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eDiscovery Leaders Live: Kevin Clark of Thompson & Knight

George Socha
George Socha

eDiscovery Leaders Live: Kevin Clark of Thompson & Knight

Each week on eDiscovery Leaders Live, I chat with a leader in eDiscovery or related areas. Our guest on January 22 was Kevin Clark, Litigation Support Manager at Thompson & Knight.

Kevin shared his thoughts on the role of litigation support managers in law firms, as broad-reaching problem solvers. We talked about his expansion into knowledge management and the role AI can play there. Kevin discussed his efforts to build eDiscovery communities in Dallas, DC, and through the Masters Conference as well as ACEDS’ North Texas Chapter. From there we turned to innovation, and then health and wellness and a webinar series Kevin is working on to address that topic. Finally, I asked Kevin what he would want out of an ideal eDiscovery platform.

 

Recorded live on January 22, 2021 | Transcription below

Note: This content has been edited and condensed for clarity.

George Socha:

Welcome to eDiscovery Leaders Live, hosted by ACEDS, and sponsored by Reveal. I am George Socha, Senior Vice President of Brand Awareness at Reveal. Each Friday morning at 11 am Eastern, I host an episode of eDiscovery Leaders Live where I get a chance to chat with luminaries in eDiscovery and related areas.

Past episodes are available on the Reveal website, go to revealdata.com, select “Resources” and then select “eDiscovery Leaders Live Cast”.

Our guest this week is Kevin Clark, Litigation Support Manager at Thompson & Knight. I could go through Kevin's whole CV and bio but we wouldn't have time for much else, so I’ll hit some highlights here. 

At Thompson & Knight, Kevin provides technical and business management expertise for the lit support team, while delivering consultation on eDiscovery, information privacy, data security and governance for attorneys and clients. He has extensive experience in all areas of eDiscovery, from data collection all the way through production. He previously oversaw discovery operations and managed review services on the vendor side. This included supervision of project management teams, coordination of eDiscovery vendors and ensuring best in class delivery to clients.

He has significant experience managing complex, large scale matters and teams up to 250 and has spent considerable time consulting with clients and law firms on eDiscovery issues and strategies as well as developing alternative solutions for clients. Currently, Kevin, in addition to being Lit Support Manager at Thompson & Knight, is on the Masters Conference Advisory Board and is Vice President of the ACEDS North Texas chapter. He’s also involved with the Sedona Conference, working on Defensibility of Process with Working Group 1, and is a council member at Town of Sunnyvale, Texas. 

Kevin has served as coach here of the Co-Chair of the DC Bar Litigation Section’s Steering Committee. He was previously Chair of the DC Bar eDiscovery and Information Governance Committee and Co-Chair of EDRM’s Metrics Group. He’s got a PMP, a Six Sigma Green Belt, CEDS of course, and CIPP-US. He serves, as well, as an advisory board member for his alma mater, Chicago Kent College of Law’s eDiscovery Institute. And if that weren't enough, has provided pro bono representation to veterans at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He received his JD in 2000, is an active member of the bar in Texas, Illinois, and the District of Columbia as well as a solicitor in England and Wales. Kevin, welcome.

Kevin Clark:

Thank you for having me, George. And it’s a pleasure to be on your show here.

Litigation Support Managers: Problem Solvers

George Socha:

We’re glad to have you here. I would like to start by diving in and having you talk about what is lit support to the law firm, what is its function, how does it operate, what does a lit support manager do there?

Kevin Clark:

Great question. In my role as Lit Support Manager, I handle everything with regards to eDiscovery. We do everything from collections all the way to production and then also we take care of trial. But I’d say the bigger thing is we're problem solvers. Similar to most eDiscovery practitioners out there and legal technology professionals, we're problem solvers. Whenever there's an issue, maybe it will go to IT first, maybe it will go to the secretaries, it will go to the paralegals, but it ends up on our doorstep and we get to solve the problems of these interesting issues we have. 

George Socha:

Lit support sits in different places in different law firms, sometimes reporting to IT, sometimes the head of litigation; sometimes it is its own report directly up to senior leadership. How are things organized where you are, to the extent you can go with that?

Kevin Clark:

We report directly to the COO. We've had those discussions before. Should we be under a practice group, under the trial practice group, should we be under IT, where should we be? And again, yes, good point. Different law firms have organized in different ways and I don't think there’s one perfect model, but I like how our model is, that I report directly to the COO. It gives us flexibility to do what we need to do. We work with everybody within the law firm; we work with all the different practice groups, we work with the admin, we work with IT. We’re basically universal problem solvers, we're like a Swiss army knife, we have to solve all different types of issues. 

