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Ari: This is Ari Kaplan and I'm speaking today with Ray Biederman, a partner with Mattingly Burke Cohen & Biederman in Indianapolis, and the Co-Founder and CEO of Proteus Discovery Group and DiscoveryMaster.
Hi Ray, how are you?
Ray: Good, Ari, thanks for having us on.
Ari: Oh, I'm looking forward to speaking with you today. So, tell us about your background and your practice at Mattingly Burke Cohen & Biederman.
Ray: In order to understand how we got here, it’s sort of a story of an undergrad needing a decent amount of money to pay for college. So, I was an undergrad at Butler University - go Bulldogs - and I needed to figure out a way to pay for my undergrad education. So, I got a job at a law firm in Indianapolis in their brand-new information Governance and eDiscovery department.
So, this was back in 2004. I spent a lot of time printing emails off and then scanning them back in to code them on a fancy Excel, spreadsheet, that's sort of where my love for eDiscovery started. We saw the 2006 amendments to the rules. I made a decision to go to law school and, I worked at that firm throughout law school and then I became an associate there and worked in eDiscovery.
There were four of us that were pals at the firm, three of them were partners and I was a senior associate by the end, and we decided to branch off and start our own firm. In addition to that, we started our own wholly-owned document review company. And then from there we saw a need in the market for a piece of software that helps manage doc reviews, so that’s where the idea for Discovery Master came from.
Ari: Would you recommend that attorneys with large firm backgrounds take the leap and start their own firm?
Ray: It's a case-by-case basis, but for us it's been a great experience. We've gotten to do a lot more things individually and taken cases that maybe you can't take at a large firm, including some contingency-fee work.
And then as far as the flexibility of starting your own document review company, it was great in that we weren't perceived as only being able to work for clients of the big firm. That was a big opportunity for us and we really got to expand our footprint in the market.
So, if you've got an entrepreneurial bend, I'd highly recommend starting your own thing.
Ari: Why did you start Proteus Discovery Group?
Ray: I was in charge of a lot of document reviews at the AmLaw100 firm and one of them consisted of 350 contract attorneys for 18 months with a lot of heavy reporting. And then we had a lot of other document reviews that were going on and I was managing several of those and I sort of saw an opportunity in the market, there was no Indiana-based document review company. And I was getting a couple of calls from head-hunters asking about starting branches of other document review companies and I thought to myself, ‘hey, we can make a go of it on our own.’ And there were just a lot of kids coming out of law school at that time that needed work and we just saw a great opportunity.
Ari: Is it becoming more common for attorneys and even firms to develop related businesses like this?
Ray: It is absolutely becoming more common. I think that technology has created a whole cottage-industry of needs for law firms.
People go to law school to be lawyers, they don't go to law school to be technologists. And that's pretty apparent by some of the attorneys who don't understand technology all that well, and frankly don't want to learn technology that much because they want to focus on their main craft, which is practicing law.
We just created a lot of opportunity for alternative legal service providers to come in and get some market share and be able to provide high quality service that is legal-adjacent, but not quite the practice of law, and I think a lot of law firms are seeing that as an opportunity to increase their market share and to, frankly, provide better client service.
Ari: How does DiscoveryMaster align with your other work?
Ray: DiscoveryMaster was born from my experience managing large scale document reviews. I would lose a day a week doing reporting on all of the different cases that I had, and as much as I love Excel spreadsheets, I didn't go to law school and to only work on Excel spreadsheets. I knew that there had to be a better way. So, I worked pretty hard to look at the API stack in Relativity and look at some of the other abilities that Relativity had for applications.
Then when we launched our own document review company, we wanted to have something that has set ourselves apart from other document review companies. I think that in this space doc view can be viewed as selling sand in a way. So, we wanted to find a way to say that our sand was different or better than the next guy’s sand.
So, that's what launched us into developing DiscoveryMaster, and after we used it a little bit some of our clients said ‘man, this is pretty cool we'd love to have this on all of our cases.’ And we saw a real opportunity to expand into selling Discovery Master as a standalone product.
Ari: You mentioned this misconception about review being like selling sand; what are the most common misconceptions or other frustrations about eDiscovery that you are routinely see?
Ray: A lot of practitioners view eDiscovery as really hard and understanding all of the concepts as really hard and therefore they push it off to other people.
I think that eDiscovery, you know, it has been not my sole focus in practice but pretty close, and I think that the decisions that get made early on in a case in relation to eDiscovery and preservation and scope of collection have these huge cascading of facts and later choices that are made in a case, or later issues that come up in discovery-related motions.
If we push towards having a larger focus early in a case with regard to eDiscovery, that would be great. And that's sort of been in one of the largest frustrations I've seen is we get pulled in to work on something, but a lot of these decisions have been made and they really hamper some of the cool things you could do with technology.
Ari: What trends do you think will reshape the way eDiscovery and Information Governance services are purchased or delivered over the next few years?
Ray: One of the largest yet to be seen changes is with this COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people are working from home and a lot more people are on Zoom meetings or Microsoft Teams and we're creating a lot of new data that needs to be analyzed and collected and reviewed. So, we're going to have a lot more audio recordings and a lot more video recordings that have to be dealt with in the context of eDiscovery. That means that there's going to be larger file sizes, which means more hosting costs, which means also translation services and getting good transcripts from all of these things. I think that this can have a large effect on eDiscovery costs, so we'll have to find a way to manage those.
Second, I think metrics are a huge key to the industry here. We saw this in insurance; insurance commodified legal services and we have all of our ABA codes. And we're starting to see a little bit of that in the eDiscovery. But I think metrics about how doc reviews are going, what the budget’s at, when it's going to be done and having a dashboard for all of these different choices in a litigation is going to be a big trend.
Ari: This is Ari Kaplan speaking with Ray Biederman, a partner with Mattingly Burke Cohen & Biederman in Indianapolis and the Co-Founder and CEO of Proteus Discovery Group and DiscoveryMaster. Ray, thanks, so much.
Ray: Thank you, Ari.