Butzel Long litigator specializes in the nuances of electronic discovery

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A shareholder and litigator with Butzel Long, Angela Emmerling Shapiro is a Certified E-Discovery Specialist.

Photo credit: Mia Isaacson Photography

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A trade secret defendant “accidentally” running over his laptop was a memorable case for Angela Emmerling Shapiro, a litigator with a particular focus on electronic discovery. “That case is where I first learned, in depth, about the forensic capabilities of computer experts,” she says. “It was also the first time I argued a spoliation motion.”

She also vividly recalls a defendant who filled his laptop hard drive with large 3D drawing files he didn’t even have the software to open.

“He deleted files, filled his drive to capacity—or so he thought—with massive drawing files, then repeated the process a few times over,” she says. “Forensics again helped tell the story in that case, supporting my argument that the purpose of the defendant’s actions – days before he was slated to turn the laptop over for inspection – was to wipe the contents without using a utility that would leave a trail.

“He left a trail anyway; he just didn’t know it.”

A litigation shareholder in Butzel Long’s Detroit office, Shapiro notes e-discovery has become an integral part of most civil lawsuits as well as governmental and internal investigations.

“We’re a digital society and that means evidence is far more likely to be electronic than paper based,” she says. “The volume of potential evidence that has to be considered for preservation and possible production has ballooned.  Technology for assessing such large volumes of data is also evolving, largely by integrating AI tools.

“I don’t know if ‘predictive coding’ or other analytic tools will ever be routinely mandated by courts, but I do believe they will be required by more and more clients as the tools continue to evolve and find their way into mainstream early case assessment and document review platforms. In some cases, particularly those with massive amounts of data, analytics can lead to a significant reduction in e-discovery costs while offering improved efficiency and accuracy,” Shapiro says.

Shapiro relishes that her job is never the same two days in a row. “Litigation matters are constantly evolving as new facts are discovered, new rulings are made, and new priorities emerge for litigants—and those changes make my work life interesting,” she says. “Weaving in electronic discovery and privacy law considerations adds another facet of change as both are rapidly evolving areas of law.”

In 2015, the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS) offered Shapiro the opportunity to sit for CEDS certification testing at no cost. The multi-hour exam included challenging questions related to project planning, litigation hold implementation, document review, data processing, budgeting, and more. 

“I was one of the first attorneys in the state to focus heavily on electronic discovery and they were looking to expand certification interest amongst attorneys—in addition to the strong interest from vendors and other technical specialists,” she says.

“The test convinced me that CEDS certification was meaningful and would help provide some assurance to clients that their critical data is being properly handled, so I’ve maintained certification ever since.”

With data privacy laws changing rapidly across the globe, sometimes in ways that are seemingly incompatible with electronic discovery requirements in U.S. courts, Shapiro also pursued a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/U.S.) certification through the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) to boost her understanding of data privacy considerations that impact discovery, including cross-border discovery.

“Many corporations today gather, create and/or maintain data in multiple countries so understanding the interplay of privacy requirements is critical,” she says.

Repeatedly named a “Top Lawyer” by DBusiness Magazine for Information Management, eDiscovery and Information Technology Law, Shapiro was also named to the 2018 Crain's Detroit Business inaugural class of “Notable Women in Technology.”

Shapiro is a member of the national and Detroit chapters of the Academy of Certified E-Discovery Specialists. She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the American Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association. Of the latter organization she says, “I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to mix my love of the law with my love of history as a Trustee of the Court’s Historical Society.”

Despite a relatively long commute from her home in Perrysburg, Ohio, Shapiro has been with Butzel Long for nearly 18 years, putting her somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to years with the firm.

“That speaks volumes,” she says. “Why do people put down professional roots at Butzel Long and stay when job-hopping has become the norm? In my opinion, it’s because we have a small-firm feel when it comes to human relationships inside the firm, coupled with big-firm advantages. I get to work on complex matters that require the resources of a large firm, and I get to do so with people I genuinely like and care about.”

She sits on Butzel Long’s Technology Committee, Pro Bono Committee, and Women’s Leadership Committee. While previously serving as chair of the Women’s Leadership Committee, she organized several fundraisers for Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

Shapiro’s interest in law was sparked during her high school years in Clio, north of Flint, where she participated in a Mock Trial club that ended up setting her career path. She went on to earn a political science/prelaw undergraduate degree from Michigan State University.

“In retrospect, I wish I’d used college as a time to focus on other academic interests before heading to law school,” she says. “Pursuing a prelaw degree didn’t give me an advantage when applying to law schools. I wish now I’d used that time and the resources available all around me at MSU to learn everything possible about history, art, philosophy, psychology, theater, or pretty much anything that wasn’t repetitive of what I would later learn in law school. I offer that as advice to anyone with college-age kids considering a prelaw degree.”

Remaining an MSU Spartan for law school, where she graduated magna cum laude, she was a member of the first class to enter Detroit College of Law after the affiliation with MSU. She spent her 1L and 2L years at the Detroit location, followed by a year at the then-new law building on MSU’s campus—known at the time as the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University, or DCL/MSU.

Shapiro earned numerous honors in law school, including the Jurisprudence Achievement Book Awards in Civil Procedure I, Civil Procedure II, Labor Law, and Research Writing and Advocacy. She was also the recipient of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers Plaque, and an Eve August Moot Court Scholarship.

The Moot Court program was the highlight of law school. “I thoroughly enjoyed traveling for competitions to test my oral and written advocacy skills against students from other law schools across the country,” she says.

Shapiro, who writes a local history column for a new magazine, Perrysburg Pulse, loves exploring museums, parks, and restaurants in and around Toledo, Ann Arbor and Detroit with her husband and daughter. “My husband and I are raising a kind, curious, creative five-year-old daughter. Seeing the world through her eyes is a constant joy,” she says. “We also share our home with two cats that spend most of their time plotting how to best trip me on the stairs.

Before the COVID-19 crisis,  weekends included a trip to the movies for her daughter to see  Frozen II for the umpteenth time while Shapiro used  headphones to listen to a podcast or audiobook. “The things we do for love,” she says with a smile.



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