Thursday, May 10, 2018
Relativity Fest London was held last week (1 May 2018) and as a Relativity Master I always benefit from attending these events to stay abreast of new software updates, and of course, to attain some of the continuing education credits that keep my Relativity certifications current. However, this year I was delighted, when, Cheryl Moretti of the UK Women in eDiscovery Chapter asked me to speak on a panel of fellow Women in eDiscovery who have paved careers in the legal technology industry.
I will be honest to say that part of me doesn’t want to be known as a “woman” in eDiscovery. I’m a Relativity Master, who draws my expertise from my nearly 20 years in the eDiscovery industry, from both a law firm and service provider perspective and who has consulted on and shaped some of the landmark eDiscovery cases, such as Pyrrho. Oh, and yes, I’m a woman.
As it turns out, in the session right before our Panel which was entitled “RelativityOne: Your Secure Cloud Solution,” my mind drifted for a moment, and I realised that I was in the company of mostly men. I did a quick head count and realised that in a room of nearly 150 people, only 15 of us were women. Here is a photo I took from the back of the room during the Closing Keynote and if you look closely, the ratio of men to women does stand out.
In an industry that has attracted far more men than women, I thought maybe there is more significance in a group of successful women getting together and sharing our stories than I had first thought. And what a group it was!
The Panel was coordinated by Relativity and the Women in eDiscovery London Chapter [www.womeninediscovery.org/London] who invited both male and female attendees to bring their lunch, listen to us chat and to ask questions.
The panel was moderated by Karimah Campbell of Women in eDiscovery who’s day job is as a Forensic Technology practitioner. As she went around the group asking us to introduce ourselves, it dawned on me that I was in the company of some outstandingly successful women. What a privilege! Gráinne Bryan, an industry veteran, was first to tell her impressive story of round-the-clock review and being a pioneer eDiscover-er in Ireland. Relativity’s Amanda Fennell was next to introduce herself and how she made her way to her role as Chief Security Officer. Another Relativian on our panel was Melina Efstathiou who spoke about her transition from criminal law into eDiscovery via a tri-lingual document review. My background, similar to many in eDiscovery, is that I “fell into” the industry, and found my way working up the ranks over the last 18 years, starting with my law firm days of manually shuffling paper disclosure documents to form a chronology, through the days of scanning millions of paper files, to managing terabytes of electronic data, which has led me to my current role as eDiscovery Consultant and Relativity Master at Advanced Discovery. Aime Taal, was next to introduce herself, and to me was truly inspirational, telling us the story of how she bravely decided to leave an executive role and 6 figure salary at a large firm to go into business for herself.
Indeed, I was in the company of great women, but more importantly, great people who worked hard to get to where they are now and are clearly successful at what they do. During the open discussion with the audience, we were also directed to talk about our firms’ approach to diversity. I was proud to personally speak of our UK Advanced Discovery team who recently tallied as 60% female. However, importantly, Amanda and I both discussed the importance of hiring the right people for any role.
Uniquely Female Challenges and Super Powers
The next discussion could have also been entitled “Babies and Multitasking” which for many are the unique challenges and superpowers held by women, especially in a predominantly male industry. Those of us with children were asked to share some insight into how we have managed to balance starting a family, taking maternity leave, and raising small humans whilst succeeding at what is often a 24/7 job. The consensus? It’s not easy! But the ability to multi-task, whilst a sweeping generalisation, is a common Super Power that many women have.
I was also prompted by Karen to talk about the trip I made during maternity leave that resulted in my full time working husband and 4-month old daughter flying from London to Chicago with me so that I could attend Relativity Fest. The baby had a great time; however, I had an exceptionally hectic 3 days! Interestingly I was not the only new Mum with a young baby at Relativity Fest that year.
Come from a Place of Yes!
As our time was ending, we were asked to share our best piece of career advice. For me, it is to always “come from a place of yes!” Meaning that, to succeed in life and your career, positivity is the key. Look at challenges and opportunities and believe in your ability. I was once given the opportunity to re-build our Relativity infrastructure which at the time was a very daunting task. I accepted the challenge resulting in a substantial cost saving and performance increase in our Relativity environment. My background is not in IT, so this opportunity gave me the foundation to then pass my Relativity Infrastructure Exam which I used to become one of the first Relativity Masters in Europe.
From a client service perspective, whilst it is not always the right thing to say “yes” to every client request (such as a request to print a bunch of emails then using scissors and tape, split an email chain into singular emails), it is in the blood of any eDiscovery Consultant to find a solution to even the toughest problems. Come from a place of yes and see what can be achieved, find new solutions, add value and receive happy clients.
The Big Picture
It was a privilege to spend a moment discussing the “Road to eDiscovery” with this panel of pioneering women, who are clearly the best “people” for their respective jobs, have successfully weathered the unique challenges that women face to being the minority in an industry filled with mostly men. It was impressive to hear and to speak of our wins and successes, as well as how our respective firms are removing barriers to hiring diverse teams. I look forward to seeing more fellow women at Relativity and Litigation Technology Events in the years to come.
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