Episode 172 – E-Discovery Made Easy and Affordable for Small Law Firms

Episode 172 – E-Discovery Made Easy and Affordable for Small Law Firms

Tracy Merda, of Speakeasy Authority Marketing talks to Laura Kibbe, Managing Director of RVM Enterprises, Inc. Laura analyzes and solves the challenges small law firms face when massive e-discovery is needed, and the budget is not there to do it.

Laura reveals how RVM provides big firm results for small firm prices, making the E-Discovery process reliable and easy. Listen to the audio below for complete interview. Make sure to subscribe and post a review.


Tracy: This is Tracy Merda with Speakeasy Authority Marketing. Today, I have with me Judy Mine, a business development manager and Laura Kibbe, the managing director of RVM Enterprises. Hello, ladies. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Laura: Good afternoon.

Judy: Good afternoon.

Tracy: Ladies, let’s just jump right in. Tell me, what is RVM Enterprises? What do you all do over there?

Laura: In a nutshell, we are an end-to-end e-discovery information management and consulting firm. Tackle all aspects of the discovery process within a litigation or an investigation and work with our attorney clients to get all of that evidence in a form that’s easily usable so that they can develop the facts of their case.

Tracy: What services do you provide and let’s also tackle who is your target client? Who are you able to help?

Laura: We can help any attorney or corporation that has to either sift through electronic information that was produced to them or that has to produce information to the other side in an investigation or litigation. When I say electronic information, I mean anything from records stored on your client’s cell phones, their social media site, their emails, their texts.

Basically anything that can be done with a keyboard, virtual or otherwise needs to be collected, reviewed and produced in a particular way so that the information or the evidence, particularly in a criminal case is not tainted.

Tracy: You guys are based in New York but are you able to service and help small firm attorneys anywhere?

Laura: Absolutely. Our practice, our headquarters is in New York but we have offices around the country and our practice is actually international, so we help global clients who need to move data all around the world to produce in multiple cases to, say, the small divorce case in Kansas City.

Tracy: Okay. If you don’t mind, I’d like to just get to know a little bit more about what e-discovery actually is. What kind of evidence? You touched on that a little bit, but if you can really get into the nitty-gritty of it, what is considered e-discovery?

Laura: E-discovery is just plain old fashioned discovery with electronic information. When I started practicing a billion years ago, everything was in paper. We produced it on a typewriter, maybe a word processor, but everything always ultimately got printed. There were no email or text messages or Facebook’s or Twitters or cell phones.

Today, all of that information can be the kind of information that you have to gather and produce in an investigation in a criminal case. The geolocation data from your cell phone to prove where your particular client was located. The offending texts or email messages in a family law case where spouses are trying to prove infidelity. Today, almost all of the information you need to win your case is electronic, starts life electronically.

What we do is we employee all of the technical tools and professionals who know how to collect it, who know how to sort it and sift it and search, say, through millions of emails and find only the ones that you need for your case. We have contract attorneys who can then, if you have an extremely large volume and can’t do all of that review yourself, take a first pass at the review and highlight the documents that you really need to take a close look at, and then ultimately get them ready and in a format, whether it’s on a hard drive or a DVD if it’s a small enough volume to give to the other side to meet your discovery obligations.

Tracy: Is this the same or is it different than digital forensics?

Laura: Forensics is a part of e-discovery. The way you collect it, we like to say all information should be collected in a forensically sound manner. You can collect it merely just to get the text messages, or you can do a forensic analysis, which is I have somebody’s laptop and I know they deleted the files and I want to go do a more in-depth investigation into why they deleted, when they deleted it, any timestamps that we can find. That may be very necessary in criminal cases, in government investigations, when there has been a loss of evidence and you suspect it.

Many of the cases are just straightforward. I need all your email from this date to this date that dealt with this project, or this matter. Then we just go in and collect it. We help you come up with search terms to separate the fantasy football email from the ones that are actually relevant to the case, and then put them up in a format that is web-based that the attorney’s can look at and make the responsiveness calls, privilege calls, that they need just like they would do in old fashioned paper days.

