Thought Leader Interview with Michael Sarlo of HaystackID, Part Three: eDiscovery Trends and Best Practices

I recently interviewed Michael Sarlo, Partner and Senior Executive Vice President of eDiscovery of Digital Forensics for HaystackID, who is an expert in cross-border matters and EU data privacy concerns, as well as a certified and highly credentialed forensic examiner.  We covered so much with regard to eDiscovery trends that we couldn’t fit it all in a single blog post.  Part one of my interview was published last Wednesday and part two was published last Friday, here is the third and final part.

Intellectual property (IP) is another area where it seems like activity is increasing in both cases and investigations. How have you seen that trend develop with HaystackID’s clients and what are you doing to assist clients in those areas?

Digital forensics in the private sector, in addition to data collection, is often associated with trade secrets matters in IP litigation. These are often going much more hand-in-hand and we’re seeing an increase in IP litigation in the traditional sense that also has a trade secrets component.  We’re taking holistic approaches to understanding the data, analyzing various data exfiltration points over time to be able to illustrate for our legal clients how a bill became a law, so to speak, when looking at a file and how it exited their organization or entered into their organization. Making that as simple as possible for the attorneys, taking out some of the technical jargon and giving them very clear evidence they can use, whether in motion practice, depositions, or other events is just based off our experience doing many of these types of investigations.

We have a dedicated team which can focus on departed employee investigations, to determine if the employee takes data with them when they leave the company.  That investigative work falls into our trade secrets and enforcement practice as well and we work with a lot of different corporations on IP issues.

Once again, you’re dealing with very complex data types as you get into different technology companies. We do a lot of source code reviews for some of the really big tech companies, and source code is often the big “crown jewel” of the case. The ability for HaystackID’s technical bench and our web team (that also overlaps more of our source code review team) to extract those data points in a format that’s relevant to what’s in scope for review and understanding what’s a draft versus a final version and things like that for IP litigation have enabled our clients to benefit considerably.

You’re also a frequent participant on HaystackID’s educational webcasts. What are your observations on how confidence in eDiscovery has evolved over the years and where it stands today?

I’ll talk about law firms and corporations separately. Law firms have reorganized themselves where I feel like their top people are really the ones who are communicating with their clients and vendors. We’ve seen competency go up there and that’s great, because it benefits us as well when discussions about problems are shorter.  Though we’re always happy to explain things and educate people. But I am seeing more talent out there in the workforce and certainly people who are staying cutting edge are self-educating, as there’s a lot of educational opportunities out there. I think you’re always thrust into things that are a little bit outside of your batting class, if you’re working at the right place, and a lot of my clients have done that and I’ve seen them really grow there. In addition to our educational webcast series, we also do one to two-day in-person digital forensics training that aren’t really sales pitched, they’re more operational, which I think has been incredibly valuable to my clients, and helped them address where they’re struggling.

On the corporate side, if they have an eDiscovery department, we typically see they are more advanced. They often graduated out of a vendor and went into a law firm and then graduated out of there into a corporation. A lot of these corporations that have an eDiscovery department, they’re spending a lot on eDiscovery, so they’re looking for that talent to mitigate those expenses while reducing risk. I think we’re pretty mature there.

We have a lot of clients through our corporate consulting program that still have challenges and need help, though.  It’s great to be able to work with very competent people, but there are cases when an organization is looking to implement an eDiscovery department.  We’re happy to help out there as well, be it from a consulting standpoint all the way to a fully integrated solution where we function in that vein.

What else are you working on that you would like our readers to know about?

I think we really have become much more comfortable with pushing our clients to allow us to work with them on a strategy standpoint and getting a better understanding of the matter goals, so that we can more consultative.  We’re getting better types of information out of their eDiscovery collections, more data about the documents rather than the documents themselves. Our data analytics and data science teams have been quite busy, which all plays into our “casting a net” approach around responsiveness. We spend most of our time with all these new age data types to drive value for our clients.

And I keep harping on the new age data types because, as an eDiscovery vendor, we recognize that a lot of our clients have their own capacity. Especially during a pandemic, they’ve been asked to keep work in-house.  But, they still have to send a lot of work to vendors of our size and scale when there are alternative data types or when the case is simply moving too fast. That’s why we’re so focused on it.  We’re providing more structured analytics, gathering data points from call records with actual documents and with tweets and Slack and Teams’ chats.

Giving our end clients a timeline around activities to enable them to have informed discussions that are based on facts about their data early on with regulators has been absolutely critical to reducing their spend and risk and enabling them to focus legal efforts on the actual issues within various matters, rather than just drifting through a sea of unresponsive materials just for the sake of hitting a checkbox. We have examples and work products and reports that really put us into a new class as far as our consulting capabilities and clients are coming back over and over again for that offering.

Mike, thanks for your time today and thanks for participating in the eDiscovery Today Thought Leader Interview Series!

So, what do you think?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

2 comments

  1. I read your interview which was very insightful. It says that you offer digital forensics education. I live in a very rural area and I’m not sure where you are located. However, due to the pandemic are you offering virtual education? I am self-educating myself regarding websites providing inaccurate and misleading information to the consumer. I have managed to have one website shut down and I am currently investigating the host provider and there are a multitude of inconsistencies. Due to working in the legal field, I always begin with due diligence to contact the entity directly. Most inquiries are ignored. This one in particular is claiming to be partners with well known companies and this is inaccurate. I even reached out to these companies but I’m still being ignored or it’s not getting to the right person or department. One more issue is the data sharing that is claimed to be used for analytical purposes. It is very strange that I have had these companies review my profile but I did not provide any contact information. Some insight or any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Hi Miriam, thanks for your comment. I reached out to HaystackID regarding where to direct you to inquire about digital forensics training and they suggested you contact Mike directly. His email address is msarlo@haystackid.com. He can let you know what, if anything, they offer in terms of remote training for digital forensics. Good luck!

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