Proteus CEO and co-founder Ray Biederman was recently interviewed on the Illumination Zone podcast by EDRM’s Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad. Below’s transcript has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity. This transcript originally appeared on DiscoveryMaster's blog.
Mary: Hello and welcome to the EDRM Global Podcast Network, and the Illumination Zone.
My name is Mary Mack, I am the CEO and Chief Legal Technologist for EDRM. I’m here today, as usual, with Chief Strategy Officer Kaylee Walstad.
Kaylee: Thanks, Mary. I have to say, I’m so excited about today’s guest. He is one of EDRM’s great new partners and I’m just so excited about what they’re doing.
Mary: Exactly. Kaylee and I are both excited to host this Fireside Chat with Ray Biederman.
He’s also a founder of Proteus Discovery Group, a Super Lawyer and a Rising Star in the area of eDiscovery. Welcome, Ray!
Ray: Thank you very much for having me.
Kaylee: Don’t you love that we threw in the Super Lawyer?
Ray: (laughing) I do. My cape is at home.
Kaylee: I was told you might wear it. Oh, well.
But we’re super excited to learn a little bit today about your journey. How do you go from a bachelor’s with honors in music education at Butler, to a JD, to this path you’ve been on?
Ray: You know, music is not all that different from the law. It seems pretty far apart, but the performance aspect was a commonality between the two. And actually, in undergrad I had to figure out a way to pay for my bachelor’s degree, and so I got a job at a Barnes & Thornburg working in their newly-established eDiscovery department.
And so, my job consisted of printing out emails, scanning them back in and then coding all the information off the emails into Summation. By today’s standards that sounds crazy, but at the time it was state-of-the-art.
Kaylee: That’s right, tokens! I hear Summation than I think tokens.
Ray: That’s, right, exactly.
Mary: Well, that makes sense because Barnes was an early adopter in the eDiscovery area. So you decided to go to law school and then what happened?
Ray: I had finished up my bachelor’s degree and I actually had a couple of job offers to be an orchestra director – I play violin – at a couple of schools here in Indiana. And that same summer there were several jobs cut across the state teaching music, and I got a little nervous about the longevity of a career doing that. So, I decided at the last minute to go to law school.
Because I had worked in eDiscovery and I liked it, I had an aptitude at computers and I thought, you know, this could be something that’s interesting, it’s a growing area. And so I went to law school here in Indianapolis, and I stayed in Indy because I was directing a youth orchestra for inner city kids through the Indianapolis Symphony,
and fell in love with that program and didn’t want to stop doing that while I was in law school. So, I continued to work at Barnes and then also kept up teaching to help pay for law school.
Kaylee: That’s an awesome story. I love that, thank you.
Ray: Thank you.
Mary: Well, this amazes me that you were in law school already knowing about eDiscovery – and then you get out of law school and you’re founding a firm. There was some time in between there, I would imagine.
Ray: (laughing) Yeah. So, after law school I got a job at a smaller firm here in Indianapolis and I was a general litigator – business litigation and some smaller scale matters – and I sort of stepped away from doing a lot in the eDiscovery space.
As I was learning more about the practice, I kept getting more and more discovery requests from our clients that were starting to get more complex and require eDiscovery and I thought I should really investigate doing more of this. I approached Barnes & Thornburg about coming back and working on some of their larger MDL litigations, worked out a deal there and went back and worked there for a couple of years as an associate.
I developed a strong relationship with three of the partners there, and the four of us decided on that there was a need and the Indianapolis market for an eDiscovery consulting company, a document review company, and a boutique law firm focused on commercial litigation and specifically its nexus with the eDiscovery. So we launched Mattingly Burke Cohen & Biederman in January of 2015 and we also started a Proteus Discovery Group at that same time.
Kaylee: Wow. That’s a great journey and a great story and I know that you’ve been really active. We were super proud that you were recognized for the Super Lawyer, the Rising Star in eDiscovery, but its like Mary said, very few people that go to law school have any kind of understanding of eDiscovery – that usually happens after when they’re in a crisis or panic – so I think that that’s a cool thing.
Tell us a little bit about how your firm first addressed some of the needs that you saw in the marketplace with your clients and then a little bit about how Proteus filled in the gap for that.
Ray: We were pretty strategic about wanting to have a separate eDiscovery company. We felt that it is difficult a lot of times for law firms that aren’t as experienced in eDiscovery to reach out to another firm to co-counsel, and we wanted to take away that barrier, but we wanted to provide people consulting services to help level the playing field between smaller firms who have less resources and large firms who have a ton of resources and were pretty advanced with regard to eDiscovery.
