still too many lawyers who use technology to pave the cow path. It’s tough to innovate in a risk-averse profession that is based on workflows established in a paper-based world.
What do clients look for in an effective e-discovery practitioner?
I think the keys to being effective are appreciating the client’s situation – legal, financial and strategic; offering practical solutions; managing client expectations; and communicating proactively.
Looking back over your career, what is the most interesting case you have been a part of?
There were many, but one recent one involved a class action against a company with thousands of employees – where the employees themselves formed the potential class of plaintiffs. Who is responsible for preservation, and what measures can be taken that are proportional in such circumstances? Other memorable projects involved working with law firms in the United Kingdom, Europe and South Africa.
In your opinion, where does the future of this practice area lie?
I think many agree that the biggest problem in e-discovery today is addressing the lack of information governance. For that reason, I call e-discovery “ex post facto records management”. I think the future of e-discovery is filling the policy gaps that have existed since the widespread implementation of email systems in the 1980s.
What’s next for you?
I wish I could say that I achieved my goal of getting lawyers to use technology effectively in the practice of law. But I think I have had an impact on some, and that is gratifying. What’s next for me is semi-retirement in a warm climate. I look forward to working remotely, actively helping clients around the world with their information governance challenges.