George Socha ACEDS Spotlight

CEDS Spotlight: George Socha, CEDS

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Welcome to our “CEDS Spotlight” where we will feature ACEDS members who have recently become CEDS certified. Every one of our members is unique and so are their e-discovery journeys. We hope this will be a terrific way for you to get to know the ACEDS community.

[Maribel] Hi everyone I am Maribel Rivera I am the Senior Director of community relations at ACEDS. Welcome to our CEDS spotlight where we will feature ACEDS members who have recently become CEDS certified. Everyone of our members is unique and so are their E-discovery journeys. Today I’m excited to feature George Socha. George, welcome.

[George] Thank you very much.

[Maribel] George, you just recently got your CEDS certification I’m really excited for you, congratulations we want–

[George] Thank you.

[Maribel] You’re welcome, we wanted to talk a little bit with you today about the whole process that you went through but first could you share a little bit about your e-discovery background and expertise with our audience.

[George] Well I, as we were chatting earlier, I do have a little bit of e-discovery background. I– when you see me looking up like that I am a very visual person that the EDRM diagram might suggest and when I’m looking up at that it’s because I’m looking at a picture in my head to help describe things or see a chronology or whatever so what I was thinking about there is that I first got involved in E-discovery probably somewhere between 1991 and 1993 I don’t really know because who was paying attention to those things at that time and I got involved in E-discovery not because I had any intention of spending any time doing that but rather because once upon a long time ago back in 1972 I took a computer programming class. And then in 1973 I took my last computer programming class. In the interim between 1973 and 1991 or ’93 I spend my high school years or way too much of them writing code just for the fun of it not with any object in mind that’s what my friends and I did for entertainment. Went off to college where I had nothing to do with computers off to west Africa where I had even less to do with computers, I was a Peace Corp volunteer there but came coming back from West Africa spent a few months bicycling through Europe where I stopped to visit my middle brother who was in Austria for the summer sequestered away at a friends cabin writing a book called Inside the IBM PC and I looked at the content he was writing The machine he was using ironically a compaq portable if that means anything to anybody and not an IBM PC and thought well the world has changed while I was gone. When I got back to the states I taught myself how to use those early IBM PCs using WordStar which was a word processing program long before we got to things like Word or even WordPerfect before that Wrote an inventory management system for my father’s business Sort of to teach myself how to use the computer and then headed off to law school where I brought along the computer I had recently purchased, an Apple Macintosh purchased in January of 1984 the same month as the at that time the same as the superbowl ad for the introduction of the Apple Macintosh. I brought that to law school used that to write up my papers and because I had a computer and because I was very involved in the legal aid clinic and the reason for that I was a Peace Corp volunteer I had worked very much with my sleeves rolled up. Law school, especially at a place like Cornell can get in the classroom it is not a sleeves rolled up type of experience or at least it wasn’t in those days, it was much more actuarial experience if you will and I needed something practical to work on. Got involved in the legal aid clinic, IBM donated half a dozen PCs to the law school the then Dean of the law school Peter Martin by the way went on to form the legal information institute along with Peter Brusha I think his name is at Cornell said we don’t really have a place for computers in the classroom but maybe the clinic can use them, the head of the clinic turned to me and said “Well you have a computer, maybe you can figure out what we can do with them.” and I ended up writing a sneakerware matter management system for the legal aid clinic. Sneakerware because at the time you could not yet network PCs together. Came out of law school, took a job at a law firm, they handed me a Dictaphone and said “See how technologically advanced we are.” So I looked at that thing and I thought well I can’t do anything with this and I brought my trustworthy Macintosh into the office. I very shortly had a steady stream of senor associates and junior partners come into my office, close the door, sit down and deliver almost verbatim the same message which essentially was lose the computer. If you have a computer you will never be taken seriously as an attorney, you will never be anything other than a glorified word processor and secretary. Well I didn’t lose the computer. I’m no longer a practicing attorney, I guess they were right

[George] But what did happen is that the firm landed what would be the largest set of cases they would ever have and it was a set of nation wide fight for the company life toxic tort matters where we were going to have what we used to refer to in those days as the mythical millionaire, million documents or a million pages of documents no one was ever very clear about that because there were going to be so many and there were we had more than that ultimately, and it really was a lot for those days. We were going to have someone sit down with copies of those documents, read them and type information from those documents into a computer and code them and someone needed to help manage that whole process and there was a computer involved and I had a computer on my desk so I was tapped to help out with that process, that meant I got to know the people in our IT operations at the law firm I was at it also meant that I got more and more involved in automated litigations support, worked with schools such as concordance and summation which were the dominant product in the field in the day before anyone really was thinking or almost thinking on really was thinking about electronics discovery. And then sometime in the early 90’s we started getting the first of our e-discovery matters. I was tapped on the shoulder, you know, I had a computer I was working with these tools, I must know what to do about this, of course I hadn’t a clue what to do with it One of the very first matters I worked on we were representing the plaintiffs on that one which was not typically what we did, we were mostly a defense firm. And I was assigned the task of flying, I think it was so Kansas City, I don’t remember for sure, and taking the deposition of the IT director where I was supposed to find out everything including where all the dirt and the secrets were just by asking him questions on the deposition about their electronically stored information which we call it now. It was, without question the worst deposition of my career and that what got me launched in e-discovery.

