Simplify for Success - Conversation with Kevin Clark
Kevin Clark, who manages Information Governance at Thompson Knight was on Simplify for Success, a podcast series presented by Meru Data and hosted by Priya Keshav to discuss IG programs within law firms. He shared how pilot projects help to validate the goals of the program and get buy-in for the program. He felt an approach that focused on improving specific parts in a complex process has been helpful in simplification, especially in law firms where it is important to carefully manage change.
Thank you to Fesliyan Studios for the background music.
Listen to the full podcast below:
*Views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the view of Meru Data.*
Hello everyone, welcome to our podcast around simplifying for success. Simplification requires discipline and clarity of thought. This is not often easy in today's rapid-paced work environment. We've invited a few colleagues in data and information governance space to share their strategies and approaches for simplification.
Today, we will be talking with Kevin Clark. Kevin provides technical and business management expertise for litigation support team at Thompson & Knight. He consults on eDiscovery, information privacy, and data security and governance for the attorneys and clients. Kevin has extensive experience in all aspects of e-discovery, from data collection to production.
Kevin is currently on the Masters Conference advisory board and is a Vice President of ASIS, North Texas chapter. He is also involved in the Sedona Conference working on defensibility of the process with Working Group One. Kevin has also served as a Co-chair of the DC Bar Education section steering committee. He's a project management professional, 6 Sigma Greenbelt and a certified e-discovery specialist, and a CIPP, US. He serves on the Advisory Board for his alma mater, Kent College of Law's E-Discovery Institute, and has provided pro bono representation to veterans at the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He's received his JD in 2000 and is an active member of the bar in Texas, Illinois, and the district of Columbia, as well as a solicitor in England and Wales.
Hi Kevin, welcome to the show.
Good morning, how are you doing today?
Very good. You had many years of experience in developing and implementing enterprise-wide IG programs. How do you build a business case for IG?
So, that's a great question. In most law firms, it is an uphill struggle to bring change to the law firm. So this is across the board, whether it's covering practices and processes, whether it's covering perceptions and attitudes or structural change, it’s just difficult to bring change to the law firm. So, it's the same with respect to technology and to bring in an IG program, that includes if we're automating firm or department workflows, or if we're trying to increase efficiencies with technologies, it's still an uphill battle. The difficulties for several reasons I found, you know, law firms are typically, slow to change. As it is in attorneys’, it's in their nature to look at the past and follow precedents. During law school they're trained to follow the past and look at present, so it's ingrained in how they think.
Also, many lawyers are traditionally have not been technologists. So, a lot of times they don't want to embrace technology or they're slower to embrace technology. So, the most effective way I found in building a business case is to first identify the problem and properly articulate it. With respect to IG, it's identifying the issue with IG, the dangers, the risk. Once you've identified a well-articulated problem, I’ve found its best next to accept a goal, which is to bring a solution to the problem you identified. The solution may be a better process or a better-defined procedure. In my area, it is usually identifying a better technology that can help be deployed to solve the problem.
Now, to identify a potential solution, the next step is to identify a major stakeholder or multiple stakeholders. These stakeholders will become your champions that can help you drive your project forward. I found it is best to next identify a focus group to test the product in a pilot test. The pilot test will provide you with feedback and you can then share that feedback with the stakeholders and the champions. Once the stakeholders and champions have this feedback, I think that they typically have become stronger champions for the project, because the feedback typically validates what your goal is, it validates the solution, so they'll be much more enthused to push it forward in the law firm. At that point, we would go into negotiations, migrations or technical hurdles with implementing the data or start implementing the solution.
The last major hurdle would be adoption, although you've identified and maybe implemented an amazing solution, you still need the partners and associates to adopt the use of the solution and this often time is the biggest hurdle. This is done, you know, how do you get adoption? How do you get people to use the solution or follow the new procedure, use the technology? This is typically done with several simultaneous methods, usually a group, large group introduction and large group trainings but simultaneously doing some one-on-one personalized trainings. Attorneys are very different and to assist in the adoption, a lot of times you have to meet with them one-on-one. And it could take a long time to get adoption.
So, you know, you brought up a lot of points, right? Very important points because they're true with law firms and attorneys, but they're true with corporations too. You have to set expectations and some corporations are open to change and others are not. Adoption is always tough, so how do you, especially with IG, with privacy, with security, you know you're dealing with cultural change, you're dealing with practical changes, you're also asking people to change the way they do things and, in some ways, the benefits are there for them, but more so for the companies, right? Or for the law firms.
