TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU CAME TO BE IN (OR A CUSTOMER OF) THE LEGAL BUSINESS SERVICES FIELD?
I started my career working in catering in the south of France, and eventually ended up in hotel management where I was responsible for the financial aspects of running a high end kitchen, which included menu planning. It was there that I discovered a “real appetite” for using computers to solve complex problems. Our graphing program of choice was LOTUS 1-2-3 with its revolutionary WYSIWYG editor. I ended up becoming highly proficient in the program and started training my peers how to use it. This was the start of the journey that ultimately led me to starting my own IT support company in the UK a few years later.
A short time after, my company won a significant contract with the local law enforcement and they got their first criminal matter involving computers. Computer forensics didn’t exist at that time, so as the resident technology experts it fell to us to help them build their case. We really were pioneers of the industry.
In the over 25+ years since then, I moved from the UK to the US, built and sold my company HSSK Forensics to Ricoh, and have had the privilege of providing expert testimony in some of the largest cases in the world, remaining focused on the ever-evolving field of computer forensics and eDiscovery.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING RIGHT NOW?
I am the Vice President of eDiscovery at Ricoh USA, Inc., where I am responsible for our Intelligent eDiscovery services. While my focus is now on the strategy and growth of this area of the business, I remain a Licensed Private Investigator in the States of Texas and Florida, a member of the High Technology Crime Network (HTCN), a Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE), and am a Certified Forensics Litigation Consultant (CFLC). I continue to be active in eDiscovery and Computer Forensics matters.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST TRIUMPH/SUCCESS IN THE LEGAL SERVICES FIELD, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
In 2008, I developed Remlox™, a forensically sound remote ESI collection tool that was eventually patented by Ricoh. It was named by several courts as the tool required for ESI collection, and has now been deployed over 7,000 times in 37 countries.
I believe that Remlox™ fundamentally changed how ESI is collected. At the time, remote collections were frowned upon, leaving onsite work as the only real option which required expensive short notice travel by computer forensic experts. Remlox™ changed that. Now, we could run forensic data collections remotely making it faster, logistically easier and far less expensive, while still achieving the same result.
The pinnacle of this experience was winning Ricoh’s Star Patent award in Tokyo, which at the time, I didn’t fully comprehend the significance of. Ricoh has over 50,000 patents, and this award is given out to the top patent of the year. Not only is receiving the award a great honor, I also learned that it had never been awarded to anyone outside of Japan in Ricoh’s 80+ year history. The entire experience was exceptionally humbling.
Looking back, I learned that if you can think outside of the box to uncover solutions that address future challenges, the impact may be even more significant that you ever dreamed.
DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE WRONG DIRECTION – OR WHICH DIRECTION?
I believe the legal industry is generally headed in the right direction, though it feels like we are in the middle of a transition and change is often painful.
HOW DEEP DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE INROADS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDUSTRY?
While I believe the sky is the limit in terms of what we can achieve with technology, I also don’t believe technology will ever fully replace humans. For example, the eDiscovery industry is starting to experience incredible efficiencies using Artificial Intelligence (AI), but we still need smart people to review the output and make decisions.
As AI becomes more and more mainstream, I also believe that we will start to see the emergence of Intelligent Support Technology (IST) – an offshoot of AI. At some point, it will become questionable as to whether we can continue to call it “Artificial”. Even now, some of the technologies available boast significant learning capabilities that will eventually leap to making intelligent decisions (albeit to a limited degree).
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY FOR THE SECTOR LOOKING FORWARD?
Those in eDiscovery have developed significant expertise in efficiently managing masses of data by using powerful, automated, technology-driven processes. I believe there is a real opportunity for us to apply these same technologies and expertise to address broader corporate challenges around data governance and privacy concerns.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE INDUSTRY?