[Maribel] Excellent, well thank you for sharing that and I know I guess right after that is when you founded the EDRM model.

[George] Well a decade later.

[Maribel] A decade later right

[George] A decade later I was no longer at that first firm nor the second one, the first firm collapsed, a group of nearly thirty of us left the first firm to start another law firm and I was at that law firm through into 2003, left in 2003 to start a new discovery consultant practice. One of the first projects I was asked to work on was one that called for me to do a survey of the E-discovery market, who were the leading providers, what are the challenges people are facing and how much money is involved in this anyway . They wanted me to do some things I did not have experience doing and felt like I needed to pull someone in and help me out and I brought in someone I had worked with when I was at that first law firm right about that same time as I began working on the first E-discovery projects. He had been the IT director at another law firm in town they had fired him thinking they had reached technology nirvana and did not need him nor the entire level of staff underneath him. So he was freelance consulting at the time I contacted him and said, “Tom, have I got a deal for you, these folks want me to do a project I don’t know how to do it, they’ve got a ridiculously short timeframe here we are never going to make the deadline the expectation are ridiculously high we are never going to please them, are you in or not?” and Tom said, “Well with an offer like that how can I say no.” So we went on to do the first of what would be six years of the Social Gelman Electronic Discovery Survey. As Tom and I were gathering data and evaluating data for that survey we realized that especially when we were talking with folks at providers but also when we were talking with people at law firms and at corporations we were getting a common response from people and that response was some variation of look you guys you just don’t understand what e-discovery is let me tell you it’ what I do its what we do those other people that’s not E-discovery. We heard that from people whose primary focus was preserving data and people who only spent their time collecting it or processing it or reviewing it. Each one of them thought they did the one true electronic discovery and the rest of those folks were I don’t know, posers or something So we said maybe it would be useful if somebody sat down and did maybe a one year project, get together a small group of people to try and answer two sets of questions. One, what is e-discovery because obviously there’s confusion and disagreement and two, what are the basic steps involved in the actions people take. And tom, he has a formal IT background, I don’t said these things I’ve worked with in the past called reference models maybe we can use that as sort of a conceptual framework and I said yeah okay and we are dealing with electronic discovery here so how about we call this thing for a lack of a better name the Electronic Discovery Reference Model and that’s a mouthful so let’s just say EDRM And that’s where we all started we sent out a call for participation to folks we knew had I think 35 people show up for our first meeting in May of 2004 in Saint Paul. They arrived at the meeting and said, “okay sounds like you all are doing something interesting but we don’t really understand what you’re doing so why don’t you explain to us why were are all here.” And that of course lasted for a lot more than one year. Become the EDRM that so many people are familiar with today and as well the diagram that many people use without even knowing that there is such a thing as EDRM out there.

[Maribel] Yes, well thank you for sharing that. Given that whole experience, everything I mean that’s decades of work and decades of dealing in law firms and litigation what made you decide this year to become certified in e-discovery?

[George] Well you know after I took the bar exam in whenever that was, 1987, I said, “I am done with that type of test, I am never taking that type of test again and I had been steadfast in my resistance until this year. And really the primary reason I sat down to prepare for and take that test, all the while worrying and what if I fail– Was that–

[Maribel] We would have had to talk to you if you failed

[George] That’s right you would have had to have a discussion with me. The reason I went for the materials and then took a test is that ACEDS has a newly reformulated and revived global advisory board and one at the meeting at legal leap we were asked please all to try and make it a priority. That was part of it, the other part though is as I thought about what it means or should mean to be a member of a global advisory board like that I thought well I really should see what the materials are like for preparing for the test and I really should go through all of those and take the test test and sample test and take the test itself because otherwise I don’t really understand one of the key things that ACED does then how can I be as productive and useful member of the global advisory board if I haven’t done that so that is what finally prompted me to agree to back off my thirty plus year opposition to take any farther test like that and sit down and go through that exam.

[Maribel] Well thank you for taking that and I know you’re newly appointed as part of the global advisory board but you’re also a chapter leader for our twin cities chapter so that, it’s doing that as well becoming CEDS certified I think is a really great thing for the chapter just to see that their leaders are going through it.