So, how do you set expectations that, like it's a change, and while it sounds difficult right now, first of all, it takes time to show results. Second, the results are actually beneficial for both you and the entire organization. What are some of the tips or tricks that you kind of implement your workplace to sort of get that, buy-in and in setting expectations for change.
So, the timetables are oftentimes set by the urgency and the necessity of the implementation and adoption of the product. Meaning, oftentimes, the product will be end of life. So that we're going to have to get a new product to replace it and so there's going to be a drop-dead date on that product. So, that's typically the easier way to set expectations around the timeline, because you have a drop-dead date, this product is going to be end of life in May 2021, so we have four months to implement this new solution and replace this old product. But oftentimes, the product may be just improvement on your workflow or on your process. The technology may just be trying to make a better mousetrap. For those situations, it’s definitely harder to set expectations and timelines because you're gonna, as I mentioned before, you're gonna have push back, you're gonna have inertia and push back on the implementation of the change.
And so, at that point, I think it's so important to make sure that your stakeholders and your champions are involved. And they're helping back you up and helping enforce the deadline. It's important to set deadline and make it clear, set it well in advance, provide all the necessary support and training and make sure that basically, just be clear. But with your stakeholders or champions involved and with their backing, you can help fight against the pushback and the inertia that you're going to get with bringing change into the law firm.
So how do you simplify the program for your stakeholders as well as for those who sort of have to comply. Essentially, there are two ways to simplify: one is to break it down into parts to reduce the complexity. The other is to sort of choose a completely innovative way to execute, and you mentioned something very unique about lawyers, which is they are used to sort of thinking about precedents and sort of reacting based on what happened in the past, not necessarily think about what happens in the future.
So, I guess, maybe it's easier to do the first one than the later, but how do you sort of introduce an innovative way to execute something? So, you know, first of all, would you choose one over the other predominantly or is it even a choice or sometimes you have to implement both?
What are your thoughts on that?
Right. Yes, this is an interesting question, and I don't think that it has to be an either-or question, I think that they can go hand in hands. It's always best practice, I think, to break down a problem and try to reduce its complexity to find a solution. So, I think, more of it that's the sort of best practice to of how to look at a problem, how to help you overcome it? So, reduce it, try to make it more simple, simplify it. And, I think, then once you simplify it, you could then look at new or innovative ways to bring a solution to the problem.
So, I think, it's more of a step, step one simplify it, try to reduce the complexity. Step two, identify new and innovative ways to execute the same task or how to make it more efficient. You also brought up a good point about the attorneys, what I had mentioned before about attorneys being slow to change. So, If I am able to look at the problem, reduce its complexity, better articulate it, I think it's easier to have them listen and be willing to accept an innovative way to address the problem. And it doesn't always necessarily need to be through technology. It can also be just through process or through people, sometimes it’s people in process. I'm sure you've heard of our industry is made of three areas of people, process, technology, and all three of those components are so important. So there's always not just one technological solution sometimes, it's a process solution, or some people solution.
So, can you share some examples of how you've simplified in the past?
So, a recent example is that it's related to IG, but it's regarding docketing. So, we have recently brought in a new docketing software into our firm. And we had various processes utilized by the different practice groups across the firm. The different groups had their different steps and methods that they used to the docket and so we had to go through and basically audit all the practice groups’ workflows and identify the similarities and differences within their work, within their processes. And through doing that, we then developed a common and general and simplified workflow on which we could then base our standard workflow that we were going to set up for this newest technology.
So, in looking at all the different workflows across the firm's practice groups, we identified the core pieces that were necessary and important. And we built a standard and normalized workflow on which then two based the technology. We then brought into software and based it on this normalized workflow and then that allowed a common process for the docketing process within the law firm.
So again, going back to your question before, you know, we looked at simplifying it, reducing the complexity, identifying the common and core pieces in that process, and then bringing the innovative technology to bear and setting up the process into that technology.
Makes sense and you also mentioned something which is, couple of things, one is people, process and technology, they go together, and, in this case, you mentioned that you first simplified the process then you brought in technology.
So, which leads me to my question, what role does technology play in building these IG programs? How have you leveraged technology to solve some of these problems? And of course, your thoughts specific to technology in terms of, you know, what helps and what doesn't?
Right, so it definitely depends on the problem. Sometimes again, as I mentioned, sometimes we need to look at the people in the process. But for IG, a lot of times it is process and technology, the process and technology has to be there for successful IG implementation. There's a lot of amazing DMS is out there right now, and the DMS are getting better and better. DMS being Data Management Software and Document Management Software and it's, you know, for using a DMS as an example, in looking at the capabilities of the software. In looking at the functionality, you can then look at the different workflow points that you can set up in place to create a strong process.