George Socha:

How many lawyers does Thompson & Knight have at this point?

Kevin Clark:

Between 300 and 350. 

George Socha:

Does that mean you've got between 300 and 350 bosses? How do you manage that?

Kevin Clark:

It does, it does. With any law firm you have lots of different bosses. They are our clients. On the other vendor side, who would have clients, whether it be a law firm, whether it be a partner, or whether it be a corporation. It's lots of different clients and each one has their needs and wants and they have specific expectations that we need to make sure that we handle.

George Socha:

I would imagine part of your role inevitably is going to be helping make sure that those lawyers you are working with, those 300 to 350, and then all the support people who work with them have the appropriate resources they need for lit support. And, invariably, they might have different views of appropriate resources than you do. How do you handle that?

Kevin Clark:

Definitely, and that’s just the law of communication. It’s setting expectations, communication. We’re so technology-driven and technology-based that it's working closely with IT. Within any law firm, lit support has to work very closely with IT as well as a lot of the other different departments in practice groups. It's working together, setting expectations, putting plans in place, and then following those plans and making sure that we meet those expectations.

Expanding Lit Support and AI into Knowledge Management

George Socha:

Your remit does not stop at the boundaries of litigation support though, does it? It includes other areas such as knowledge management?

Kevin Clark:

Yes. I'm helping with the knowledge management initiative at our law firm and putting together a knowledge management platform. You actually see this at a lot of different law firms. Our litigation support team deals with technology, we deal directly with attorneys, with documents, with data. Our unique backgrounds allow litigation support and eDiscovery to cross into that area. Modern knowledge management is based on technology and using technology to better be able to find documents, to better be able to get your resources and more quickly locate them and use them, adding efficiencies to the firm. It definitely crosses into this and so this allowed me to be involved with knowledge management initiatives and putting together different platforms. 

George Socha:

To what extent did the techniques and the tools from the eDiscovery side translate over to or become useful in the knowledge management side?

Kevin Clark:

A lot of it is with searches, with analytics, the analytical and search capabilities, the same technology that you may use on a document review to look for the responsive documents that you may need to produce to the other side. The same type of technology and search capabilities would be used within the knowledge management platforms to go find those documents, those resources, that the attorneys would need for their cases.

George Socha:

I imagine that means that to the extent you are rolling out AI capabilities for eDiscovery purposes, you may well be rolling out or be considering rolling out the same or comparable capabilities for knowledge management purposes?

Kevin Clark:

Exactly. There’s a lot of great knowledge management technology out there, and they utilize the same types of AI in analytics. DMSs, certain DMSs - document management systems - have started to add this type of analytics and AI search capabilities within their systems to help you find these documents. You'll see concept searches, you’ll see, not really clustering, but concept searches and finding similar documents. That type of technology is definitely involved now. It's being added to the functionality of these DMSs.

Building the eDiscovery Community in Dallas and Beyond

George Socha:

You, as well as working within the firm, work with folks in other firms and other organizations to build the eDiscovery community, and you've been doing this for quite some time. Why don't you talk with me a little bit about that, about building the eDiscovery community?

Kevin Clark:

Four years ago when I came to Thompson & Knight, I moved from the DC area down to Dallas. One of the first things I did was to reach out to all the different litigation support and eDiscovery directors and managers, the people running these departments in the Dallas area at the major law firms. We started talking and creating a community, meeting quarterly, brainstorming, talking, learning. It's been a great resource for me, for others, within the eDiscovery community at this level at the law firms. I also helped set up the same thing in the DC area, a lot of my old colleagues in DC, talking to them and trying to create that. They've been able to create a similar community. It's been great bouncing off ideas, to learn, to discuss workflows, discuss problems and how people solved them. 

I think one thing about our eDiscovery industry is that it’s an amazing community. That's at different levels, this amazing community. I think you helped create this community back in the day when you create EDRM, and what you created for the legal tech professional a decade ago, 15 years ago. You helped start that community and there've been different organizations that have helped build this community, but it's an amazing community that we have, and I think you helped create that. It's been fun to try and create this little pocket within the Dallas area of directors and managers that we've been able to share. I'm following in your footsteps, trying to create that community.