Because of the large increases in the volume of data (business documents, connected devices and social media) required to go through the eDiscovery process, FRCP amendments called for more proportionality. The challenge in my mind is that proportionality is defined by the individual judges and there appears to be no firm understanding of what should be considered proportionate in the eDiscovery arena. Ambiguity is the only certainty. We need to gain more clarity on what proportionate really is, whether that’s a percentage of the claims at stake, an agreement at the start of the legal process, or perhaps some other well defined criteria.
eDISCOVERY HAS SOMETIMES BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH “THROWING LOTS OF PEOPLE AT CASES” – OFTEN IN A BIG HURRY. HOW HAS “PEOPLE STRATEGY” EVOLVED? WHAT’S HAPPENING IN TERMS OF “PEOPLE INNOVATION”?
While there’s a lot of emphasis on the advancements of technology, I believe that people are the most important asset of an organization, and that we should be putting just as much (if not more) emphasis on people innovation as we do on technology innovation.
By tapping into people’s unique strengths and abilities and enabling them to be their most successful, means building a much stronger organization. This of course includes on-going training and professional development opportunities. I also believe there are tangible benefits to fostering a diverse culture that creates illuminating discussion and stimulates innovation.
ASIDE FROM PRICING, WHAT ARE THE DRIVERS YOU’RE SEEING IN CLIENT BEHAVIOR TOWARDS SELECTING AND ENGAGING PROVIDERS?
Pricing, although still important, has become less of a deciding factor for organizations when looking for business partners. They no longer want a service provider who simply takes and processes orders. Today, they are looking for a trusted partner who can bring significant value to their business. They want a partner to become an extension of their team – to understand their strengths, assist with their challenges and be proactive in helping them identify trends in their processes where they can save time and money.
As a business partner, we can also be far more transparent with our clients. For example, if one of our law firm clients is responding to an RFP and needs to provide information about their data security, we are happy to provide our security documentation to support their bid. We would never do that in a one-way relationship.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ISSUE OF “RELATIONSHIP” IN CLIENT DECISIONS?
I would suggest that relationship has become one of the (if not the most) important aspect when deciding on a business partner. An individual’s expertise combined with their soft skills has become paramount to clients when the time comes to choosing an organization to partner with. Caring about what you do and how you do it demonstrates to the client that you are in this together. In my opinion, the best provider/client relationships are a two-way street, and I believe that individual relationships often outweigh costs, workflows and even product.
AS A PROFESSIONAL, WHAT DO YOU FEEL MAKES YOU DIFFERENT? WHAT IS THE QUALITY OR ATTRIBUTE THAT YOU FEEL HAS BEEN MOST HELPFUL IN ADVANCING YOUR CLIENTS’ INTERESTS?
It might be my forensics background or my investigator’s mind, but I rarely accept things at face value, and I absolutely refuse to subscribe to “that’s the way it’s always been done” thinking. I believe this mindset allows me to see things with a different perspective and find solutions to challenges that may not be immediately apparent.
This is particularly beneficial when working with clients because it means that I can look holistically at the challenges they are facing, and bring the right people and the right solution together to a successful outcome.
SIMILARLY, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE WAY(S) IN WHICH RICOH DIFFERENTIATES ITSELF AND “STANDS OUT FROM THE PACK”?
As I said previously in this article, I believe the most important asset of an organization is its people, and I am so proud of our exceptional team of tenured eDiscovery professionals. They fully understand the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of the technologies we offer, and take special care in understanding our customers’ business challenges to find the right solution to fit their specific needs.
I also believe Ricoh’s name is becoming synonymous with security and assurance – from our award-winning digital forensics lab and use of advanced encryption techniques utilizing our Microsoft Azure cloud environment, to our 80+ year history of servicing markets around the world with innovation, industry-leading solutions and a refusal to be limited by tradition – I would say that provides a significant level of confidence for our clients.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT – AND WHY?
I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of those around me and possess a deep desire to see people achieve their potential and go beyond their perceived limits. I love mentoring my team by encouraging them to become even better than they think they can be, and by helping them by removing barriers that stand in their way.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE KNOWN FOR?
I’d like to be known as someone who spends time and invests in making the world a better place – whether it’s through the non profit organizations that I am involved in, the people I have mentored or the clients I’ve helped along the way.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION CONTEMPLATING LAW AS A CAREER?
My advice to people is to focus early on in a specialized area of legal expertise, with a goal of becoming an SME. I believe general law practice will change significantly in the short term future and the best opportunities may well be offered to SME’s.