Electronic Discovery / eDisclosure is a new discipline. It has passed the Wild West stage but it is still new enough and small enough that the contribution of its founding members can be recognised with the perspective of time. Three US legal publishing companies have produced lists recently of individuals whose contributions have helped shape the industry.
What value lies in reciting other people’s lists? I hear you ask. Well for one thing, my coverage is selective, with a bias towards people I know or have some connection with. For another, two of these articles are not readily available and it is not open to me to just link to them. Third and more importantly, I am keen to encourage people to see a promising career path in eDiscovery; we can’t all be Laura Kibbe or Andrew Sieja, but we can see opportunities in this young and growing business area.
NLJ’s inaugural list of 50 Business Law Trailblazers and Pioneers
Most recent of the articles is the National Law Journal’s inaugural list of 50 Business Law Trailblazers and Pioneers (you see where I got the Wild West imagery from).
This, as its name implies, is concerned with the practice and development of the wider legal scene; I am not sure that electronic discovery would have rated a mention in such a list ten or even five years ago.
One of the people on the list is Laura Kibbe (pictured left), a Managing Director at Epiq Systems, whose career, summarised in this Epiq press release, has encompassed all sides of the eDiscovery battlefield – as outside counsel, in-house counsel, and currently as Head of Expert and Professional Services for Epiq’s eDiscovery business. I have the pleasure, from time to time, of sharing platforms with Laura, most recently in Hong Kong last year. Not everyone in this industry has the ability to explain lucidly what are the business benefits (as opposed to the pure technology benefits) of eDiscovery tools and processes. Laura has this ability, and it is always a pleasure to share a platform with her.
One of the best articles of 2013 about the application of technology to business was one by Laura Kibbe called There’s More to TAR than Litigation which you can find here; my post about it here focussed on Laura’s message about pre-emptive use of TAR to identify and mitigate risk.
Andrew Sieja, CEO of kCura, has done more than merely invent the most ubiquitous review platform. The technology itself is of co-equal importance with the integration of kCura into litigation department workflows and with the service and support which accompanies it. For that to happen, the sales model had to be made more attractive both to the end users and to the channel partners whom kCura intended to recruit. They have done that, and made allies out of those who might otherwise have been competitors. I recall debating these plans with Andrew Sieja in a bar in Dallas years ago and picking holes, or so I thought, in his plans. He was right, and I was wrong.
It would be odd if Professor Richard Susskind did not appear on this list, as of course he does. His paragraph on “Trails blazed” rightly refers to “better service for clients” and “business problems”. Those who offer solutions into the evolving legal market need to understand that business context. However quickly it evolves, some of the things which Susskind said 20 years ago continue to be relevant.
Tom Baldwin, Chief Knowledge Officer at Reed Smith, is another whose focus is on the business rather than the technology. Reed Smith is one of the relatively few (so far as I can see) large law firms who appreciate that pricing and predictability is as important to clients as competence and legal knowledge – by the time you get up to this end of the legal market, clients take competence for granted and are more interested in how you will deliver that competence efficiently.
One of the recurring themes is that the business of being a lawyer is no different to the business of providing any other professional service (arguably, it is like almost any business, whether selling widgets or services). Bob Rowe, who is in charge of Huron Legal’s eDiscovery practice, has a strong focus on transparent pricing, and on predictability based on knowing and understanding the metrics. That in turn provokes (or should provoke) more firms to ask themselves who is best placed to do any component of a given task – shades here of Richard Susskind’s long-standing predictions about the breaking down of tasks hitherto thought of as legal ones.
No such list would be complete without the inclusion of George Socha and Tom Gelbmann of EDRM, whose influences stretch far beyond the model which they invented. Their focus is on the development of standards and the provision of practical resources; it is no exaggeration to say that they shaped the processes and standards which form the basis of the modern eDiscovery industry.
ALM’s Top 50 Big Law Innovators of the Last 50 Years
Another recently-published list of eDisclosure influencers comes in a section of ALM’s list of the Top 50 Big Law Innovators of the Last 50 Years and also includes Tom Gelbmann and George Socha amongst the eDiscovery innovators. Two other people known to me have well-deserved places in this list. One is Jason Baron, whose move to Drinker Biddle & Reath I wrote about here. The other is Richard Braman, Founder and Executive Director Emeritus of The Sedona Conference.
The list of Big Law innovators includes only one name from amongst the technology providers. That is John Tredinnick of Catalyst who served his time as a trial lawyer before founding Catalyst to bring advanced technology to bear on the problems he had faced as a trial lawyer.
LTN’s Watch List of job moves by industry leaders
The third and final article about eDiscovery people is one called Watch list by Monica Bay in the (subscriber only) Law Technology News of December 2013. The article’s subtitle, Key eDiscovery leaders are jumping ship and taking new jobs with broader agendas, emphasises that the article’s focus is on career opportunities within this relatively new industry.
The article kicks off with a section on the move by Jason Baron (pictured left) to Drinker Biddle, referred to above. Asked why he had moved to this particular firm, Jason Baron talked about the opportunities to move the discussion from eDiscovery – which is merely a subset of a bigger information governance problem – to the wider pressures on commercial clients. Two themes emerge from Monica Bay’s interview – first the need for best practice standards as new technology bites into the data problem, and second the career opportunities which this gives to those now entering a career in eDiscovery information governance law.
The article also profiles Patrick Burke (pictured right), who left Guidance Software in 2013 to become counsel in the Records and eDiscovery team at Reed Smith. This career path – from litigating lawyer to Assistant General Counsel at an eDiscovery software company and back to legal practice – gives Patrick Burke a rare combination of skills and experience. Asked to identify the biggest challenge facing the legal industry, he mentions “the paucity of lawyers who have taken the time to become knowledgeable about the management of risks around corporate data”. As a supplement to Jason Baron’s point about new entrants into the profession, Patrick draws attention to the fact that he was 55 before he made this move.
Other moves covered in the article illustrate how skills acquired in one corner of the field can be applied in others. Mark Williams went from being a partner at DLA Piper to leading Huron Legal’s discovery services. Craig Cannon took his eDiscovery skills from a bank to a law firm. Doug Cadell moved from being a law firm CIO to holding the same post at eDiscovery software provider kCura. Babs Deacon took her experience of working with eDiscovery providers like Integreon into becoming an analyst and director of strategic consulting at eDJ Group. Cecil Lynn moved from a law firm to becoming Director of eDiscovery and Technology at eBay. Craig Carpenter took his marketing skills from Recommind to the much larger AccessData Group which he joined as Chief Marketing Officer.
This is a complex industry with feet in multiple areas of importance, standing at junction between the practice of law, the development of technology solutions and the business needs of clients of all sizes. We are lucky to have people of this calibre on this list.
All pictures by Chris Dale