Back in the day, there was a professional fireman named Red Adair. But Red was not just an ordinary fireman. He became famous for his knowledge and expertise in fighting oil well fires. Even more than that, he was known internationally as an innovator in a highly specialized and hazardous business: extinguishing and capping oil well blowouts. These blowouts were huge, expensive and happened both on land and offshore. These fires were challenging and required unique and far-reaching expertise.
As a lawyer, I modeled my mass tort marketing on Red’s pitch. We held ourselves out as only doing big complex cases. These cases are multi-faceted with constantly moving parts. Successfully handling them requires not only litigation savvy but media relations skills, precise risk assessment, and the ability to develop unique workflows to handle the litigation, often in multiple jurisdictions. Like Red, we touted ourselves as having abilities and the experience to handle these kinds of “fires” (and they often involved actually fires) that few others could match.
I thought about all this recently when I sat down with Mark Noel, Chief Information & Technology Officer of Redgrave Data. Like Red–and us–Redgrave touts itself as having unique abilities and experience. It markets its abilities and experience in solving unique and solve “impossible” complex data problems.
Redgrave employs sophisticated information retrieval. It uses sophisticated search, analytics, and machine learning tools in electronic discovery and investigations. Redgrave Data touts its ability to use and create technology solutions and appropriate workflows. It uses data visualization and expert analysis for legal teams involved in some of the most complex legal problems in large and complicated matters. But more than all that, it has the ability to come up with solutions to the myriad of difficult and unique problems large matters present.
An example that caught my eye. Redgrave was employed by a mass tort litigation client facing multiple claims filed by a number of plaintiffs’ firms. A staggering 75-80 complaints were being filed a week, each 200 pages long. The Complaints were similar but not identical. Each had a few unique allegations. As a result, these complaints not only had to be reviewed, they had to be answered in a consistent manner and the unique allegations addressed.
In the mass tort game, especially on the defense side, accuracy and consistency are critical
Redgrave built an unsupervised learning tool that could compare one complaint against thousands of others and find the unique allegations that needed an individual response. The tool saved the client substantial review costs. But more importantly, it ensured that the complaints would be answered fully and consistently. In the mass tort game, especially on the defense side, accuracy and consistency are critical.
Another example Mark told me about. A large company had a short deadline to review millions of documents. The problem was that its data was in two separate service providers that used different review tools. Neither could handle the entire job. Redgrave built a predictive model that worked with both tools, enabling the work to be completed in just a couple of weeks. Again, the solution saved money. But more than that, it saved time, which is almost always critical in these situations.
Mark said that Redgrave employs automation tools, many of which run in the background. Redgrave can also create workflows that can be used to take off the lawyers’ plates much of the more mundane work in mass tort and complicated cases.
That’s good because, from experience, I know these cases present a lot of mundane work. The problem is that the margin for error is so small and the possibility of error so great that lawyers often goof up. It’s so easy to get lost in the mundane work and in trying to figure out how to get it done. Getting absorbed in the mundane robs the legal team members of the time and energy to properly strategize and manage the matter. It hinders their ability to best perform their functions within the team. Mark also recognized that Redgrave’s tools reduce interruption and lead to better “flow” for the lawyers. Better concentration. Better results says Mark.
Mark is right about mass tort and significant complex matters. They are hard to manage. They have so many moving parts. Things change quickly. And you are constantly under the microscope from your clients, the judiciary, and those on the other side. I learned that the hard way. In one of my major cases, I had the bright idea that I would take some depositions. After a few days of depositions, I returned to various crises that could have been avoided if I had spent time doing what I was uniquely qualified to do. My highest and best use was to manage the case and client needs. Not try to do what other lawyers on the case could do just as well as me.
The same is true of the work Redgrave claims to offer: it uses things like automation to do what automation can do even better than humans. So human lawyers can do what they do best. And in these cases, there is no time to handle things any other way.
Things break at scale
Mark also correctly pointed out that things will almost always go wrong at some point in the process. And the bigger the case, the more likely something will go wrong. As he put it, “Things break at scale.” He understands that his job is to try the best he can to anticipate what could go wrong and when things do go wrong to “handle and recover gracefully.”
He’s right about mass tort cases. Things always go–perhaps not wrong– but in unanticipated ways. New problems and issues always arise. It’s the job of the experienced lawyer team leader, like Mark with Redgrave, to know that and be able to recover gracefully.
I have never used Redgrave in my cases since I left the full-time practice before Redgrave came along. But I like Redgrave’s model. Specialization in complicated cases. Recognizing and understanding the unique challenges and pitfalls of those cases. Mark’s philosophy with respect to these cases matches mine. And that usually makes for a good team.
I can’t vouch for the viability of Redgrave’s solutions. But I can tell you if I was putting together a team for a mass tort case today, I would reach out to Mark. I would enlist him to help me visualize the workflow process, how to allocate resources, and how to get the best job for my client.