An eDiscovery Retrospective
From the earliest days of the binder clip to the machine learning models we use in AI today, litigation support has been continuously evolving. Legends abound, but hearing true tales from one who lived through the early days of paper collection, manual Bates stamping, and so-called “high speed” scanners is an experience that truly informs perspective.
We sat down with eDiscovery veteran Ray Beken for a glimpse of the early days in litigation support, the shift into eDiscovery, and what it means to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to providing service remotely.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Ray, you’ve been in this industry for a long time. How do you think things have changed?
Well, I know I’m not the first person to point out that eDiscovery services have become commoditized. When you have something that starts with technology, as it becomes easier and more accessible, it gets cheaper. That has forced us to find ways of setting ourselves apart. We’re all very good at doing the commoditized portion of e-discovery, so we’ve had to focus on the differentiators to market ourselves and highlight our unique capabilities. And very often, that means showing clients that we can help them handle the unusual – whether that’s an unusual data type or an extremely short deadline.
It sounds as though experience is key – otherwise, you won’t have the perspective you need to devise an appropriate solution for those one-of scenarios.
That’s so true – and as an illustration, I’ll give a little bit of background on John Myers, our CEO and founder. We did a pretty cool collection and analysis project for a trucking company that was getting sued by a group of their 1099 employees. Even though they were 1099 contractors, they claimed they were being overworked and underpaid. You know, that type of thing.
Now, this company had a legacy accounting system that had been tweaked and modified and customized over the years, such that even the IT folks who were running it could hardly understand how to get any data out of it. But John was able to have a couple of meetings with them, and after talking with them and requesting access to the systems, he was able to figure out how to pull the information their legal department and outside counsel needed out of that old hodgepodge database. He’s just really good at solving unusual problems like that because he has experience with almost all of the legacy systems and formats, and he’s kept up with the new stuff as well.
What’s your personal best eDiscovery story?
Well, in forensic data collection and eDiscovery, everybody has a story, right? Everybody in our industry has their favorite anecdote. Mine involves the Jimmy Hendrix estate. We had a situation where family members began to disagree. You know, when you’re dealing with an estate, emotions can sometimes run high, and sometimes people try to take advantage. And as it turned out, some people were making money off of Jimmy Hendricks’ name, illegally. They’d deleted stuff off of their cell phones and were claiming that they hadn’t received certain text messages, hadn’t had certain conversations. But we were able to go in and prove that they had deleted key evidence.
We knew exactly what software they’d used to wipe the phones, and then using some deeper dive technology, we were able to prove that they were deleting texts, which really helped our side of the case. And separate from the interesting stuff we were able to do with the technology, it’s always kind of cool when you get to work on a high-profile case like that.
Now that so many people are working remotely, we’re having to change the way we do things. What are the critical factors, in your opinion?
You know, it took about a minute and a half for everybody to come out with their spiel about working remotely and handling cases remotely and so on. And I’ll tell you what: it’s one thing to say you can do all that, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to prove that you’ve done it.
Not long ago, we were working with a large oil and gas company that needed data collection in 92 cities across the globe. Cell phones, laptops, desktops, all kinds of information, all kinds of servers all across the world. And we were able to collect the data while remaining compliant with the regulations of all those different countries. Over three terabytes of data ended up being collected and culled down, and we did it all within the timeline that they were asking for, without deploying anyone. No charges for flights or hotels, no hiring auxiliary staff on site, none of that. We saved them at least 80% of what they might have spent, because we were able to collect the data remotely. So one of the things we pride ourselves on is our ability to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. To tackle any situation simply by bringing our experts together and saying, Alright then, let’s figure this out.
What has kept you interested and engaged in the industry for so long?
It’s interesting. The business has changed and morphed a lot. It used to be a very physical job – back in the day, we were hauling bankers’ boxes of paper all over, making copies and pushing a dolly around and so on. But as technology started taking over and eDiscovery came to the fore, I was able to take my understanding of how litigation works and blend that with technology. Now the computers do the heavy lifting, as opposed to me lifting boxes and pushing a dolly around the city in 90 degree heat with a suit on. And I’ll tell you what, that’s a major improvement in my book.
No doubt, Ray – no doubt. Thanks for the insights! This was great.
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