Three weeks after the death of its executive director Craig W. Weinlein, The Sedona Conference has named its longtime deputy executive director to step into that role.

Kenneth J. Withers, who has been The Sedona Conference’s deputy executive director for 10 years and with the organization for nearly 19 years, was named Friday by the conference’s board as its new executive director.

Withers had previously announced his plan to retire, but has agreed to stay on for two years while a new executive director is hired and transitioned into the job.

“Ken Withers epitomizes the mission of The Sedona Conference in moving the law forward in a reasoned and just way,” said board member Paul E. Burns, managing attorney with Burns Legal of Los Angeles and Phoenix. “There is no one more respected among the judiciary and the membership for having tirelessly served The Sedona Conference’s mission, and no one more qualified to lead the organization after the untimely death of our beloved Craig Weinlein.”

The Sedona Conference is a nonprofit research and educational institute dedicated to the study of law and policy in antitrust, complex litigation, e-discovery, intellectual property, and data security and privacy. Its working groups publish nonpartisan consensus principles, guidelines, and best practices designed to offer practical solutions on tipping-point issues.

Withers said that a top priority for him as executive director will be to continue to carry out The Sedona Conference’s mission of moving the law forward in a reasoned and just way, while also working to facilitate the transition to a new executive director.

“Part-and-parcel of that is making sure that the next executive director takes over a well-oiled and fully functional Sedona Conference, with a clear mission, projects and events in the pipeline, a qualified staff, and solid finances,” he said.

Early Legal Tech Pioneer

Withers had been deputy executive director of The Sedona Conference since 2013 and was its director of judicial education from 2006 to 2013.

Prior to joining The Sedona Conference, Withers was a senior education attorney at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., where he developed internet-based distance learning programs for the federal judiciary concentrating on issues of technology and the administration of justice.

He was the 2020 recipient of the Hon. Shira Scheindlin Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in e-discovery and is co-author, along with Judge Scheindlin, of what is said to be the most widely used law school textbook on e-discovery and evidence.

An early pioneer in legal technology, Withers began developing discovery management databases for Boston-area law firms and corporate legal departments not long after he graduated from Northwestern University School of Law in 1984, and began conducting training programs on e-discovery in 1989.

In the early 1990s, he set up a personal website where he provided a clearinghouse for e-discovery court decisions and rulemaking initiatives.

He later left legal practice to return to school and earn a master’s degree in library and information science in 1997, after which he produced educational programs on a variety of topics for the Social Law Library in Boston.

In 1997 and 1999, Withers and I coauthored the first and second editions of a book, The Internet Guide for Massachusetts Lawyers, which was published by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education.

In 1999, Withers received the Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Prize from the British Irish Legal Technology Education Association for the best postgraduate paper on legal technology.

Weinlein, who had been the conference’s executive director since 2014, died June 9 at the age of 68.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.