Successful on Purpose: Keith Slyter and His Mobile War Room Command Center

Cover.Know March 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Hard work is not new to Keith Slyter, a litigation paralegal living in Dallas, Texas. A native of Minnesota, Slyter grew up on a dairy farm in a small town called Rose Creek, somewhere near the Mayo Clinic. If it weren’t for the bitter winters and exhausting cold weather, he may still be there today.
     Sylter’s childhood sounds like something right out of the idyllic American dream. This 43 year-old, easy-going guy with good core family values learned first-hand that if you want to reach your goals, you’re going to have to depend on yourself.
     Moving to Texas and becoming a paralegal, Sylter moved through the usual litigation paralegal jobs until last year, he struck out on his own to open the first Mobile Paralegal Services business.  An interesting and useful concept that I expect will turn out wildly successful.
    As Slyter sought avenues to expand his career, a plan began to take shape.  "What if I started a business for small and midsize firms to offer the services of a full-time paralegal without having to pay for a full-time paralegal?" says Slyter. 
      "As the plan developed, I came across a common problem of smaller firms:  Where do you physically put the employees and how do you put them on the network? What if you had a mobile litigation command war room at trial? This could be a huge benefit.
     Normally, you lease a war room. Wouldn’t it be great to have a mobile command center so you can get as close as you possibly can to the courthouse? A war room could normally be in a hotel maybe five blocks away. Now, I’m in the command center as close as we can get to the trial. I have a high speed copier , computer and office equipment. The work is right there."
     Starting his business, Slyter has been an instant hit with obtaining much more work than he anticipated.  "When the attorney is going back in to trial, you can be filing whatever documents you need. It saves time and money in getting the documents filed.”
     Today, his growing business is steadily adding clients. His fees are all inclusive. There are no extra charges for copies, scanning or whatever else needs to be done. Up to 12 people can fit into in the mobile command center that is usually 40 feet long, 8 feet wide with the pop-up. Realistically, Sylter can comfortably hold six people on laptops. They can tie into the main server or operate off the network.
     “I hire senior level paralegals with heavy litigation experience. It’s more than a contractor/temp agency because we’re offering the benefit of state-of-the-art technology,” he says.
     Is he worried about competition? Not particularly. “I will out service them,” Slyter says confidently. “My service is where I will shine – on demand. The competition can under price us but in these situations, it’s all about service,” he says. 
     His
entrepreneurial lifestyle has improved his family life. Married with two boys, 4 and 7, Slyter now gets more quality time with them. “After the boys go to bed, I can wake up at 2:00 am, get up and type it out. I’m there to pick up my boys in the afternoons. This whole scene has had such a positive effect on my family life that I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner,” Slyter says.
|     As for the inevitable question of where do you want to be in five years? “I have to be working towards putting units into major markets, working with entrepreneurs and setting them up,” says Slyter. 
     For those thinking of making a transition to entrepreneur, Slyter has some words of wisdom. “Over plan,” he says. “Try to overfund it as much as possible with lots of reserves. Talk with a lot of your potential customers to see what the honest-to-goodness target market is. You need to get at least 5- 10 people you know who will tell you the truth. Ask for the business. Even before you start.”

For more information, visit
www.litigationparalegals. net or send an e-mail to
kslyter@litigationparalegals.net.



 

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It's Lookin' Good for Real Estate Litigation Paralegals

Joyful man David Netzer of Litigation Support Careers is our guest blogger today:

We all read conflicting reports regarding employment – but what is the real story? 

 

At present, the market stretches to both ends. At one end, some companies are hiring while others are in the middle of a hiring freeze and at the other end, are continued layoffs.  A company may issue a press-release announcing a positive outlook while the annual report of that same firm is showing us grim news.  The reality is that various companies will always be growing or shrinking in any economy due to a variety of internal and external factors such as management, financing activities, legal issues, and even the success (or failure) of their clients.

 

By analyzing the variety of positions actually posted by companies on job boards such as LitigationSupportCareers.com over the last six months, we have identified a few legal arena employment trends. This is an effective way to determine what is happening at law firms, corporations, and litigation support agencies because companies do not typically pay to advertise vacancies unless they are ready to make a hire for an approved position.

 

We have witnessed quite a few openings for Litigation Paralegals in the Real Estate sector.  The flood of openings is primarily due to the massive number of foreclosures and short-sale situations that have occurred since the ‘burst” of the housing bubble.  Corporate Litigation Paralegal jobs have opened up at banks, mortgage servicers, and quasi-federal agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help manage massive case-loads.  Law firms have also hired a hefty volume of Litigation Paralegals to assist with cases they are handling on behalf of banks along with counsel to homeowners facing foreclosure. 