The Masters Conference

George Socha:

A small community as we are, there are a lot of us now and we don't always know each other as well as we could so that efforts like that I think helps immensely. One of the things that you’ve been involved in for some years now is the Masters Conference. Tell us about your role there, what that is, what you're trying to accomplish.

Kevin Clark:

I've been involved with the Master's Conference for about eight or nine years. It originally started when I was in Washington DC, as I started running the DC conference. When I moved out of Dallas, I helped create a Masters Conference here in Dallas. It's evolved from one conference, a national conference in DC for many years, to more of a regional conference, in-person conference. And over the last year it has evolved from an in-person conference to a virtual conference. 

I've been able to help put content together, help get speakers, helping create a Masters community. We've worked closely with ACEDS and other groups to help build this eDiscovery community.

One project I'm working on right now is a three-session Conference series. It will be a webinar series that we're hoping to put together and do it, start off in March. It's going to be with Masters and ACEDS. We're looking at putting together a three-panel series. The first one will be on health and wellness, the second one will be on career developments, and the third one will be on inclusion and diversity. Health and wellness and career developments, within this quarantine era, this “stay at home, work from home” during this pandemic. I think both of those issues are extremely important to talk about. Stay tuned for more on that. Those are some webinars, some panels we’ll be putting together in the near future. Working with Masters Conference has been really great in helping educate other eDiscovery professionals, share knowledge, but the main thing is the networking and helping build a community.

George Socha:

One of the things that the Masters Conference has had to do this last year, as has ACEDS, as has anybody who is putting out content and who have previously put on in-person conferences, is pivot to online only. How is that transition gone with Masters?

Kevin Clark:

It’s been going well.I think the issue now is some people are tired, they have Zoom fatigue.

George Socha:

You can only go to so many Zoom meetings and only do so many webinars. 

Kevin Clark:

Exactly. I think there's a fine line of trying to put out content, trying to create content, trying to educate, and trying to give resources to the audience. And then the other side is just being a burden, being too much, being counterproductive. It's a fine line of how much you do. The lengths - a traditional conference, each panel will be an hour long. Webinars are typically an hour long, but seems like maybe being shorter would be better, like this session here, eDiscovery Leaders Live, roughly 20 minutes. I think you’ve nailed it, that's a good time limit to have on it so you can keep people's attention.

George Socha:

In addition to being active in the Masters, you’re also active in ACEDS, and especially in your chapter. Tell us a little bit about what have you been doing there?

The ACEDS North Texas Chapter

Kevin Clark:

So similar, it's trying to educate and trying to create that community. Before I discussed the community I've created for eDiscovery and lit support directors and managers, that community, that roundtable we’ve created. This is more creating for the larger community, any legal support, any legal technologist professional and trying to create that community in the Dallas area. The ACEDS chapter was originally called Dallas, but we've actually just changed it to North Texas. We’re trying to be more inclusive and be broader. We want everybody in the entire area, the entire region to join and give them that resource for both education, sharing of knowledge, but also networking. I think networking is so important and one of the main values of ACEDS. 

George Socha:

With the North Texas chapter, you recently put on a showcase which we participated in along with four other eDiscovery software providers. I only have my vantage point into it, but I thought it was an especially successful exercise.Describe it a little bit and then tell me what sort of feedback you’ve gotten.

Kevin Clark:

The model was the first one that was ever done. As you said, we had four different vendors and we walked through a problem, basically a case. The vendors each talked about their technology and how they would solve the problem. We did it on Zoom, and then we did a Zoom breakout room for each of the groups, and then we came back together and talked as a larger group. It went really well. You got to choose which vendor you'd like to see, so you can learn about that technology. Sadly, I was only able to watch one, so I couldn't see the others, but the feedback we got was really good, people really enjoyed the experience. I think different chapters may be doing this more, doing this vendor showcase. The vendors liked it because they could showcase their technology on a problem. They could walk through the audience on how they'd bring a solution to it. It was really hands on. The feedback was great, both from the vendors that got to showcase their technologies and also the audience.

Innovation

George Socha:

You pointed out in an earlier call we had, that the word from 2020 was “Innovation”. Care to expand on innovation in the eDiscovery space?

Kevin Clark:

Innovation in the eDiscovery space, that’s definitely the word of 2020. It's been how to better use the technologies that are there, how to better apply them. The innovation on the technology themselves has not really changed that much. The technology hasn't changed, but it's more how to apply it. Learning how to better apply workflows, learning how to apply better processes, has been a big help in solving problems. As we've gone from working at the law firm to working from home, we've had to better refine our work flows and better refine our processes, and better rely on technologies. Innovation in itself is better applying the technologies and the processes. 

