Way back in 1989 I escaped Rice University with a bachelors degree in Chemistry and a burning passion for forensics. I started as a Criminalist for the Houston Police Department and volunteered for all of the dirty jobs that got me out of the lab and into the field. For a while I was that eager young fellow assigned to nasty meth labs, biweekly incineration runs and anything else interesting like computer drive acquisitions. As much as I loved the work, I quickly realized that the slow grind of civil service was not enough for the long haul.
Although I had never been a ‘techie’, computer forensics got me interested in programing, web development and database systems. I left the crime lab to start a couple businesses while working the graveyard shift as an environmental chemist. The civil litigation ‘Take or Pay Wars‘ involved some of the first massive legal scanning and coding databases. I started a coding/review shop that quickly evolved into high pressure litigation support. We did not have many software options back then, but a Summation database with attached images gave my clients the advantage of instant search and rebuttal documents that we all take for granted today.
Start Ups & Odd Jobs
The dot-com boom inspired me to develop an interactive story web site based on my ‘geek’ hobbies in game design, SF/Fantasy writing and theater. Heartfires.com published daily story segments until 2006. As one of my favorite mentors remarked, “Being ahead of your market is even worse than being late to it.” Somewhere in there I helped found an educational online testing platform that never quite managed to land the public school contracts we were aimed at. I also landed a couple interesting gigs consulting with hospitals and clinics implementing electronic medical coding/billing and doing early demographic analysis/mapping for their business planning. The 1990’s were particularly frenetic and fun, though I had a bad habit of plowing all my revenue into new ventures before wrapping up my old ventures.
As the 1990’s wound down I stepped off the entrepreneur merry-go-round for a paycheck and benefits. I had successfully supported an FTC 2nd request on an energy client being acquired by El Paso Corporation (now Kinder Morgan). The EP legal team recruited me to create an in house legal technology department, right before the first Enron investigation requests landed on my desk. I spent eight years pushing the bleeding edge of eDiscovery to comply with criminal/civil demands, congressional requests, regulatory requests and every other kind of discovery forest fire imaginable. Unlike peers at other corporations in the decade of accounting scandals, we weathered the storms because my GC’s were focused on full disclosure versus covering up bad behavior. My team, counsel and our providers worked crazy hours to transform, find and produce every relevant email or document.
Legal Technology Design
Just as the big tobacco litigation introduced massive coded databases of images to discovery, the Enron investigations unleashed floods of native emails into dockets far and wide. Prior to this period, corporations generally refused to produce native files, preferring to literally print them to paper or image. I sat in meetings where attorneys argued that an email was not a ‘document’ and thus not responsive to a litigation request. I was now drowning in millions of emails and refused to sacrifice forests to appease tech-phobic senior partners. Instead I set out to find, design or adapt search/review software that could scale and handle native files. The less said about my first home grown attempts the better. Eventually I found an email archive with the right architecture to meet civil discovery requirements. The KVS team converted my product design requirements, workflow and rough wireframes into a functional beta version of the Enterprise Vault Discovery Accelerator in months. Now that I had preservation, search and retrieval solved it was time make review more efficient. Thus Summation’s much beloved/reviled eDocs & eMail module was sketched out over a long visit to San Francisco. This is how we tackled challenges before there were hundreds of eDiscovery products on the market.
It took years, but eventually my corporate discovery wildfire burned out and I was ready to hand the reigns over to my team. Symantec was selling my Discovery Accelerator brain child through the regulated corporate markets. I was recruited as the eDiscovery Product Manager for the new enterprise management division and spent more than 95% of my next three years on the road. As much as I loved the team and my customers, I let that litigation ‘can do’ mindset burn me out. Eventually I realized that I wanted to stay and support my customers more than I wanted to close the next deal or fight with developers over priority features. My Symantec years elevated my skills and broadened my perspective, but I was ready to for change.
After a short detour at Attenex I was back to independent consulting for global corporations and firms. This time I had decades of experience and exposure that quickly paid off in good clients. That brings me to the 2008 economic downturn and the founding of the eDiscovery Journal.
A Polymath’s Quest
While exploring an abandoned build as an errant middle schooler, I found a half burned portfolio filled with classic student artist sketches. That student’s reproduction of the red-chalk self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci sparked a life long desire to be a ‘Renaissance Man’ or Polymath. I have a bad habit of throwing myself into odd hobbies, crafts, jobs or areas of knowledge. I do not claim expertise in all of my esoteric disciplines, but I stubborn enough to attain basic proficiency in most. So please forgive any casual mentions of woodworking, scuba photography, knife making, gunsmithing, bonsais, koi ponds, martial arts and such.