Jason Velasco

CEDS Spotlight: Jason Velasco, CEDS

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Welcome to our “CEDS Spotlight” where we feature ACEDS members who have recently become CEDS certified. Every one of our members are 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.

Mike Quartararo: Greetings everyone, and welcome to #WeAreACEDS, streaming live on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. My name is Mike Quartararo and I am the president of ACEDS. Today, we are joined by my friend, Jason Velasco, founder of eDiscovery Advisory, a technology and provider agnostic advisory firm based in New York, but working almost anywhere. Jason, thanks so much for making time to join us today.

Jason Velasco: Hey Mike, good to see you again. How are you doing today?

Mike Quartararo: I’m good. I hope you and yours are well in this odd time we’re living in.

Jason Velasco: That’s true. I got my ACEDS dancing in, now I feel ready to go and talk to you a little bit.

Mike Quartararo: I love the way #WeAreACEDS Live starts. For those who don’t know, let’s dive in a little bit. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your history in the eDiscovery industry, and tell us a little bit about eDiscovery Advisory and what you do there.

Jason Velasco: Well, thank you, Mike. I really appreciate the opportunity and the collaboration with ACEDS that I’ve had over the years. I’ve been in the eDiscovery space for 20 plus years now. Most people originally got to know me as one of the founders of Renew Data, which was one of the early eDiscovery companies that processed all the backup tapes for the Enron data set. And so, we were there kind of starting to figure out how to go from computer forensics, to trying to process petabytes of data and worked with a lot of different providers over time. I was very lucky in my role at Renew Data to really participate with organizations like EDRM and ACEDS as a thought leader, and working with organizations to bring enlightenment around the eDiscovery process. Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time working in-house. I worked for one of the largest financial organizations, Global Financial Institute, as well as for one of the regulators as an in-house consultant. What we’ve done now is we’ve actually taken all of that experience, that in-house experience, that broad breath of experience that we’ve had working with providers, and a significant amount of different technologies and created a kind of a global advisory practice which we’ll get into in a moment that really focuses on helping people understand and improve eDiscovery workflow, automation, technologies, in a manner that is, as you mentioned before, provider and technology agnostic. We work with just about all the different providers on the marketplace.

Mike Quartararo: Awesome. That sounds incredible. Sounds exciting. I know you’re CEDS certified and have been so for a while. Tell me a little bit, what does that mean to you? What is the value of the CEDS certification to you?

Jason Velasco: Well, I felt like an early pioneer of eDiscovery much like yourself, Mike. It was like, do I really need certification? It’s something I’ve been doing for 15 years. And, when I finally got the opportunity when I was doing some consulting work with Deutsche bank, we had the opportunity to, you know, kind of bring that in for the global group. And I really took a lead in terms of helping people kind of bring that together and get the team certified and through the training. And, as a leader, I wanted to be one of the first ones doing it and get my certification first, right? So, I jumped into it. I took the courses, I studied and I took the test and I sweated it and I did great on the things that I was really good at. Like the strategy, the IG side, the processing piece, the collection piece, of course, which is one of my key backgrounds. But I tell you, I really struggled with the review side. I’m not a review person. I’ve never done a workflow and review myself. I usually hand the data off to the review teams and they handle it. So, it was really cool to kind of see how the test actually validated what my experience really had and my knowledge was. So, I thought that was a really cool experience. And I’ve always been an advocate for, you know, making sure that people get some kind of certification to help with their career.

Mike Quartararo: Well, we appreciate that, and yeah, not everybody can cover the entire spectrum. It’s a pretty broad field, even though I think some people would say we’re niche, there’s a lot to unpack in eDiscovery. All right. So tell us, we launched here today by saying that eDiscovery Advisory is sort of a technology and provider agnostic organization. What does that mean? What do we mean by technology agnostic and provider agnostic? What are you doing that sets you apart?

Jason Velasco: Well, here’s the key thing, right? I’ve done a lot of different work with many different providers and technologies across my career, and one of the things that I didn’t want to do is I didn’t want to pick sides. I think there’s a lot of good technology out there. There’s a lot of great providers out there that are providing good services to their corporations. I don’t, you know, I don’t want to be in a position where I have to advocate for one or the other, because again, it’s going to depend on the specific use case, it’s going to depend on the particular scenario, budget, there’s so many different criteria that go into deciding what a workflow is. And this is what I was doing in-house is looking at the different technologies that are out there. For those that also know me, I was part of the EDJ group or the eDiscovery Journal Group with Greg Buckles and Barry Murphy in the early days, where we tried to really look and, as a kind of an industry analyst, trying to understand where all those fit in. So, taking that experience, I wanted to be able to really work with people and then help law firms and corporations and organizations really look at what are you really trying to do? We want to make efficient workflows, we want to save money by having good efficient technology solutions, and, we want to reduce our risk and having defensibility around it. And the things that we do that with is through automation and workflow and playbooks, you know, how do you pull those things together? And so, again, regardless of the technology or the provider, that’s what we would do. That’s what we do best. And you know that, and we’re happy to work with all the different providers. I’ve got a client for example, that, and I’m sure we’re going to talk a little bit about now with the M365 stuff, which we can get to in a second. But I’ve got one client they’re using M365 for certain things, and then what they do is as they go into production or third-party review, they use a hosted solution. And so, they’ve decided on that, and we integrated the workflows and created some efficiencies and cost savings around that.