You know, as you look at the different functionalities, you need to identify what functionality would best work within your workflow. What functionality would best bring a solution to your firm? And what people would adopt? Some of the greatest functionalities and the greatest capabilities of software might not be utilized, they might not be ever adopted, and so you also kind of need to identify that. Maybe the latest and greatest technology isn't the best for your firm because it might not actually be adopted.
So, in a way, it's sometimes looking at your problem, look at the possible solutions and then in deciding the possible solution what could fit for your firm, not maybe what the best solution is out there on the market. What could fit within your firm made within the budget, maybe within the potential for a successful adoption, maybe from a technological infrastructure standpoint, what system do you have in place? What systems do you have in place already, and how hard would it be to migrate? How hard would it be to update and integrate those different technologies.
So, what are some of the biggest challenges, I mean, you mentioned this at the beginning for the first question, you know, you brought up a few hurdles that you faced. But in your mind, what are some of the biggest challenges that you faced when implementing an IG program and how do you overcome some of these challenges?
So, the biggest challenges that I've faced, I've seen other face are that many times the attorneys don't see the need or the benefit of the solution you were trying to bring. This is generalizing, but many attorneys have a mindset that we've been successful in the past with how we've done things, so why do we need a change? Why do we need to bring a solution? I don't really, truly see a problem I see maybe a cost for this technology, or I see a loss of efficiency is I have to learn a new process.
So again, this is generalizing, but a lot of times the attorneys don't want change or are slow to change, they're gonna give you pushback or there's just going to be an inertia to change. And again, it's a mindset as I mentioned before, it's a mindset that I think starts probably in law school. We, as attorneys, are ingrained to follow precedents and naturally, humans are so detained we don't want to change, so I definitely get it.
A few ways to overcome these challenges I found again are showing the value through comparative examples. Sometimes that's looking at other law firms, look at whether this law firm's done, look at how they've implemented it, and let's talk to some of their attorneys and they're willing to share why they think it's better. Sometimes, it's definitely working closely with the vendors or the service providers in having them help explain and educate. But also it goes back to the original question, it's building that strong business case, it's finding that champion, it’s finding the stakeholders, it's doing a pilot and getting that data and that feedback from your team to show why this is better and why it works.
Now specifically with IG, the ROI is sometimes hard to show. And maybe not just financial ROI but ROI, just with your data security, you're mitigating the risk of data being leaked or breached. Yeah, if there's an incident or breach, you know, maybe if you have IG processes in place and you're taking care of your data better, it's compartmentalized better. You minimize some of the risk within an incident or data breached of something leaving, because if there is a data breach, maybe it's compartmentalized where the bad actors have not, cannot get access to it. So that's just an example of a real life type of an ROI that's not financial at the first level. But it's definitely return on your investment for the risk mitigation.
So it's, you know, the IG, it's definitely hard to show ROI, it's definitely hard to have attorneys proactively want to engage in better document hygiene. A lot of times if they've done something the same way, and they've never had an issue with it. Like again, the inertia and they are going to make that pushback to avoid change and I think many of those that are in my seats that have been trying to do this probably have the same or similar thoughts. It's an interesting challenge that we face and I'd love to hear other people's thoughts too. So I'm excited to listen to some more of your podcasts as you address these great issues.
No, I agree. You have some really great points that you're making right. I was just reading something about Equifax, right? So obviously the CISO who came in and sort of implemented the program post breach was kind of talking about how it's much, much, much easier for you to sort of establish why you need to make an investment in security, why you need to sort of do the things that you need to do post breach after you have suffered some very great consequences, but you know, before that, to prove that it is needed and also to make a case for the fact that of course, now that you have done this, this is not this is going to make it more secure as it's harder, you know, especially because it's not directly attributable to here's your bottom line and you have saved so much money so.
Exactly, there's definitely a large ROI, it's maybe just several layers down and maybe a breach, a bad action has to happen, and we don't want this bad actions to happen, we don't want those incidents to happen.
So, it's so important.
Law firms and legal departments are being faced to so many challenges right now. Just yesterday there was a report of a large AmLaw 10 law firm being breached. It seems like it was a minor incident, I don't know what specifically that means a minor incident, but I think any breach would be a major incident. But law firms and legal departments, you know within corporations are facing these issues and proper IG will definitely help mitigate and help prepare for these types of scenarios.
Great insights and great thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to participate in our podcast.
Thanks a lot, Kevin.
Well, thank you for havingme. It's been great to catch up with you and I look forward to hearing more about this great topic and thank you very much.