We just saw that middle market niche. So, you know, we don’t focus on Chicago or New York or Los Angeles, but in places like Indianapolis, Nashville and Columbus and Grand Rapids, we saw that they were starting to increase the amount of eDiscovery sophistication, but a lot of firms needed help to get there and so we saw a real opportunity with the Proteus name to move into those markets.
Kaylee: And you don’t just work with firms, but you partner with vendors as well.
Ray: Yeah, we have a couple of really nice relationships with vendors, one being RICOH, we work with them very closely, love a lot of the people over there. We worked with Xact Data Discovery on some things and their predecessor, Q Discovery. We worked with them on several things as well.
Kaylee: Excellent. We just want people to know what what you have available to them. So if you look at Proteus, what are the services that people come to you specifically for?
Ray: Our bread and butter is document review, we do a lot of that.
We also consult on complex data sets, so we’ll ingest SQL databases and Oracle databases and help get reporting data out of it, either in response to litigation, or we’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of data breaches and data breach response. We work with companies that have unfortunately suffered a data breach and figure out what, if any, reporting requirements there are a based upon what data was potentially compromised. We work with several cyber security firms who come in and evaluate which systems might’ve been impacted. We come in after that, collect those data sources and put them into our own SQL server or our own Oracle database and extract out the blob data or other structured data to perform reviews on that, set up a reporting system and then actually put together the mailing list that goes out to everybody. We’ve even gone as far as to administer redress with regard to data breaches and with regard to payment out on class actions. So we do a lot of work with complex data sets.
Mary: Wow, you’re speaking my love language now, the language of databases, SQL and Oracle, it’s no wonder you saw huge gaping need in the market for some reporting and perhaps a beautiful graphical user interface dashboard on top of it. Can you tell us a little bit about your latest creation?
Ray: Yeah, so in selling a doc review services, you know, people told us that selling doc review is a lot like selling sand, and you want something that says, look my sand is different or my sand is better. And so we started developing a piece of software that was going to be internal to us, and it was a reporting dashboard for Relativity but it sat outside of an individual workspace.
And the reason that we did this was we were working with five six, seven different channel partners who all had their own instance of Relativity and then we were working with law firms who had their in-house instance of Relativity and I just, for the life me, couldn’t remember my log in to any of them. I couldn’t remember what case was on what server, and so I just wanted a way that I could log into one place and federate access to everything across all those different instances and so that’s where the idea for DiscoveryMaster came.
There are essentially three questions that we’re asked all the time, and it’s “when’s the project going to be done? How much is it going to cost? And what’s the breakdown in the documents?”
So we just wanted to have a simple interface where someone could log in and see those three pieces of information and so we built that which was essentially DiscoveryMaster, you know, 1.0, and we went to some of our potential clients and said, “hey, we’ve got this” and enough people were really interested in it that we thought, “you know, this this might be able to stand on its own” and so two years ago we went to a RelFest as silver sponsor and we just showed a proof of concept to everybody and enough people liked it that we put some resources into developing in it.
And one thing that is pretty important to the four of us that founded all of these companies was we wanted to make sure we were still practicing litigators. We wanted to practice what we preached, and it helps flesh out what the development roadmap looks like a because of the four of us, you know, we’re practicing law, we see all these things on the Proteus side and then that helps influence what the design of DiscoveryMaster is going to look like. And so, you know, we’re completely self-funded and we just, you know, put money into development every month and have gone to market.
Mary: Man, client-based design, I love it. How has it been received? The idea that you could actually have reporting like that cross-instance?
Ray: Yeah, that’s the funny part, you know. People see that tools all the time that can give them reporting and they say, “oh, okay, that’s cool. We like your UI, it’s intuitive.” And then I show them all these tiles, it’s a tile-based experience, so we like nine tiles, and we log in and they see the nine tiles and they’re like, “okay, that’s cool and you can click in and get more details” but then I say, “yeah, and these are on four different instances of Relativity.” And then they stop every time, they say “what?” “Yeah, four different channel partners are currently hosting this data.” And that’s been a game changer for a lot of people, even people that have their own instance, Relativity in-house often have to use other instances because of client requirements or, you know, just other intricacies of the practice. And so being able to go to one place and get the same data every time regardless of who the provider is something that I think the market really needs.
