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Bar, Bench Weigh In on New Discovery Rules

January 28, 2016

When Fenwick partner Laurence Pulgram needed an accessible reference to describe recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, he turned to the Spice Girls, according to The Recorder.

It happened during a discussion on the amendments at the multi-city Rules Amendments Roadshow organized by the American Bar Association Section of Litigation and the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies. The Roadshow’s San Francisco stop took place January 28 in the packed Ceremonial Courtroom at the Philip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco. Pulgram was one of event’s eight speakers and also played an instrumental role in organizing the Roadshow as Chair Elect of the ABA’s Section of Litigation.

According to The Recorder, one of the program moderators, Hon. Lee H. Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, said Pulgram suggested the early Spice Girls hit, Wanna Be, to describe the amendments’ emphasis on getting to the nut of discovery early.

What do you want? What do you really, really want?” Judge Rosenthal said, paraphrasing the song.

The rule changes took place in December. They say civil litigants may expect to obtain materials from their opponents that are "proportional to the needs of the case." Previous rules said the litigants could seek any relevant materials “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence”—a term now eliminated from the rules.

Pulgram’s fellow Roadshow participant, plaintiffs’ lawyer Elizabeth Cabraser, also reached for a popular song—this time by the Rolling Stones—to explain the amendments’ impact on discovery.

“You can’t always get what you want, but you will get what you need if you can explain why it matters,” Cabraser said.

The discussion “injected a surprising amount of energy into a potentially dry subject,” The Recorder reported.

The full article is available through The Recorder website (subscription required). Wanna Be, the video, is available on YouTube​.​