Last month, Ray joined Ab Saraswat on the Fringe Legal podcast. They spoke about:
- the difference in tech adoption between in-house teams and AmLaw firms
- adoption of the cloud
- dynamics of the in-house/outside counsel relationship.
The link is above, the transcript is below. Enjoy!
Ab: Hello, and welcome to Fringe Legal. My guest today is Ray Biederman.
Ray does so many different things and we’ll explore some of the projects he’s been working on lately and we’ll talk about innovation, we’ll talk about the cloud, and we’ll talk about the impact on in-house and outside counsel as it relates to all of those things.
But before we get started, Ray, welcome.
Ray: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Ab: Awesome, tell our audience who you are, what you do, and feel free to tailor this to any one of your many hats that you wear on a day-to-day basis.
Ray’s Background, DiscoveryMaster’s Story
Ray: Sure, yeah, that is an accurate way to describe it. I do wear several hats.
So, it all started back when I was in undergrad and needed some money for college. I started working in an AmLaw 100 firm in their brand-new litigation support department. This was the firm’s first foray into technology services and its nexus with the legal profession, and I started there printing off emails and scanning them in so you could code information out of the emails, which is a pretty archaic by today’s standards, but at the time it was the coolest thing ever.
Then came the 2006 adoption of the rules and I fell in love with the nexus of technology and eDiscovery. So I went to law school and started as an associate at that firm. Then four of us from that firm, about five years ago, left and started on our own litigation boutique practice here in Indianapolis, Indiana, and along with that we started our own wholly-owned document review company. And so we provide support to other law firms in the Indiana, Chicago, Michigan areas. And then a bunch of corporations ranging from mom and pop companies to Fortune 10 companies.
And during that time I’ve managed really large document reviews of 350 contract attorneys and having to provide a bunch of reporting off of all of that. I’d lose about a day a week running all of these reports, and every time I finish one report it would be out of date already and so I knew that there had to be a better way to do this. So that’s where the idea for DiscoveryMaster came along. DiscoveryMaster is our newest launched product, just launched this year, and it takes data from Relativity and displays it in multiple ways, in the top three or four ways that litigating attorneys want to see that data. And so we have a dashboard that has all of this information and people can see all of their cases in one place. We had it internally just for us and many of our clients liked it. So, we retooled and refactored over a span of a couple of years and now have gone to market with it as an independent product.
Ab: That’s awesome man. It’s a great story and what came to me as you were talking about it is you have the experience of living through and practicing a lot of the pain points there, and second, as you launch this document review service, then you would have also heard a lot of the complaints and what pains clients and law firms have – it’s only natural if you are approaching it from that perspective to then go and create something to help internally and then to ideally hit the gold mine of being able to productize that for the outside market, too.
Ray: That’s exactly right. Part of it started out as, selling document review is a lot like selling sand, and you need to find a way to say that your sand is different or better than the next persons’ sand, and so that’s where DiscoveryMaster started. But enough people who saw value in it that we felt that we had something.
Discovery Is Expensive!
Ab: Yeah, and that that does a great place to start.
And I’m by no means, nor do I claim to be, an expert in litigation at all, but certainly one of the things I remember – I can’t remember where I read that actually – everyone knows litigation is expensive, I think there’s no denying that. But discovery is probably the most expensive aspect of that. It accounts for some two thirds of the entire costs of litigation.
So, it’s crazy, and going back to the story you were saying when you are hard-coding these email addresses and so on, certainly eDiscovery has been at the forefront of legal technology and so many ways it was that the initial beachhead, one of your colleagues once said, of legal tech innovation and it’s come a long way.
But certainly, one of the things that’s missing and, again from my limited experience, is an over-arching understanding of the data and analytics. Especially when you are spending so much time money and energy – a day a week is ridiculous! – looking through this information to not be able to provide a better dashboard to be able to do that. It is crazy.
Ray: Yeah, there was a definite need for the tool and a lot of the people we’ve been talking to have seen that need. And it’s really interesting, each of these conversations, people will have an aspect, something that they were like “have you ever thought of X” and we’re like, “yeah, that’s right here on our roadmap.”
And so, having that experience of being in the trenches on litigation is pretty helpful for product development. And to your point about the cost, yeah, 66 to 70 percent of litigation costs – I think the ABA put that out – is related to discovery. And anything we can do to get some more actionable intelligence with regard to what we’re seeing in documents, how much it’s costing, how long it takes to get through, I think, helps our clients and it helps companies save money across the board.
