It was with great sadness, on June 9, 2014, that the world learned of the passing of Richard Braman. Among his many achievements, Richard was the Founder and Executive Director Emeritus of The Sedona Conference® and a partner in the firm, Gray, Plant & Mooty.
To attempt to state, briefly, how Richard’s vision changed the practice of law or how his life positively touched the lives of so many, would be an impossible task. Richard’s impact, and the many facets of his professional and personal contributions, are best captured in the heartfelt statements of his colleagues and friends – many of which appear on Sedona’s tribute page to Richard.
On July 10, 2014, a Celebration of Life honoring Richard was held at the Royal Palms in Phoenix. The following were remarks made by Jason R. Baron (IGI Co-Chair) at the event:
Oscar Wilde once said a visionary is one who can find his way by moonlight, and see the dawn before the rest of the world. Richard was just such a visionary, a pathfinder way ahead of his time.
It would be impossible to overstate the importance of Richard Braman and his vision to the practice of law. In founding The Sedona Conference®, Richard did more than he could ever have imagined in providing a forum for civil dialogue among lawyers in moving the law forward in a just and reasoned way. In fostering this atmosphere, Richard encouraged judges, as well as members of both the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ bars (and the occasional lucky government lawyer), to treat what was said at a Sedona meeting (wherever it might be held) as “staying in Sedona” – in essence liberating people to candidly discuss ways in which the law could be improved across a spectrum of topics including intellectual property, patent issues, and complex litigation including e-discovery.
In the spirit of Richard’s jazz club left behind in Minneapolis, the essence of Sedona has been improvisation in a new era of legal practice. This spirit of improvisation and dialogue was especially evident in earnest during the early years of Working Group 1, one of the most successful working groups in the ever increasing Sedona Conference constellation of activities. At the encouragement of Richard, Jonathan Redgrave, joined by others, spearheaded the new working group to focus on what guidelines and principles should operate to frame what in 2002 was the beginning of an e-discovery movement. I was privileged to be invited to participate in the second year of WG1’s existence, meeting Richard for the first time at La Posada de Santa Fe. It certainly was nice to be able to advance the law in a panoramic setting.
Among the concrete achievements of Richard’s vision: first, The Sedona Principles, first published in 2004, provided a framework for discussions which substantially contributed to the historic 2006 rules changes in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which for the first time expressly recognized the importance of electronically stored information (ESI) in legal practice. Second, a legacy of dozens of commentaries published between 2004 and 2014 that have explored and illuminated the e-discovery landscape, which in turn have been cited in hundreds of court decisions and thousands and thousands of legal briefs, law reviews, practice guides, and by writers in the blogosphere (including in this space).
And third, Richard’s personal triumph: The Sedona Cooperation Proclamation. I was privileged to be present at the moment that Richard “got religion” on the subject of cooperation: the date was March 20, 2007, during a symposium entitled “And Justice For All…” sponsored by Georgetown Law School and H5, where Richard appeared along with Justice Stephen Breyer and others, including moderator Professor Arthur Miller, legendary professor at Harvard and NYU. After Richard made an emphatic point about the need for dialogue and cooperation in e-discovery given the growing technical complexity of the subject matter, Prof. Miller postured in mock disbelief: “Richard, we will get back to that utopian notion” later. That was the moment: Richard, with a burr in his saddle, came back to The Sedona Conference and with fired up enthusiasm began a campaign that resulted in serious conversations about cooperation in the legal space, leading to the Proclamation. The importance of the Proclamation is in how it frames the issue of cooperation comfortably within (and not opposed to) the paradigm of zealous advocacy on behalf of clients.
As many know, the Proclamation has been signed onto by hundreds of federal and state judges, and through these signatories is inculcated into the rules that govern conduct in a myriad of jurisdictions nationwide. I, for one, would wish to see every judge in the country sign on to the document, to further complete this portion of Richard’s already enormous legacy. Importantly, The Sedona Conference’s recommendation for revising Rule 1 of the Federal Rules to more explicitly embrace the notion of cooperation has been adopted in the proposed Rules amendments now going forward. In the blogosphere, cooperation was recently described as “the new black.” Richard would have liked that.
On a more personal note: I considered myself close to Richard, but there were many others that were closer… Richard had special ways of convincing each of us that what we said and thought was of vital importance. I cherished the time I spent with Richard, but never more so than in April 2013 when I accompanied Joe Looby to the Enchantment Resort in Sedona to assist in interviewing Richard for the documentary “The Decade of Discovery.” Joe and I got to spend a whole day with Richard (interrupted only by Richard’s dentist appointment). Near the end of the interview I posed a question about what Richard’s wife Margo had meant to him. His touching tribute can be seen as a short clip on The Sedona Conference tribute page to Richard. The film itself is now an even more poignant tribute to Richard’s achievements, and it’s my hope that it will be premiered widely in the months to come at law schools and special events of all types.
The following quote has been attributed to Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you know is facing a great battle.” Richard certainly faced his final battle with dignity and grace. Richard’s legacy will be reflected not just in reported cases, but in the hearts and minds of everyone he touched. May he be remembered by all of us for the rest of our lives.