Legal cases often result in piles and piles of documents, discoveries, and ongoing meetings with opposing counsel. Having a big team helps organize it all, but often small litigation firms don’t have them. In early 2015, lawyer-turned-tech-geek, Jeff Kerr envisioned a way to put all of those important documents and ongoing meetings in one place. He, with co-founders Greg Curtis and Hunter Clarke, created CaseFleet, a legal case management system that helps move lawyers into the 21st Century.
Hypepotamus sat with Kerr, the CEO of CaseFleet, to discuss the startup and e-discovery, the process of finding electronic data. A growing issue among companies (think Sony’s hacked emails), Kerr shares how data may serve as evidence in legal cases and why you should type smart while at work.
You were a litigator in a former life. How did you translate your experience as a lawyer into what you’re doing with CaseFleet?
My litigation practice is the inspiration for everything we’re doing at CaseFleet right now. I was 1 of 2 managing partners in a firm that I started just after law school, and so I became very familiar with the needs of small litigation firms, having experienced all those things myself. We’re trying to solve these problems in a more effective way for businesses like my own. When I was practicing, again developing software applications for my own firm, I soon realized that in order to really do that seriously, I’d need to do it as a full-time job.
What type of products do you guys provide to your startups?
CaseFleet is intended to be a complete solution for small litigation firms. There’s a great deal of power from having a variety of tools all under the same roof. What we give people right now consists of a tool for tracking all the evidence in a case and how that evidence is going to be used to prove the particular facts that you have to prove. That lives alongside the tools you use for invoicing your clients, managing your trust account, maintaining a data base of contacts. You’re going to be much more efficient if you don’t have to jump from one application to the other a bunch of different times during the course of the day.
What legal issues can entrepreneurs run into using various communication tools?
Entrepreneurs tend to use a lot of different tools for communicating with one another. Just thinking of my own team, there are chat flows within Google Documents, we communicate on Slack, we send each other emails from time to time, we also use Basecamp, so there’s no one place to look if you wanted to do our communications. In the enterprise world, it’s referred to as information governance, trying to have some sort of system of where different kinds of information go and how long information is kept in a particular domains.
These things become bigger problems if they’re regulatory issues that dictate how long you have to keep things, but it can become serious for any business if there’s ever litigation, which is what I did at my last job. I was a litigator. As soon as there is notice of potential litigation, then a business has a duty to preserve any things that could be counted as evidence in that litigation. For a startup that would definitely include things that are in Slack and Basecamp and, you name it, any of the dozens of tools that most startups use.
What recommendations do you have for fellow entrepreneurs to prepare for such a possibility?
My main recommendation is just to think about the fact that whatever you put into Slack or Basecamp or any tool ever, is not likely to be deleted unless you try really hard to delete it, and could very well end up being used as evidence in a legal proceeding.
In every single case that I was involved in, people wrote things down that didn’t sound very good when they were later used as exhibits and depositions and things like that. Type smart.
Where is the future going for both your current efforts as a startup, as well as, as a whole with lawyers using a product like yours?
One of our biggest goals is to give lawyers and small firms the ability to do e-discovery in their cases. That’s a product that we have been working on for some time that’s not out yet. It’s a biggest project for us and what we’d like to facilitate is the much wider adoption of e-discovery practices in the legal profession. Not only the wider adoption, but the affordable adoption because one of the main complaints about e-discovery is that it’s been very expensive for lawyers to do e-discovery. There’s a very big industry of e-discovery consultants and vendors who often charge very astronomical amounts. There are cases where bigger businesses have spent over $1 million on a vendor to deal with electronic evidence. In most cases, that’s just not necessary and we think that attorneys themselves, with the right training and tools, can do all or nearly all of the work that’s required.
Why is it important to hire a lawyer familiar with e-discovery?
I’d say for entrepreneurs who are hiring lawyers, and most entrepreneurs do have to hire lawyers at some point, there’s a lot to be said for looking for lawyers who have technical skills so they understand your language. It’s also going to be advantageous to you in a variety of other ways. Work can be done more efficiently and if there’s ever litigation, you want a lawyer who understands e-discovery.