Stories happen when they happen, and the copy / paste news sites and story aggregation people do a good job at rushing the contents of the latest press release to your virtual door. G K Chesterton’s Father Brown famously talked of hiding a leaf in a forest or a pebble on the beach and, whilst I must not rely exclusively on 19th and early 20th century fictional detectives for my parallels (it was Sherlock Holmes earlier this week), I am not much interested in the Gadarene rush to regurgitate press releases at the same time as everyone else, based on the same (and generally sam-ey) texts. I’d rather not just be another leaf in the forest.
What makes an industry story interesting is its place in a context or a trend – how it moves things along or provides factual evidence of an otherwise anecdotally-based assertion. Two recent announcements by Epiq Systems warrant more than merely passing on the press releases. One is Epiq’s acquisition of De Novo Legal which took place between Christmas and New Year, a time when, as you would expect, my page views graph shows a dip to less than half of its normal level; accordingly, I just passed on the PR, saying that I would come back to the story in due course. The appointment of David Fryer as Epiq’s General Manager of UK Operations was announced just before LegalTech, when industry minds were focused on product releases and all the usual pre-show hype. It warranted more than being just another leaf in that forest.
I spoke this week to David Fryer and to Greg Wildisen, Epiq’s International Managing Director, to find out more about David’s appointment and about De Novo.
David Fryer – General Manager of UK Operations
I write quite often about the shortage of electronic discovery skills within service providers or law firms and the corporate clients whose needs they serve. The biggest gap for service providers is in project management, the place where a provider interfaces with the client; the project manager is the link between those commissioning the work and those who are performing it. This is a high pressure-point, the place where the expectations of the clients, themselves driven by external demands and deadlines, meet the nuts and bolts of service delivery.
Clients take it for granted, in choosing a big-name provider, that the infrastructure of servers, cables and security will be the best and that it will scale up to cope with the increasing demands of volumes and deadlines. What differentiates one provider from another is the quality of the people who manage the jobs as they come in. The job specification is pretty steep, requiring an understanding of how lawyers work, what pressures they face, the legal or regulatory context in which they are working, and the technology which is being applied to their work. This is particularly true in a company like Epiq which performs much more than merely grunt processing – it is a consulting company, offering intelligent and collaborative services like IQ Review and calling also, where relevant, on its own document review services. Those words “where relevant” imply a need for crisp decision-making as to the best course for each job and the ability to discuss this with the clients.
David Fryer was managing partner at Taylor Walton Solicitors, CEO at digital dictation company BigHand, and an independent consultant at Integreon, where he focused, amongst other things, on the optimisation of service delivery. That mix of legal and technology in fast-growing businesses seems ideal for a role at Epiq which combines all these elements. I asked him how he saw his primary function at Epiq.
The aim, he said, is to continue what has been happening already at Epiq and to take it to a greater scale as reviews increase in both size and number. Epiq has invested heavily in its infrastructure, and David’s role is to be the link-point between the clients and the project management teams who do the processing, consultancy and general operations. The primary question is “What are the clients objectives?”, and the task then is to ensure that Epiq’s processes are tuned towards meeting those objectives – “the glue which keeps the clients happy” as David put it.
The label “international” implies more than having offices in multiple jurisdictions. Many jobs span those jurisdictions, and Epiq’s London office sits, in time zone terms, between its US and Hong Kong operations, and often serves as the link between them. David’s job title General Manager of UK Operations, includes this liaison role between offices.
De Novo Acquisition
If the appointment of David Fryer, with his mixed legal and technology background, is representative of one trend, Epiq’s acquisition of De Novo Legal sits firmly in another. Most industry observers, notably Gartner, have predicted consolidation in the electronic discovery / eDisclosure market as software providers extend their range to left and right of their EDRM starting points and as consulting companies seek to offer an ever-wider range of services to attract new clients and to maximise their offerings to those which they have already.
Epiq has been going down this trail for some time, first with its managed document review service and then with its acquisition, in April last year, of Encore eDiscovery Solutions which (perhaps to the surprise of many given that Epiq has its own proprietary review application) brought an enthusiastic commitment to applications like kCura’s Relativity which sits in the same space as Epiq’s own DocuMatrix. The De Novo acquisition extends the range still further, allowing Epiq to build out its document review and project management services by adding the client base and the review, project management and legal staffing business of De Novo. Greg Wildisen said that the combined business is already seeing growth, supporting projects which De Novo already had and becoming, as Greg put it, “a supplier of choice for many more people”. That is reinforced by the arrival of a consulting team who joined out of Baker Robbins and by a new US forensics director.
In between these big splash stories, Epiq produces interesting articles about the market in which it works. I don’t catch them all – whilst it is not quite true to say that what does not happen on Twitter does not happen, it is the best source of information about what the industry players are doing, saying and writing about, and I rely on it, as many others do, for current information. You can find a selection of Epiq’s articles here, together with a button which allows you to subscribe for updates. I await with interest to see where Epiq goes next.