The Great Divide: On Prem vs. The Cloud
Ab: Yeah. And I think an important aspect there is also to make sure there is transparency across the entire project, to make sure that the in-house teams and outside counsel, as well as any other stakeholders involved, have the same set of information and you don’t need a PhD to be able to decipher the data, which seems like a challenge.
And, by the way, I’m not knocking anyone who’s done this, right, there are iterative steps in getting to this point. And when you speak to – whether it’s about your products are generally in practice – as you speak to in-house counsel and outside counsel, what are some of the points of feedback on where things are going when it comes to innovation within the legal profession itself? And then feel free to be more specific about what your expertise is, too.
Ray: Sure. Yeah. I don’t think I’d be far afield to say that the law lives in the past a little bit, and so trying to add new tech to the legal profession and it is an exceedingly difficult road.
What we’ve noticed is, at least lately, we launched at the beginning of COVID, and I think that instantly brought in-house teams in the cost-saving mode as fast as possible. And we’ve noticed that a lot of our demos have been to in-house teams that are really interested in adding something to save money in their tech stack.
And then our demos with AmLaw firms – we focus kind of in the AmLaw 200 – and we’ve had a lot of interest, AmLaw 100, AmLaw 10. And the technologists in those firms are very interested in the product and getting to where we need to get to. But, I think there’s a big process kind of several hurdles to get over in order to get to adoption.
One of the biggest hurdles that we’ve seen is cloud versus on prem. Relativity has recently moved toward a cloud-based model, like some of the other tools in the market, two of them are Everlaw and DISCO. Those are cloud-based tools, they have some great advantages, but people are very concerned about security in relation to the cloud and when we talk to some of the largest firms in in the country and around the world, they want this product on prem. And I thought about it, at first I was confused as to why they would want it on prem and as opposed to in the cloud, but they’re so large that it basically is a private cloud. They have data centers around the world and they’re like, “we don’t we don’t need the cloud we’ve, got our own.”
Ab: There’s obviously a clear dichotomy here of the, I’m going to say that litigator and those that are looking at this information wanting things to be in the cloud for all of the and the copious benefit they provide, but also the, as you said, the requirement off and security and therefore it links back to the IT teams for keeping things on prem, and your point about it essentially becoming a private cloud – that’s absolutely on point, but that really only affects X percent of them, especially when you look at the AmLaw 200, may be there the twenty to twenty five percent of the largest ones that have that capability. How do you see that difference? How did you see that playing out when you speak to – I don’t want to say smaller firms, because it’s not just smaller firms, but those that have may be started to move it along this journey for other reasons too?
Ray: Yeah, I mean, they are clear advantages to the cloud, one of them being completely up-to-date security. When we developed the product, we wanted it to be in in the cloud because, one, we federate access to all Relativity instances. If you have Relativity hosted with five or six different channel partners, you log in to one place and you get every case regardless of who the channel partner is, and doing that from the cloud was a lot easier. The security model that they have is as much better than anything that you could get at any reasonable price point. And if you can afford to have your own private cloud across the world, well that’s one thing. But for most of us, being able to piggyback off of the security is a pretty critical concern. Also, retirement of old servers, you don’t have to worry about that you say you save a ton of money right there as well.
AmLaw vs. In-House Tech Enthusiasm and Relationship
Ab: And I gets part of that comes to future spend because if you have all of this infrastructure in place already, you don’t want to make that move and it deprecate all this hardware much earlier than it is meant to because otherwise I would just sits there and you want to run at full capacity as frequently as possible.
Talk to me a little bit about the – I’m curious about the tech adoption and innovation point of view, and especially as you are speaking to in-house teams and the AmLaw 200 firms – is there a difference in the enthusiasm and the sophistication, and it could be around cloud or it could be about something else. How does that vary?
Ray: In-house teams definitely seem more enthusiastic about adding to their legal tech stack then firm attorneys. And a lot of that it has to do with it, I think, that when you have when you’re working in-house, you see a lot of other departments that are getting technology every day and onboarding new technologies, whereas in the law firm, we’re in silos and “this is the way it has been done for fifty years and this is the way we are going to do it for the next twenty five.” And so I think cutting through some of that is difficult.
