Exterro, a provider of Legal GRC software for in-house legal teams, recently named legal discovery expert and technologist Jenny Hamilton as General Counsel. It’s an interesting hire since Hamilton was the former head of the e-discovery team at John Deere (“nothing runs like a Deere”), a Fortune 100 company. John Deere is a longtime customer of Exterro.


It’s interesting since Hamilton spent a lot of time evaluating competing e-discovery products in her role at John Deere. She ultimately became familiar with and selected Exterro’s technology suite as its chief e-discovery tool. So she brings a unique familiarity and perspective as a customer of Exterro and is an e-discovery process expert. I was able to chat recently with Hamilton about her new position, the discovery market, and market trends in general.

Hamilton started her career selling computers at Gateway. (Some of you may remember Gateway, the South Dakota company that revolutionized the online sale of personal computers. I still have one, although it is long past its prime). One of Hamilton’s main concerns then—and now—was the compatibility of hardware and software with other systems and products. As Hamilton discovered, things have to work together for work to get done.


Subsequently, Hamilton was hired by John Deere in 2006. She was tasked with leading Deere’s compliance with the at that time new federal rule requirements for e-discovery. Like many companies at that time, Deere was looking at what appeared to be a monumental compliance task. Hamilton figured out early on that one key e-discovery issue for Deere-like other companies-was preservation. She told me that while other parts of e-discovery compliance can be outsourced, it’s pretty hard, especially at that time, to outsource preservation.


Another smart move by Hamilton: she brought into her team a business analyst with an IT background. He helped analyze the necessary e-discovery workflows from a business process perspective. The analyst also helped in the selection of vendors to assist Deere with its discovery preservation issues. This process led Hamilton to Exterro. Hamilton concluded that the Exterro tools focused on the workflow and process that she and her analyst wanted to implement. From this, Hamilton’s and Deere’s relationship with Exterro grew.


To succeed, vendors have to offer tools that paralegals, lawyers, and legal professionals can easily use.


Hamilton told me that she learned the inherent problems that develop when “buyers are really the users of the tools [selected].” To succeed, vendors have to offer tools that paralegals, lawyers, and legal professionals can easily use. Valuable advice and perspective that’s all too often not recognized, especially by law firms.


Not surprisingly, Hamilton believes Exterro understands the industry and the converging tasks that are confronting corporate America. Issues like privacy, compliance, and cybersecurity. Hamilton believes that these issues are addressed all too often by siloed groups. Groups that often don’t talk to each other much. But, says Hamilton, e-discovery tools can be efficiently and effectively applied to all these issues and serve to break down the silos.


As Hamilton recognized from her days at Gateway, the various components and work processes must be compatible and talk to each other. She thinks e-discovery in general and Exterro, in particular, facilitate this. As she explained, the same workflows used in e-discovery can be used in other areas. After all, says Hamilton, determining something like whether personally identifiable information has been taken in a breach is basically a function of searching electronic information.


The workflows to meet the additional challenges to address previously siloed matters are the same used to comply with e-discovery requirements. So why not, says Hamilton, use the same tools. As she puts it, “there is an unbelievable amount of data out there, so why not see what we can do with it” using e-discovery related tools.


In addition, Hamilton agrees that lawyers, law firms, and in-house departments are familiar with and comfortable with many e-discovery tools. Another reason to use these tools in more and more areas, which she sees as the future of e-discovery providers like Exterro.


Some companies have recently recognized, though, that it’s good to keep some things in-house to have more options.


Another trend Hamilton sees is one that surprised me. Hamilton noted that the trend for the past several years was for most e-discovery tasks to be outsourced. The business arms of companies often saw outsourcing and the use of cloud technologies as a cheaper way to deal with e-discovery and data problems.


Some companies have recently recognized, though, that it’s good to keep some things in-house to have more options. After all, says Hamilton, not every matter is large-scale litigation, and it’s good to have in house tools to deal with these less intense matters. This concern, plus the ethical duty to oversee outside providers, has tempered the enthusiasm of some in-house representatives to turn over too many tasks to vendors. (With vendors, there is less ability to control work process and outcomes).


All in all, an interesting conversation. Hamilton brings a customer-oriented focus to Exterro’s legal department and an innovative approach.