Mike Quartararo: Sure. And I know, as an organization that tries to be Switzerland in the eDiscovery space, I know there’s some challenges there, but you know your loyalty is to your client, I would imagine first.

Jason Velasco: Of course.

Mike Quartararo: So, let me ask you this, I know you’ve been working with a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. Tell us a little bit about what your clients look like. I understand you’ve created a service. I did a little research before the call. You’ve created a service that you’re calling M365 eDiscovery as a service. Tell us about that. Tell us a little bit about your client base.

Jason Velasco: Well, thanks, yeah, I think a lot of the clients that I’m working with right now are the ones that are really underserved in eDiscovery because, you know, people want to go where the money is naturally ’cause that’s where their clients are. You wanna serve those clients. What I’ve discovered is that there’s a really specific niche for kind of small and medium or SMB businesses that have a need for eDiscovery. They may not have a lot of eDiscovery. They may have 5 to 10 kind of cases per year or requests they have, they may get some now up-and-coming DSARs or data subject access requests, or third-party requests that don’t require the level of herculean effort and defensibility and all those wonderful things that, you know, with all the documentation that needs to be done in a normal eDiscovery process. And so, we’ve been working with clients and saying, okay, let’s take a reasonable approach, right? Because with eDiscovery and legal is all about reasonability, at least from my experience or tries to be at least. And, let’s be reasonable about things. And, and we’ve been looking at what, we’ve come up with an approach using Microsoft M365, that we’re calling M365 eDiscovery as a service or EDAS. Because everything’s as a service these days. So M365 EDAS is, we’ve actually built an automation layer directly in M365 eDiscovery, so we can dip right into the core, the eDiscovery core technology reaches into the tenant with a very simple workflow and search criteria and a very basic case management application built within Microsoft teams, right? And so they can actually kick off things within their Microsoft teams environment, be able to track their particular cases, be able to run search criteria, track and put those approaches, using automation again, with, you know, integrating all of those reports and all those things coming out of the M365 solution all the way through, within SharePoint. We saved the documentation, so we’ve got defensible chain of custody. But the other thing that we have to tie this into is because a lot, again, being underserved clients, they may not have had counsel that is used to dealing with eDiscovery. So we’ve combined that with building eDiscovery playbooks with them. So here’s our defensible approach so they have documentation. We’ve integrated that with training. So we’re actually doing a lot of training, kind of customized training within the M365 solution. Whether it’s in advanced eDiscovery too, or whether it’s on our specific workflow, creating videos for them, hands-on training with them. And then also being able to capture that with all the automation. So it’s a combination of a lot of different things, but what we’ve discovered when we did a kind of a comparison of if that client had used a traditional eDiscovery workflow, where, okay, we’re going to kick all of our data out of the M365 per mailbox and put it to our new discovery provider, we had about almost a 385, or sorry, 285% return on investment for the amount of money that they spent with us building this automation suite versus what they would have spent in year one. So I think that’s a pretty impressive metric to capture.

Mike Quartararo: That is awesome. And I’m always impressed by the idea that, you know, there are so many processes and it’s just shifting over to the corporate legal side for a moment, processes that happen in the IG space. You said, DSARs right? The process is almost identical to a pure eDiscovery play. And so there’s knowledge that you can leverage there. I love the idea of playbooks, everywhere I’ve ever worked there’s been a playbook. I think it’s just something that everybody should have. So, I want to pivot outside eDiscovery for a minute, because we talked in sort of preparation for this interview and it struck me that I understand you are developing a COVID-19 vaccine scheduling site?

