Tess Blair is a litigator and legal entrepreneur who has practiced at the intersection of law, technology, and design for more than two decades. Tess is the founder and leader of Morgan Lewis’s eData practice, a data-driven practice that combines great lawyering with technology and design to enhance the delivery of legal services.
A practicing litigator, Tess serves as national discovery counsel to some of the world’s largest organizations. She counsels a host of Fortune 500 companies, conducting risk assessments and guiding her clients as they develop internal information governance policies and controls to address privacy, security, retention, and disposition of information and data. She also helps her clients develop defensible models for responding to requests for information in litigation or investigations and marshals resources for such contingencies to assist her clients in satisfying their discovery obligations.
For clients in litigation, Tess frequently serves as discovery counsel alongside her client’s trial counsel, as a core member of the litigation team, develops, and executes all aspects of the client’s discovery strategy as well as optimizing her client’s evidence gathering, analysis, and presentation. Her role as discovery counsel includes negotiating the scope and conduct of discovery, developing ESI protocols, protective orders, and specialized procedures for cross-border transfer of data subject to privacy laws. She takes and defends record custodian and discovery-related depositions, handles all discovery-related motion practice, and drives all managed review, analysis, and production.
As leader of eData, Tess works with her team, her colleagues, and clients to design and develop tools and techniques to improve the delivery of legal services. Tess built the eData practice into a multidisciplinary team of lawyers, technologists, business professionals, designers, developers, and data scientists who design and deliver legal products and services to enhance the Morgan Lewis client experience across the firm’s practices, industries, and disciplines. The eData team uses process design, automation, UX, product design, application development, machine learning, and augmented intelligence tools to develop technology, process, and service solutions built to meet our clients’ needs. A Six Sigma Green Belt, Tess invests heavily in training the entire eData team in Legal Project Management, Six Sigma and Legal Design.
Tess is also a member of the Firm’s LIBOR working group. The working group acts as the Firm’s go-to experts on LIBOR transition across a range of jurisdictions and practice areas and continues to track evolving deadlines in relation to LIBOR replacements. Tess and the eData Contract Analytics team focus on the development of automated solutions to curate, extract, and categorize large volumes of contracts to significantly enhance our clients’ ability to address LIBOR transition issues while controlling the associated time and costs.
Tess lectures regularly on civil procedure, ediscovery, and data privacy—including cross-border discovery and data minimization—and writes frequently on ediscovery, information governance, and data privacy for a variety of legal publications. She is the lead author of the eData Deskbook, currently in its third edition. Tess also serves as Special Discovery Master to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She has been Chambers ranked nationally for nine years and globally for seven years in electronic discovery. In 2019, Tess was named one of the Top Ten Most Innovative Lawyers in North America by the Financial Times. Tess holds a Master of Professional Studies on Law Firm Management and studied industrial design at the Philadelphia College of Art before completing an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Ursinus College. Bringing entrepreneurial experience to her clients, Tess started and operated a small business before entering law school.
Served as national discovery counsel to major pharmaceutical company in serial product liability litigation. Developed comprehensive discovery strategy, developed and executed all internal controls for compliance with preservation obligations, delivered workforce training, and conducted due diligence related to search for and sequestration of data. Led all negotiations with designated counsel handling discovery for the plaintiffs’ committee, handled all motion practice and argument, and executed all discovery strategy.
Served as privacy counsel to client in US litigation seeking cross-border transfer of data from the EU under GDPR, which was contested by adverse party. Developed GDPR compliance strategy, drafted protocols, protective orders, and data minimization and safeguarding process to effectuate lawful transfer.
Following an adverse litigation outcome resulting in part from the court’s view that the organization had failed to properly execute its discovery obligations, retained to conduct an organization-wide information governance and litigation readiness risk management assessment. Following issuance of a detailed privileged report with observations and recommendations, engagement was extended to include implementation oversight, training, and ongoing policy development and advisory role.
Retained by a global tech organization to develop a simplified record retention schedule and policy applicable in all global operational regions consisting of over 80 countries and most global regions including the US, EMEA, APAC, and LATAM.
Retained by financial services organization to design and build an efficient system for review and analysis of contract provisions related to “Living Will” plans under Dodd Frank. Led a team that developed a process and customized a platform for the Living Will work, executed the project on an alternative fee basis and subsequently expanded the platform to enable analysis of a wider array of transactional paper, contracts, and agreements.
Retained by a global organization to conduct an internal investigation following a purported whistleblower claim related to corporate information governance. Conducted a thorough investigation and delivered a privileged oral report to the organization’s general counsel and board of directors at the conclusion of the engagement.
The George Washington University, 2011, M.P.S., Law Firm Management
University of Miami School of Law, 1997, J.D., magna cum laude
Ursinus College, 1994, B.A., summa cum laude
Awards and Affiliations
Shortlisted, Top 10 Innovative Lawyers in North America, Financial Times (2018)
Top Woman Lawyer, The Best Lawyers in America (2017)
Ranked, Litigation: E-Discovery, Nationwide, Chambers USA (2011–2019)
Ranked, E-Discovery & Information Governance, USA, Chambers Global (2020, 2021)
Ranked, Litigation: E-Discovery, USA, Chambers Global (2012–2014, 2016–2019)
Recognized, Electronic Discovery and Information Management Law, Philadelphia, The Best Lawyers in America (2017–2020)
Recognized in Who’s Who Legal (2016)
Member, Pennsylvania Product Liability Department Of The Year, The Legal Intelligencer (2014)
Member, Philadelphia Bar Association
Member, Order of the Coif
Member, The Sedona Conference Working Group on eDiscovery
Member, ARMA Electronic Discovery Advisory Group
Member, The Electronic Discovery Reference Model Working Group
Member, Editorial Board of the Scientific Council of the Journal of Legal Technology Risk Management