Health and Wellness

George Socha:

Earlier in the discussion you talked about with health and wellness, and how those issues have been accentuated because of the pandemic and from working at home. How are you all dealing with that as an organization, what suggestions do you have for people on that front?

Kevin Clark:

Health and wellness is such a big issue right now, not just within the eDiscovery community, not just within my department at the law firm. It's an issue that the entire country is facing, the entire workforce is facing. I think we need to focus on creating a routine. We have regular meetings that we have to get up for: 9 o'clock in the morning, let's get up and get on this meeting, let’s get out of bed, let's get going. Let’s have regular calls, let’s have team virtual events, happy hours. We have to do stuff to engage and be able to interact because people are getting depressed, people are getting stuck in ruts, they’re becoming more antisocial because they're not really interacting with people. Part of it is setting a routine where you have to get out there virtually and talk and meet and do things.

Exercising or doing activity is so important so we always encourage activities, we encourage exercise, yoga or running or whatever the activity is. That's what we’ll discuss more on the webinar. The main thing is setting a routine and sticking to it. It’s getting up daily and setting a schedule. I think that is such a big step in fighting the depression that's been happening, the lack of focus, this anti-social type of behavior that comes from staying at home all the time, getting stuck at home. It is a great topic and we can talk a lot longer, but my short answer is, get a routine and start to do some activities like yoga or running or some type of exercise.

The Ideal eDiscovery Platform

George Socha:

We just have a few minutes left. I want to turn to one last topic, a question I've asked a number of our guests and I'll pose to you now, which is the ideal eDiscovery platform question. What would your ideal eDiscovery platform look like, assuming absolutely no limitations, technological, financial or any other sort?

Kevin Clark:

I think the main thing is it needs to consolidate different types of data. We have so many data sources - Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, different text message apps, WhatsApp, even now we have sports applications, Strava. I think it would need to consolidate the data. It would have to normalize the data, I think that’s a big thing. Following in the footsteps of the internet of things, where everything is connected, we would need it to be connected and pull together. A lot of times I've heard a comparison to Minority Report. I think in Minority Report you had the ability to use your hand motions to separate the data and throw it to the side. I think some type of hand motion would be pretty amazing. Actually, I think we've seen a lot of different Sci-Fi movies now, futuristic movies, where the user can start sorting through data by hand motions and pulling aside and tossing to the side. I think that would be pretty nice to be able to do that. You could more quickly sort through and grab what you wanted physically, if the machine could capture that.

Something else I think that we really need. Our phones are so powerful, yet a lot of what we have on our phone is not on our workstation, our computers, our laptops, our desktops. More generally, I'd like to see our laptops and desktops mirror some of that technology on our phones. An example is voice recognition. I can be driving and compose email or text with my voice and send an email. Yet sitting at my computer, I still have to type it up. And there is some technology. Twenty years ago, I remember, I used to use Dragon Dictate. You would probably remember that. It’s been around a long time, but it's not really integrated into operating systems, whether it be Apple IOS or Microsoft Windows or some other type of operating system. I'd like to see that voice integration, not only the physical movement be created, but also more voice technology be integrated into operating systems.

George Socha:

So, all data, from everywhere, of all sorts, in a totally hands free interface?

Kevin Clark:

Yes. Yes. And be normalized.

George Socha:

But virtual hands, able to do everything?

Kevin Clark:

Exactly. And also, let me just quickly add. With analytics automatically being applied and AI automatically being applied, or at least being available. Machine learning, I think, is important, the piece where you’d still need to look at the data and train it. I think that looking at the data is important to see what's there or not there. You have to see both sides, you can't just look at all responsive. I think the machine training piece of analytics, of AI-type interface, should still be there, where you have to look at both sides, what’s responsive, what’s not responsive, because that gives you a better understanding of the data, it gives you a better understanding of your case, of the issues at hand. If it was all automated and you’re only looking through responsive docs or responsive data, I think you’d have too narrow a view.

George Socha:

Thank you Kevin. Kevin Clark, is Litigation Support Manager at Thompson & Knight. I am George Socha, this has been eDiscovery Leaders Live, hosted by ACEDS, sponsored by Reveal. Thank you all for joining us today.

Please join us next Friday, January 29, when we talk once again with Wendell Jisa, CEO of Reveal. Thanks again, Kevin.

Kevin Clark:

Hey, thanks George. Thank you everybody.

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