[George] And we had a call, we have monthly calls for our chapter we had our monthly call last week I think it was maybe the week before you know the days run by right

[Maribel] Yeah

[George] They all combine, and one of the topics I said at the global advisory board meeting one of the suggestions was for as many of us as could to see if we could become ACEDS certified, I frankly don’t know how many people in our local board are that and we need to take that on as a task for ourselves well it sounds like almost everyone is already. So we’ve got a few people two or three maybe just two who aren’t yet but we are largely there locally at least so I guess we are ahead of the curve once again here in Minnesota.

[Maribel] Excellent, well that’s great to see and I think across we are starting to see more and more of our chapter leaders looking at the E-discovery executive or the CEDS training programs so that they can also get CEDS certified. Just given the whole process what are you thoughts on the certification training, the exam what’s your feedback on the whole thing?

[George] I did not really know what to expect going into it what I did to prepare was to go to the recorded preparation sessions, I think there were three of them what a combine three or four hours of time–

[Maribel] Yeah

[George] I forget exactly–

[Maribel] An hour and a half each.

[George] So I watched all of those, yeah watched all of those and then when I was, and then there are also available from thee same site its own little website you can watch the recording which I did you can participate in live sessions which I didn’t mostly because of scheduling challenges and the time I had available to look at those sets, those recordings did not match up with any live sessions here is the time I can so it so this is what I’m going to do, I went as well to the various materials that could be be downloaded, at least skimmed through those to get a sense of what was in there and then and I think it was a very useful piece in this there is a version of thee test, a much shorter version that you can take and take on your own and it has the advantage of letting you know right away if you get a wrong answer, A that the answer is wrong and B it helps you figure out a bit of what you got wrong with the answer and then at the end you can see what your score is and how you did on that test as a percentage that’s compared to what you’re going to have to do if you want to pass the overall test, I did well enough on that test that I said you know what, I think I’m just going to schedule a time go in, take the test, see what happens, cross my fingers and hope I don’t have to slink away with my tail between my legs for having failed the thing.

[Maribel] Well that’s good so what advice would you have for someone preparing for the exam right now?

[George] I think its, if you look kind of a sliding scale because my impression at least from going through the material and from taking thee full exam is that it really is intended to have two audiences if you will there are those people who have more of a legal background, they were practicing lawyers, practicing paralegals and alike and then there are those people who have more of a technical background their the people running the tools and they’re going to have different areas of experience and different areas of expertise and then there are some of us who are going to have spent quite a bit of time in both worlds and for more I spent a lot of time in both worlds both sides of that the content was quite familiar to me already if you go though those recordings or go to the live sessions, if you go through that sample test and you understand the content presented there’s nothing new no surprises no areas where you’re going wait a minute I don’t really understand that you go through the sample test you do well, I think you’re ready to take the exam. If however, you go well I get all this about legal and those types of things but now you’re talking about how to do preservation of content out of Microsoft exchange or office 365 or you’re talking about some other technical things that I don’t understand of well that’s a pretty good indication that you need to learn some more about those areas so going through thee prep materials going through the test exam on the one hand can let you know that you’re ready to go ahead and take the overall exam it also can let you know these are areas where you could do something to get yourself more up to speed that’s useful for the exam of course it’s also useful however for your general well-roundness professionally because the better you understand both sides of this equation and the better you understand the different parts on both sides of the equation the more effective you are going to be able to accomplish the work you have no matter where you sit in this process.

[Maribel] I think that kind of leads right into my last question for you is why should those in the e-discovery legal technology field kind of consider going through this CEDS or eDiscovery Executive Training Program so is there anything else you want to add on to that?

[George] No I think there is once again no one answer for everybody, some people, for example are in organizations where obtaining certifications is something that is important, emphasized and valued and if you are in an organization like that well this is one more certification that potentially can help you in your career advancement and your advancement within the organization, helps you toward a bonus or whatever it might be If you’re not in an organization like that and you’re still interested part of the value of going through all of this goes back to what I was just talking about which is it can help you have a more fulsome a more well rounded, a more complete understanding of all of what goes into electronic discovery so that you can be more effective wherever you are and it can help if you decide that what you want to do is push yourself some and live in the areas you are not already experienced with or familiar with it can give you an opportunity to identify for you some challenges to pursue if that how you’re so inclined.

[Maribel] Thank you George, well that’s everything I have thank you so much for taking some time out of your day and spending it with us and sharing a little bit about you and the whole process of getting certified with us, for anyone who is interested in learning more about becoming ACEDS certified you can visit our website at and George, any last thoughts?

[George] I don’t know just go forth and do good work out there

[Maribel] Thank you so much

[George] Okay, thank you.

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