Jason Velasco: Yeah. It’s been a pretty amazing exercise. I’ve been very blessed. So, let me take a step back before we get into that. As part of this journey that I’ve been on for the last couple of years, I was able to actually bring together some really good teams of people. And, I believe you had asked me in our prep situation, are you the founder? Or, you know, what are you? And, I really wanted to build an organization of peers, right? Whether, you know, because everyone has different strengths. Everyone has different roles to play. And I wanted to have a collaborative, very democratic peer based organization. So this is why you see my name is just advisor, right? I’m just an advisor, just like anybody else in our organization. And as I was going on this journey, I was able to find a couple of really key kind of partners to help me kind of build this organization. Michael Epstein, who I’ve worked with for 15 years from Renew Data and at Deutsche bank and you know, some other organizations. And then I’ve also started working with gentleman by the name of Jason Thompson, who’s a really an information governance workflow and knowledge management expert who’s based in Switzerland. So we wanted to have a global practice almost out of the box, right? And so we hung up the shingle of eDiscovery Advisory ’cause that’s what we do. That’s where we came from. That’s our background. But very quickly, our clients took us in a much different direction where we started looking at knowledge management and disaster recovery programs and, and through our kind of network, you know, we’ve been able to find, we found a client that was really looking for us to take that all hands-on approach and help them build a COVID vaccine scheduling site. So within basically 10 days, we have working software to allow people to start scheduling people, to put needles in arms, which goes live on Monday. So we’ve done this in two weeks and we were planning on expanding that with our healthcare partners and just, you know, we wanted to make a difference in terms of, this has a real impact. You know, I always hear the phrase, it’s eDiscovery, we’re not saving lives. It’s great to be in on the saving lives business. I mean, it, it actually, it makes me feel really good about what we’re doing and it’s gonna be interesting where it takes our business.

Mike Quartararo: That’s awesome. And I love the idea. And for anybody who’s out there thinking about starting their own business, it’s really important that you be able to pivot and sort of bob and weave right through wherever the journey takes you. So kudos for that. That’s fantastic.

Jason Velasco: Well thanks. And let me make a point around that, because I think, again, this is a journey for me, right? And I’ve had experience in terms of, as a provider, as an independent analyst working with large and small eDiscovery providers, working in-house. The only thing I haven’t done is worked at a law firm. So your experience is not one that I’ve had. But you’ve learned a lot and you mature a lot as you go through time. So, you know, being in this space, one of the things that I, I had to realize, especially over the last few years as I’m maturing is, what are your strengths? And one of the things that I’ve realized is that one of my key strengths is adaptability. Being able to do that bobbing and weaving and, and being able to take that and bring that to a business and help with clients, right? Were used to in eDiscovery being in crisis mode all the time. Which is why I’ve probably thrived in this space. But you know, having now been self-aware to start learning those types of things, I think is a really important thing that I think everyone should be able to do. And I know that ACEDS offers a pretty significant mentorship program to help people start doing that. And I I’ve worked with some of your what’s the word, not students. So it’s the, some of your members, you know,

Mike Quartararo: We call them candidates.

Jason Velasco: Candidates! Yes, that’s exactly, and I think that’s key to help continuing people to be self-aware about what they do and who they are.

Mike Quartararo: Absolutely.

Mike Quartararo: All right. This has been great. Before we go, anything new and interesting coming up, anything you want to share with the audience? I heard rumors that there might be a podcast in your future. What’s that gonna be about?

Jason Velasco: So, yeah, I recently woke up in the middle of the night and said, you know what? I’m really curious about, lots of people. And I love talking to people. So I came up with the concept of creating a podcast called, Out of Curiosity, which we’re launching this week. And basically it’s, I like talking to people much like this conversation, and really get into things that are just beyond here’s your eDiscovery workflow and here’s the case that we’re gonna talk about today. I find that pretty boring. I like to find the human element around eDiscovery and learn more about people. So we’ve been really working hard on putting together kind of an, you know, really entertaining and, enlightening people-based podcast called, Out of Curiosity as we mentioned, that we’re launching this week. We have things like we’re talking about the intersection of knowledge management, information governance. We talk about how people have grown. I had one conversation recently with someone we were talking about how people use horoscopes and signs in terms of evaluating people in teams and all those interesting conversations we’re gonna bring to have. And we have some interesting little bits to kind of get people entertained as well. So you never know what you’re going to expect, but we’re really excited about doing that and we’re gonna try to roll that out, on a weekly basis with a, both on audio and a video podcast.

Mike Quartararo: I look forward to being one of your unusual guests.

Jason Velasco: You’re right in that criteria, man.

Mike Quartararo: Where can people find the podcast?

Jason Velasco: People can find it on our website on eDiscovery Advisory. And will also be able to subscribe to it on Apple, on iTunes and things like that. So we’ll definitely add that to the notes here. And you’ll start seeing more information around that…

Mike Quartararo: Wherever you get your podcasts as they say, right?

Jason Velasco: Exactly. Like and subscribe, baby.

Mike Quartararo: Awesome. Jason, thanks so much for joining us. If you’re interested in our short form video interviews, you can find #WeAreACEDS Live in your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook feeds, or check us out on the ACEDS YouTube channel, where you can watch all our previous interviews and live streams. Thanks so much everyone for joining us today. Jason, best of luck. Talk soon.

Jason Velasco: Thank you, Mike.

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