 

Generally speaking, for the past several years, law firm Partners have just been talking about bringing eDiscovery expertise in-house.  However, we have definitely noticed a trend in the creation of these new departments over the last six to twelve months.   Recently, law firms have been hiring Litigation Support Analysts,  Lit Support Specialists and other related positions such as eDiscovery Specialist and Documentation Specialist.  Most positions require strong technical skills such as a working-knowledge of document management applications, discovery (search) technologies and various review platforms, as well as general understanding of document collection and preservation.

 

Last, but not least, there has been a recent upswing in the number of Sales and Project Management roles advertised by litigation support vendors.  These positions provide services including electronic discovery, court reporting, facilities management, consulting, and software. 

 

Sales Executives are usually among the first to be laid-off once a company experiences a decrease in revenues. In most cases, the sales crew is paid high salaries and do not directly contribute to the day-to-day operations of a business.  Now that companies are gleaning the light at the end of the tunnel, they want to get their Business Development staff in front of potential clients. Subsequently, we have seen a significant increase in the number of Sales Executive jobs posted on the net.  Project Management postings are on the rise also, which means these firms plan to have more business than they can handle with their current staff and need to augment the workforce with more employees to maintain quality customer service.

 

David Netzer has been an Executive Recruiter for several years in the litigation support sector, and is the founder of a job board dedicated to the litigation support industry located at www.LitigationSupportCareers.com.

 


"The Data Boom: Can Law Firms Profit?"

Yeah, oh, yeah! Read how in this Legal Technology article about how MoFo responded when a small client was hit with a huge discovery request:

"In the fall of 2005, a small Israeli technology startup came to San Francisco's Morrison & Foerster with a lawsuit -- and, soon enough, a problem.

[snip]

"The stakes weren't particularly high -- just a few million dollars. But after the case was filed, the defendant hit back with an electronic discovery request -- every relevant e-mail, Microsoft Word file, spreadsheet, you name it -- so onerous that its cost alone would take a fair chunk of any judgment.

"'We saw that it was going to take several hundred thousand dollars to do this,' says Oz Benamram, director of knowledge management and Israel practice counsel at MoFo. In fact, there was nothing terribly unique about this situation. As more correspondence and information is stored electronically, e-discovery is requiring more time, and more dollars, than ever before.

"What was different was MoFo's solution. Realizing that the standard way of reviewing documents -- having teams of associates, or lower-priced contract attorneys, sift through anything that could be relevant, deciding what was responsive and had to be turned over, and what was privileged and needed to be kept -- wasn't going to cut it, the firm suggested a radical approach: automate almost everything."

Be sure to read the PROFIT CENTER? section at the very end of this article.


Houston's State-of-the-Art Electronic Data Discovery Lab

Ths news sounds wonderful doesn't it? I'd sure like to take a tour!

"UHY Advisors today announced the opening of its newly constructed electronic data discovery lab, a state-of-the-art facility for processing large volumes of electronic evidence and conducting sophisticated computer forensics investigations, at a secure location in downtown Houston.

"The lab is unique for its flexibility to be used for both high-volume electronic data discovery -- including data processing, culling with search terms, de-duplication and file conversion -- and complex digital forensics activities. The facility is  [PDF] secured with biometric locks and the evidence storage 'vault' is also secured with advanced motion detectors."


Paralegal Now Lit Support Company Project Manager

News of staff additions at TDCI (Technology Concepts and Design, Inc), shows how to use paralegal skills to advance into a different kind of job:

"TCDI®, a market leader in Litigation Technology, announces the addition of five new employees. These additions help TCDI focus on further improving the quality of services provided to clients and highlight the continued development of TCDI in large-scale electronic discovery and litigation case management solutions.

[snip]

"Melissa Sorrell joins TCDI as a Project Manager where she is responsible for day-to-day management, reporting, and coordination for several TCDI projects. She previously worked for Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, P.L.L.C. in Winston-Salem as a Litigation Paralegal. Sorrell received her B.S., magna cum laude, from East Carolina University."


ALM Event: Trial Tactics & Technology

Hey, the name alone, T3, makes me want to attend this ALM event. An then there's that ediscovery mock trial:

"The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and Law Technology News, together with ALM Events, present T3: Trial Tactics & Technology.

"T3 will be held in Chicago on May 31, 2007. Due to high demand, it will also be presented in London and New York City in November 2007."