And there’s been, I think with a lot of previous technology you cover, it’s like the rule of eighty percent right, you cover eighty percent of what the needs are and then the other twenty percent either custom-build or figure out a work around for it. And as litigators we’re working in a pretty fast-paced environment at times and that twenty percent is critical, so you don’t want to make a move until you’ve got everything covered or you don’t have to change your processes that much.
And that was part of the beauty of what we’ve done is people don’t really have to change their practices all that much. It unifies everything into one place and they get the information they need, but they don’t have to learn a new piece of software in order to do it. It’s just a log in and you click through to your instance of Relativity. So it’s a unique scenario there.
Ab: Yeah, and I wonder if some of the antiquated ways of doing things in-house is partly because, in the past many – not all of them – but certainly many of the in-house lawyers and legal teams where individuals that left Big Law to go in-house and therefore they are just took all of the lessons from Big Law into in-house.
Whereas, at least in more and more recent years there has been a fresh breed at coming that have no experience of doing things in-house and you are seeing a lot more of that bleed from consumer-level tech, or just non-legal tech, just tech, into the in-house world and, wow, these things are fluid, they work, they do these things, why are we are using is sort of technology from the 1970s and 1980s to do some of this?
So, that’s really interesting. And the other point that you touched on is, if you’re focusing on that, and again I am assuming a lot and I don’t know anything, I imagine that because both the stakeholders are working from the same set of information, but there is obviously the transparency point, that also is something that as a secondary benefit means that the outside counsel can leverage the technology to build on their relationship with the in-house teams. They can actually be individuals that can say, “look here’s how you use this, here is the data you should look at, and you have access to all the same things. Instead of having to call me to get an update, just log in and you get all the answers and we can then spend that time talking about strategy thinking about what this needs and the actual analysis of the information.”
Ray: Yeah, that’s a great point. Most people who went to law school to practice law and not practice technology, or practice updating Excel spreadsheets all the time. And so I think that these technologies can take away some of that abstraction and help people spend money on the important part, which is litigating the case.
Ab: For sure. And you said you have a lot of things on your road map. How do you feed into the roadmap? Is it from your own experience? Is this from listening to customer interviews or something else? Or how are you deciding where to take this into the market, which direction to go?
Ray: Sure. It’s a little bit of both.
We’ve created a beachhead at the document review process because that’s where the meatiest of the litigation technologies comes into play. And now we’re moving on both sides of the EDRM, backwards into a litigation holds and collections. We’re in beta on a litigation hold collection tool that will feed into the document review tool, which is DiscoveryMaster.
And then we’ve got a production tool that we’re working on to show – we want to be able to show, “this Microsoft Word document, it was from this person, and it got collected on this day, and it was processed here, and this is where it was produced.” And so we wanted to be able to show that entire cycle of that document in the context of whatever litigation or litigations that document is In.
Ab: Okay, yeah, that makes sense and so eventually you end up essentially creating this workflow product that goes through the entire life cycle.
Ray: Yeah, that’s the concept and we’ve been working to integrate with some other practice management software so we can have a seamless experience from cradle to grave in relation to, “this is your tech stack, this is where you go and you see everything you need to know about a case.”
That’s the missing piece in all of this is we have all of this great technology, but not a lot of it works together very well and you’ve got to have fifty different log ins in order to figure out where we’re at on a motion for summary judgment and taking away some of those pain points is our chief goal.
Ab: Absolutely. I was going to just say that, actually, that’s a pain point of that sort of felt across the entire profession. Whether you’re working on transaction matters or an litigation, absolutely.
And I know so we’re recording this on the 14th of September and exactly in one week’s time you are making a big bang at RelFest, so, anyone attending that, be sure to please reach out to Ray and his team.
But, Ray, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, is there anything else that you wanted to mention if people wanted to find out more, why should they go, and how can they get in touch with you guys?
Ray: Sure. Our web site is discoverymaster.co. On there you’ll see a little video about what we’re doing and you’ll be able to reach out to us to schedule a demo or email me directly and we’re happy to talk with you.
But just wanted to say thank you very much for having us on, this is very cool, so thanks.
Ab: Yeah, no problem. And you’ll find Ray’s details to his LinkedIn and more DiscoveryMaster in the show notes, so please look out for that, and Ray, thanks so much have a good day.
Ray: Yep, you too, goodbye.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.