1. Please can you briefly introduce yourself, Mindcrest and your role:
I'm Seth Hughes, a director of Mindcrest and head of eDiscovery. eDiscovery sits within Mindcrest, which is DWF's alternative legal services provider (ALSP) division. Providing alternative legal services sees Mindcrest getting involved in a wide range of work, not just from a technology perspective.
The eDiscovery part of Mindcrest is actually quite small, but has a large resource pool of people to draw on. The majority of the work comes through from existing clients of DWF but we have recently gained our own clients - for instance, we now provide support for a US law firm that isn't large enough to have their own eDiscovery capability.
A lot of the role is using technology to look at efficiencies. We are able to look at client problems and say 'you were doing that work and in this way, but this can enhance it, this can get it done faster and more efficiently'.
2. How did begin your career/ get into a technology based role? (i.e. what steps/qualifications did you take?)
Technology has always been my passion - it's also my hobby. I love messing around with computers, networks etc. So, after I finished school, I went to university and studied computer forensics - the traditional police investigation type work. It taught me how to look at a laptop and answer questions such as: 'was the witness typing at the keyboard when the crime took place?' and 'were they the one who committed the crime?' I chose this course because I wanted to develop a niche. Computer forensics was, and is, quite a new degree and had probably only been around a couple of years when I studied it.
From there, I applied to the big four, and was accepted onto an entry-level eDiscovery role at EY where I learnt everything about eDiscovery from the ground up. My academic experience was valuable but was by no means everything that I needed. I found my passion for databases and programming when I saw their practical application.
3. Please outline what a typical day as the Director of Mindcrest entails?
A typical day for me involves quite a lot of time spent talking to people. People talk to me about their challenges, they'll talk to me about a broader problem that they're having or problem that their client is having. My job is to come up with solutions, make proposals for clients so that we can go back to them and say 'this is how we can help'.
4. What do you enjoy most about your role?
It's going have to be the problem solving. I like picking apart a client issue and going away and finding an answer to it. I also love having a team of experts to support me in this, all of whom have their own different bits of experience and different areas of specialty. I can go to them and say 'I need a little bit of your experience from your days working with this kind of data or your experience working with this type of document'. We nearly always find a solution that uses technology and gets the client to achieve what they wanted to.
5. How do you see Mindcrest growing and adapting in the next decade?
I think Mindcrest has to keep getting busier with broader application. This is mainly due to pricing and margin pressures. If you look at how the legal market looks now it's all about 'what can we get alternative legal service providers to do for us, what can they do safely, do efficiently and do at scale?'
I think we're going to see massive growth in ALSP and we're going to see a lot of transformation in the next few years to get this area on par with other industries. The future will be significantly more efficient, thanks to technology, and will be much more data-driven.
6. Technology is evolving rapidly, how do you and your teams keep abreast of the latest advancements?
It has to be a conscious effort to keep up with developments. You can't expect to just become aware of these things because you work in a particular field. The analogy that I always use with my team is that we've got this technology and we have to be able to communicate to the clients that it is useful. If you know the market, you can excel and satisfy a customer's needs as efficiently as possible. We have to proactively offer people new solutions.
We also encourage the team to seek out professional courses and are always looking at innovation challenges and events. There are also a few vendors that we work with that have innovation awards. Seeing those awards helps you see what other people are doing. It helps you see how they're thinking about solving problems and can help inspire us.
7. Finally, what advice could you give to young professionals wanting to get into the world of tech-focused business services?
I always say passion first, I want someone with a passion and enthusiasm for what they're doing, in this case technology.
In this role, experience is so important that I don't focus a lot on academics. I don't say that any potential employee has to have a computer forensic or a computer science background. If they've got a passion and they've been working with technology long enough and they can articulate that skill set, then they can learn what they need to on the job.
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Written by Hugh Lyon, Paralegal and Seth Hughes, Director