"Cognition Launches New Linguistic Search Engine"

This new search engine could be very helpful for litigation support paralegals:

"Every searcher's fear is that a search will produce too little of what you want or too much of what you don't want. And, even if you get a nice collection of the right stuff, is it all the right stuff out there or does it omit things you need to see? In technical terms, does your search strategy balance precision and recall effectively? Linguistic and semantic search engines have long held out the promise of helping computers "understand" concepts, rather than just search for terms. Cognition Technologies has launched CognitionSearch [PDF link], a linguistic search engine that supports ontology, morphology, and synonymy, tapping one of the world's largest computational dictionaries. Initially, the company will market a vertical enterprise service for legal litigation support and for life science and health research. It also offers an open Web service to demonstrate the technology as applied to MEDLINE and PubMed content, to judicial and legislative sources, and to political blog content." [Emphasis added.]

Find more info about the company & its products here.


"E-Lawyering Requires Rethinking Technology and Law"

Great article about the new federal discovery rules, describing these changes in an understandable, even humorous way:

"This changes everything."

"Those three words, wafting on the familiar, buoyant tones of the actor saying them, have staying power. No survivor of the dot-com boom of the 1990s could forget William Shatner's ubiquitous ads on behalf of a certain online travel company.

"Indeed, online booking did change the travel industry. When was the last time anyone had a paper ticket, or called a human travel agent just to check flight times? Buyers and sellers of books, music and news all have seen the same cataclysm in their business models -- a subtle but certain shift from dialing a phone number or visiting a store to signing in, logging on and clicking a mouse.

"And, in fact, e-commerce lawyers are included in this migration to technology. Just as e-commerce has disrupted the travel, music, book and news retailing industries, the influence of technology on business and the law has also wrought havoc on our legal system. [Emphasis added.] Certainly, the law has always had to adapt specific rules for new technology.

"Today, the pervasive role that technology has assumed in business and legal practice, as more and more of our daily lives are lived online, provides a more fundamental challenge to how attorneys practice business law. In an age when 'paper file' has become an anachronism and an oxymoron, business law and the way it is practiced have required more than just tinkering with particular rules."

Author Stanley P. Jaskiewicz, a business lawyer, helps clients solve e-commerce, corporate, contract and technology-law problems, and is a member of the Board of Editors of Internet Law & Strategy \'s sibling newsletter, E-Commerce Law & Strategy.


Five Strategies Key to Reducing Litigation Costs

Yay! Having several methods for cutting the costs of litigation is good news indeed:

"Smoking-gun documents and emails have been at the heart of the world's best known corporate legal battles, but the risks of information in litigation have suddenly grown with new U.S. Federal guidelines for e-discovery. How can companies get a handle on the exploding volume of online content to better address the costs and risks of litigation? Open Text Corporation (NASDAQ: OTEX, TSX: OTC), a leading provider of software that helps companies manage their growing stores of emails and documents, today released a list of five key technology strategies for litigation and e-discovery readiness that can help companies be as prepared in the courtroom as in the boardroom.

[snip]

"Open Text Executive Vice President Bill Forquer [scroll down for bio] sees some advantages in the new rules. 'Certainly, there are new risks and new challenges but the amendments add clarity. They create a sense of urgency and a mandate for companies to have good information management practices in their organizations.'

[snip]

"According to Forquer, these five key strategies can make all the difference:

"Define defensible policies: Map the governing regulations and internal requirements to the process of identifying what email or document constitutes a record. What is and isn't a record? How long should a record be kept or how long must it be kept? Does it need to be stored on a specific media? Kept in a specific location? Do your policies take into account metadata associated with records?"

Above is just one of the five outlined....


"Six Hard-Learned Lessons About EDD"

New court opinion reminds both law firms & clients "to focus on e-discovery early in litigation":

"With the long-anticipated revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure having only recently come into effect, the sense of uncertainty that has historically surrounded electronic discovery promises to linger. While the bar will watch with keen interest as the courts begin the slow process of interpreting and applying these new rules, a recent opinion, In re NTL, Inc. Securities Litigation [PDF file; Nos. 02-Civ.-3013, -7377, 2007 WL 241344 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 30 2007)]. serves as a pointed reminder that basic issues of electronic discovery practice continue to trip up even large and sophisticated litigants.

"The case also supplies some useful lessons for those who remain befuddled by discovery in the digital age. Although the problems presented by the need to retain, collect, review and produce electronically stored information can draw attorneys into unfamiliar technological territory, In re NTL teaches that the fundamentals of discovery practice that apply in all contexts -- such as planning ahead, searching broadly, being forthright with the court and adversaries and closely monitoring subordinates and clients -- have not been displaced but, on the contrary, have only assumed increasing importance in the era of electronic discovery." [Emphasis added.]