Tracy: You mentioned things that are deleted. What about if someone crashes their hard drive or it’s destroyed? Can you do anything with equipment like that?

Laura: Sure, the best lawyer answer is it depends. What happened to it and when it happened. We do have a number of tools that we can throw at the problem to see if we can restore anything and many times we’re successful. Sometimes we’re not. Believe it or not, there’s programs out there with wonderful names like Evidence Eliminator and others to completely wipe and eliminate all information from a drive or somebody spilled a cup of coffee on it and it completely fried.

That’s what we do. We bring our expertise and a whole toolkit of things to the table to get whatever we can out of that, whether it’s a hard drive or a cell phone that may have failed.

Tracy: From the legal standpoint, are there certain laws that protect e-discovery? I imagine there’s got to be or had to be some push-back from somebody when it came to companies like yours coming about.

Laura: The federal rules were amended in 2006 to basically bring the federal rules of civil procedure into the electronic age and specifically enumerate electronic information as something that is within the scope of discovery and federal civil cases. From those amendments, many state courts then proceeded to update their state rules to account for it, and then effective last December, there was just another amendment to the federal rules to provide some more safeguards and descriptions around your obligations with respect to handling electronic information because lawyers are used to dealing with evidence. They’re not necessarily as familiar with dealing with electronic information and things can go missing.

You probably have your own experience where you sat there and you spent three hours typing a Word document and you did something on the keyboard, you don’t remember what, and the document went missing. It’s very easy to do something to electronic data that would decrease its integrity from an evidentiary standpoint. The federal rules changed to say listen, the standard is reasonableness. We know all you have to deal with is electronic information. This is kind of a new age and here’s some rules. Here’s the kinds of things you should be aware of when you’re dealing with electronic information.

Most of the state courts now have updated or are in the process of updating their state and local rules as well. In fact, some courts even recognize that this is so not what lawyers are comfortable with. That they actually require what they call an ESI liaison. The local rule says that’s all right if you don’t know anything about e-discovery but you better bring someone into court that does. It doesn’t have to be a lawyer in your firm. It could be a company like RVM who can work with the other side and have discussions with the court about where all this evidence came from. It really is a shift in the procedures for civil and criminal matters where the evidence today is almost 100% electronic.

Tracy: You hit on a few things I would love to know a little bit more about. Let’s say I’ve hired your company. You’ve done all this digging. You come up with some great information that’s going to help my client. What does that look like when you’re finished and you bring it to me? What format is it in? Who’s testifying? Is it legal? How do you checks and balances, figure out all that stuff out?

Laura: One of the reasons to engage a company like RVM at the beginning of the process is if you think of it in criminal terms is to establish the chain of custody. These emails, these Facebook posts, whatever, they live in their native environment, wherever that is, in somebody’s email box or on Facebook, when you go and gather and move all of this information into one place so that the lawyers can look at it, ensuring that it was all collected properly and that chain of custody is being captured so that we can say nobody went in and changed a word on that post, nobody modified the date on that email.

At the end, what you ultimately get is a series of images. Picture a picture, a JPEG or a TIFF image that looks basically like an Adobe PDF of each of the documents. Then with those images you can use those in any trial program you want. We’ve maintained the chain of custody so that you can do all of your authentication in court to be able to use the evidence and then you can take the images and put them in whatever trial graphics program you like to use in the courtroom to show to the jury.

Tracy: How can you help them out? What kind of special services would you say are best for these smaller firms?

Laura: I think that’s the beauty of associating with an e-discovery company. In the past, only the big firms who had a full staff of people inside the law firm doing all of this electronic discovery work. Now, the small firm can stand shoulder to shoulder to the large firm in court by simply associating with a service provider like RVM who can be their back office so you can do all the stuff that you’re good at.

All of the depositions and expert work and anything you may have to do to get ready for trial and RVM can stand there next to you and help you get all of the electronic evidence, get it sorted and sliced and diced in a way that you can understand it, and then make sure that it is ready will be admissible when you need to use it at trial or as in most cases settlement negotiations.

