Discovering Discovery

This week, I was introduced to the “joy” that can be discovery, the pre-trial phase in a civil suit in which opposing parties can obtain evidence from one another. This is accomplished by requesting, for example, that the Opposing party respond to specific questions or produce particular documents. I’d been warned by an attorney at our firm of the woes that so often accompany working on discovery—the tedium of poring over countless documents, the inordinate amount of time it can take to organize the jumbled mess of papers provided by clients, and the stress of having to persuade those clients who are loath to comply in any way with the opposing party, to cooperate. So, I confess, I was a little less enthusiastic than usual when presented with my first discovery assignment.

My job was to identify, copy, and label everything in the sizable stack of documents our client provided in response to the opposing party’s “Request for the Production of Documents.” I admit it, I was intimidated. Luckily for me, though, this particular client was also the Most Organized Person in the World. She typed her responses beneath the requests in blue, which provided a helpful contrast for my tired eyes; she created separate folders for each request, neatly stacked in order and filled with crisp, stapled copies of every single document requested; she even went ahead and made multiple copies of documents that were requested more than once.

My first experience with this aspect of the discovery process, I was reminded (a bit resentfully, perhaps?), was not the norm. But, even though this client made the process a relative breeze, it still took me most of an afternoon to finish. This introduction has shown me that it’s definitely in the client’s best interest to help make the often onerous discovery process move as quickly as possible for their attorney, which can be accomplished simply by putting documents in order (or by providing the requested documents in the first place). In turn, the client will save money and win the admiration and respect of law clerks everywhere.