Photo provided by Milberg LLP

Photo provided by Milberg LLP

Ariana Tadler was clearly on to something as a 13-year-old, when she decided she wanted to be a lawyer. The Milberg LLP partner is one of the nation’s most talented plaintiff-side securities litigators, which won her a spot on our 2010 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America guide.

Among her successful cases, Tadler has served as plaintiffs’ liaison counsel in the massive Initial Public Offering (IPO) Securities Litigation, which resulted in a $586 million settlement last year. She also is one of the foremost experts on electronic discovery matters. Earlier this year, Tadler authored Toward a Less Hostile Discovery Process for Trial magazine, which describes some of her work on e-discovery for The Sedona Conference®.

Lawdragon: How did you know you wanted to be a lawyer so early in life?

Ariana Tadler: I had the opportunity at a very young age to travel to Haiti and was extremely touched by what I saw there. That definitive experience precipitated my interest in helping people who didn’t have the resources to help or protect themselves. Working for consumers and investors who have suffered a financial loss or wrong has been very appealing to me. Doing what I can to rectify some of the inequities in the lives of individuals or groups of people is gratifying, particularly in very large complex cases.

I also enjoy cases that are not just about the recovery of monies lost but that also play a role in changing practices that companies engage in that are unfair to consumers and investors.

LD: Why did you decide to join Milberg in 1997?

AT: I started my legal career at Kaplan Kilsheimer & Fox and am very grateful to have had the chance to work with some very talented lawyers. However, a time came when I needed a bigger and more resourceful environment as my husband and I had decided to start a family. Going from a smaller law firm to a larger one may not seem to make much sense to some, but I had made the determination that it was the best course if I wanted to remain a very committed lawyer while simultaneously raising a family.

In moving on, I wanted to be at a firm with a stellar reputation and with the types of resources that would allow me to effectively continue to work during those times when I needed to get home and care for my family. Even in 1997, Milberg was way ahead of the curve in terms of technology and access to additional resources and personnel that other firms did not have. Milberg was most appealing because of its reputation as a groundbreaking firm, often pioneering new legal frontiers.

LD: What was some of your early work at the firm that helped established your reputation?

AT: I joined Milberg in 1997 as an associate and quickly had the opportunity to work on complex cases. In fairly short order, I gained experience by litigating cases in the Eastern District of Virginia, which is known as the “Rocket Docket.” For example, Microstrategy, which was a very fast-paced, challenging case, afforded me the experience of honing my legal and case-management skills. That case ended in the summer of 2000 with a successful resolution. Then, in 2001, our firm became involved in the IPO securities litigation matter. The firm certainly anticipated it to be a large litigation, but I don’t think anybody in our industry anticipated just how big it would be.

The firm was looking for people to work on the IPO litigation. I thought long and hard about it and eventually volunteered, thinking, “I know I can do this.” A critical prerequisite for this case was that it required somebody who could micromanage teams of people with lots of moving parts. Those requirements come naturally to me. (I was the goalie for a New York State champion lacrosse team, so I am very accustomed to managing a field. That experience continues to serve me well today.) The case has been ongoing for nearly ten years – with a $586 million settlement now pending appeal.

The IPO litigation opened up a new array of opportunities and exposure for me. Then, in 2004, I was asked to serve on Milberg’s Management Committee, which was a tremendous honor at that stage of my career. In 2008, I was elected to serve as one of the five partners on the firm’s Executive Committee.

LD: What else made you want to stay at Milberg?

AT: I love this firm. We have unbelievable resources with the most phenomenal talent across the board. That includes not only partners and associates but also forensic investigators, accountants, technology specialists and other highly skilled committed staff. Many of these people have been here for decades. The people here truly believe in what we do, and we truly believe in each other. It’s very heartening and validating to see your colleagues constantly supporting one another.

LD: How did you develop an interest in e-discovery?

AT: I had an opportunity early on with some of my cases to develop a greater specialization in e-discovery. With the IPO case, which involves 55 investment banks, much of the discovery was electronically-based. I, along with a select team, had to come up with fairly unique tools and approaches for managing the discovery. That led me to establish a personal interest in the area and to become involved in a variety of entities. I serve on the Advisory Board of Georgetown University Law Center’s Advanced e-Discovery Institute. I also joined The Sedona Conference in 2003 and am now Co-Chair of the Working Group on Electronic Document Retention and Production. I have also had the opportunity to educate members of the judiciary.

In addition to becoming more involved in public speaking and writing, I worked with the firm to develop two particular areas that work together hand-in-hand. First, the firm has established a Litigation Technology Support Department, which is distinct from our IT Department and focuses on the management of electronic data in litigation. In addition, we have established an e-Discovery Task Force comprised of lawyers, paralegals and Litigation Technology Specialists. Under my supervision, this Task Force serves as a resource to each litigation team at the firm, providing hands-on assistance and guidance as to how best to tackle and manage the issues associated with discovery today.

With this team, we also are equipped to serve in a specialized discovery counsel capacity – for example, we are currently Special Discovery Counsel in a civil RICO case pending in the Eastern District of New York on behalf of various departments within the Republic of Colombia, against several major liquor companies for, among other things, the illegal distribution of liquor in Colombia and elsewhere, as well as money laundering.

LD: Are you looking to do more work as discovery counsel?

AT: Absolutely. Milberg loves to be at the forefront of managing cases with cutting-edge discovery demands; we recognize that this is a truly unique niche. I see this as an enormous opportunity for the firm because there are few firms that have the infrastructure and personnel with the skill sets required to do this. I am personally very eager to expand this branch of our practice because the talent we have here is completely distinct from our competition.

LD: Can you talk about the Sedona Conference and the call for greater cooperation between opposing parties during the discovery process?

AT: As you garner more experience, you come to realize that there are certain instances in litigation where it is better to cooperate with the other side. Years back, in the paper world, there used to be the document dump, when an adversary would show up with a dump truck filled with documents or send you off to a warehouse where you would have to look for a needle in a haystack. In the world of electronic data, instead of the document dump, you have a data dump with an adversary producing hard drives and files where the volume of material is far greater.

It became apparent to me and others at The Sedona Conference® that if parties would actually communicate with each other to talk about how to prioritize discovery and to agree on specific forms of information and how it will be produced, there could be a mutual exchange of information that would save time and costs for both sides. This new “movement” is gaining traction among practitioners and is particularly appealing to judges whose time and resources continue to diminish. The Sedona Conference has been actively preparing tools for practitioners to facilitate this movement, and I have played an integral role in that process.