Kaylee: Well with answering those three questions, or being able to even come close, with review typically being one of the most expensive, if not in the most expensive part of the eDiscovery process, I mean, I feel like that’s a game changer. Coming from you, the litigator side wearing your litigator hat and your Super Cape, being able to say, “okay, based on the speed of which the review was going, we think will be done next week or tomorrow and based on that it’s going to cost X amount of dollars, that should be in the budget” because I feel like one of the biggest complaints is “What? What’s our bill? We didn’t think it was going to cost that much.” I mean, how many times you heard that?
Ray: Several times, that’s exactly right. You know, eDiscovery has been a black box in a lot of ways for a long time and as, you know, all of us that are in the industry, we understand those intricacies and understand the give and take there. But people that just dabble in this or don’t use doc review on a daily basis are really surprised when they get a bill a month later for how much those services costs. And just taking away that pain point, that pressure point, it has been really useful. You know, we’ve got the budget feature built in so people can see their budget the whole time and we track hours against that, but then we also we’ve created an algorithm the project out a completion date based upon the average rate of review of the reviewers, so we can show it burned down of when that reviews going to be done. We can even, to some degree, project out how many responsive documents they are going to be just based upon the review that’s occurred.
Kaylee: That’s cool. And I like how you liken it to selling sand. You’ve just turned your sand into a pearl.
Ray: Thank you.
Mary: Well, I do think that this is a game changer because reporting and things like being able to charge back or to bill insurance or to do the sequencing of depositions, making sure that you don’t miss your discovery cutoff date – all those things we hear horror stories about because people don’t have the reporting available. So if people wanted to get a glimpse of this, how would they go about doing that, Ray?
Ray: Absolutely yeah, we’ve got our website www.discoverymaster.co, we’ve got a couple of videos up there and it’s an easy button to press the request the demo and, you know, because we’re self-funded you’re probably going to get to talk to me for most of that demo. We’ve got our sales director Ryan Short, he’s a great guy, we’ve been working with for the past year. We bought brought him on actually a year ago yesterday, believe it or not, so right at the beginning of this pandemic, but he’s just been doing great work and we’d love for everybody to meet him as well, so that’s www.discoverymaster.co.
Mary: Fantastic. And Kaylee, you have a question for Ray.
Kaylee: I do, but before I go there I do have to compliment you on the incomparable, brilliant Ryan Short. We love working with Ryan. If you haven’t met Ryan connect with him on LinkedIn, connect with Ray on LinkedIn. Ryan has also been putting together eDiscovery After Hours, it’s a podcast which I’m going to be a guest on here shortly so I’m looking forward to it.
Ray: Yeah, he’s that eDiscovery After Hours, he’s a recording those left and right, it’s fun to watch him do it.
Kaylee: I called it eDiscovery After Dark, “oh, how’s that eDiscovery After Dark going?” and he’s like “don’t call it that, Kaylee, that not right, it’s after hours, that’s it.”
So, we ask all of our guests on the Illumination Zone, what Pavan Kotha coined as the “magic question.” And that is, as we’ve gone through this last year in the pandemic and the crazy weather and it’s been challenging and sad at times, there’s also been silver linings. And so we ask each guest what’s been some silver linings or a silver lining during this tough year that we’ve gone through?
Ray: You know, I’m going to get a little sappy here, frankly. I have two kids – my daughter is three and my son just turned two. And we’d been so busy pre-pandemic with the business and getting things to grow that I didn’t really have, you know, a lot of time at home with them. And everything being shut down for that month about a year ago was a really nice thing for me to be able to reset the dialogue with my entire family and we’ve just had some great family experiences. We took a big road trip for a week and that was a lot of fun and just seeing them grow in a different way was actually a big positive from this whole pandemic.
Kaylee: That’s beautiful and we’ve heard that from a lot of people that they just didn’t realize how fast they were going until you were forced to slow down. That’s a great story.
Ray: Thank you very much. You know, terrible things have happened to a lot of people, you know, but we’ve been lucky enough, blessed enough, to have some positive out of it.
Kaylee: Thank you so much.
Ray: Thank you.
Mary: Well, that is fantastic and we’re rounding the bottom of our hour and this concludes our Fireside Chat today and thank you, Ray, and thank you to DiscoveryMaster for letting you come on here to clue us in not only on your unique journey but the unique products you’re creating for our market. Tune in next week for more Illumination Zone on the EDRM Global Podcast Network.