Zubulake (pronounced, I believe, Zoo-boo-LAH-kie). As the NY Times tells us, this is Laura Zubulake. She won.
Now, for you, this happened today. But I’m a litigator, and though I’m not involved in the case, this has been happening for two years. Why? Because UBS, her employer, screwed around with e-mails to hide the smoking guns. And got caught by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, one of the most influential women on a trial-level bench anywhere today. Scheindlin, much to UBS’s dismay, is the maven on electronic discovery, and she loves to write. So she literally wrote the book on electronic discovery– six or so published opinions that define the defendants’ obligations, and finally, impose sanctions on UBS.
So this is a win three times. Laura Zubulake walks away with back pay and statutory damages. All of us get a solid set of electronic discovery rules, ones that limit the burden on defendants but also put them on notice that tanking stuff will get them in trouble. And Judge Shira Scheindlin adds to her growing legend as a smart, gutsy judge who takes on thorny problems head-on.
But most of you don’t care about that. Here’s what struck me. Talking with colleagues (men) who were in financial services or have contacts there, the rumor is that Zubulake was an awful person to work with. My gut tells me this is UBS disinformation to try to win the case — the same was said about Allison Schieffelin (there’s a thru-link about Schieffelin in the story), though we’ll never know.
More importantly, so what? Let’s say she’s competent, and unbearable. In many businesses, including parts of Wall Street, some law firms, and places like Enron, asshole personality disorder is considered an acceptable trait — at least among the men. In fact, this was the UBS defense: essentially, that her boss was such an asshole to everyone that there’s no reason to believe it was motivated by gender animus.
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