Tracy: The sounds like an awesome service. How long has this been around?

Laura: I think as an industry, electronic discovery was probably about 25 years old when much of the document production work started to include electronic information. The industry really has its roots back in the old paper days when people would copy and scan the paper documents and put them into a system to review. Contrast today where we do very little, if any, paper or scanning work anymore. It’s all the electronic information. It’s a very mature industry with very mainstream accepted technologies. This is not something that anybody should be afraid to use. It’s very mainstream.

We do have some cutting edge technologies that are still in the process of being vetted and approved by the courts but that’s the nice part about working with someone who’s an expert in the field is you can be as conservative or as aggressive as you want in this realm as long as you’re working with somebody who knows how to use the tool.

Tracy: Everybody wants to know about price, obviously. It’s a price-sensitive world we live in. When it comes to using RVM’s services, are attorneys supposed to sign up for a year? Do they just sign up for a one-time deal? What is the most cost-effective way to use your company?

Laura: There are several pricing models. It is not generally a subscription service, although it can be where you sign up for a period of time. Most of the projects are handled on a project-by-project or case-by-case basis. It is all pretty much volume-driven.

RVM’s goal in working with our clients is to say listen, in the old days if your client gave you 100 boxes, you started at box one and you reviewed every single page until you got to the end of box 100. Now, multiply that by millions because that’s what an average person can have in their email box. Our goal is to work with our clients to collect, as broadly as we need to make sure that we’ve preserved everything and nothing is going missing. Then, throw a bunch of technology and tools and expertise at that really large data set to narrow it down to the box of document equivalent that you need to get ready for your case.

By far the largest expense associated with e-discovery is the review of the documents. All of the technology to of the slicing and the dicing is negligible compared to the attorney time to review the documents, so that’s why we want to put all our time and energy into helping you reduce that volume so you don’t have to review a ton of documents. We’re very successful with our many tools in our toolkit to get the volume reduced. As I said before, if for some reason, despite all of our best efforts, it’s still a volume that is too large for a smaller firm to handle, we could augment their review team with our review attorneys and help them get through that review quicker.

It is generally priced per project with attorney review by the hour, but it’s an industry that’s ever evolving as far as pricing so there are also a ton of alternative fee arrangements in place and we can certainly work with any client to come up with flat-fee pricing, volume discounts, things like that.

Tracy: Excellent. Is there anything else, Laura, that you feel maybe our listeners would benefit from knowing? Being small firm attorneys, they’re always looking for ways to benefit their business, grow it, while still only having a few people in the office.

Laura: Absolutely. I think the biggest takeaway for your clients is that with everything being created electronically today, you do have to be aware of what you don’t know. When you start interviewing all of your clients when they come in for their initial case intake and you’re asking them about where might I find all of this evidence that I need and they start telling you it’s in electronic format, it’s in email and cell phones and things like that, to know that if handled improperly, none of that evidence will be able to be used in court. Be able to issue spot when you need to retain an expert and then hire someone you trust and that can explain the electronic information to the judges who are even more removed than the lawyers going to come to this discovery stuff generally.

You’ll be in a position not only to service not only your existing clients but, as I said earlier, take on the bigger clients you otherwise might not have thought you could take on.

Tracy: Awesome. I really want to thank you both for joining me today. Laura, how can listeners find out more about RVM Enterprises and what you all offer? What’s a good website, phone number, or email address?

Laura: Judy, I’m going to let you.

Judy: They can reach out to me. My email is jmines@rvminc.com, and I can be reached at 646-871-2331, and I will get the appropriate person on the phone to discuss a matter or to see what we can do for someone.

Tracy: Excellent. Again, this is Tracy Merda with Speakeasy Authority Marketing. I want to thank my guests today, Judy Mines and Laura Kibbe or RVM Enterprises. Thank you so much, ladies. Have a great day.

Judy: You as well. Thank you.

Laura: Thank you.


Richard Jacobs

About Richard Jacobs

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