This month, we added another stellar woman to the mix. She’s an Aussie, she specializes in social media, and you might have spotted her around the Relativity Community site.
Plot twist—it’s me. I’m Mila Taylor, and as cohost, I escorted Mary Rechtoris to the Women in e-Discovery conference in Austin. While there, we quickly discovered a shared interest in mentorship, empowerment, and exploring all the interesting facets that contribute to making a woman stellar.
In this episode, we chatted with Jacy Schoen, VP of strategy and consulting and senior e-discovery counsel at Precision Discovery. From job losses to bosses who supported technological innovation, Jacy shares her career journey and outlines the events that shaped where she is today.
Vice President of Strategy and Consulting, e-Discovery Counsel
Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women in e -Discovery fans. I’m your host, Mary Rechtoris. For new listeners out there, the goal of Stellar Women in e-Discovery is to shine a light on female leaders in e-discovery. Many of these women are dedicated to breaking barriers, paying it forward, and elevating the career of others. Before bringing on our Stellar Women in e-Discovery guest, I want to introduce you all to Mila Taylor, the new co-host of Stellar Women in e-Discovery. Mila, hello.
Mila Taylor: Cheers Mary. Thanks so much for having me. I’m so excited.
MR: Of course. The idea to bring Mila into the mix came a few ago after we attended the Women in e-Discovery conference in Austin. We started talking about mentorship and building up female leaders in the industry and realized this was something we both had a passion for.
MT: We met incredible and smart and talented women in the industry. It was awesome to be in their company.
MR: It was really cool to meet the different women and everyone seemed really excited to be there, despite the non-sunny weather. What was that taco place we went to called?
MT: Torchy’s Tacos. Torchy’s, if you’re listening, we’re open for sponsorship.
MR: Today, we’re joined by Jacy Schoen. She’s the vice president of strategy and consulting and senior e-discovery counsel for Precision Discovery. Jacy, thanks for joining Mila and myself today.
Jacy Schoen: Thanks for inviting me.
MR: Precision Discovery is just down the street, right?
JS: Yup, just a couple of blocks.
MR: We’re based out in Chicago so we were all just chatting about how it’s nice to have some sunny weather finally. I think it’s 70 [degrees]?
JS: It felt like 70 [degrees].
MR: Well for us, it’s probably 50 [degrees] and we’re sweating.
MT: Feels like a beach day.
JS: Life in Chicago—40 degrees and shorts.
MR: I’m into it. I love 40 degrees. So, Jacy, to start us off here, how did you get into e-discovery?
JS: Back in 2005, I lost my job at a law firm. They were cutting everybody because of the economy. I had the choice between a $35,000 per year job at a small firm or $35 per hour contract attorney position. I arrived the first day and found out that a contract attorney is not reviewing contracts—you're doing document review. After that, we finished that project, and I made an appointment to talk to the CEO of the company I was working for. I said the way that you're doing this could be done a lot better. From there, I spent the next five years with a wonderful opportunity to build a project management handbook, starting with document review and working our way further up the process. We were doing more and more of e-discovery and then we just took it from there.
MR: Was your manager or boss at the time receptive to you telling him or her that they needed to be more efficient with tech?
JS: Oh, definitely. That was the greatest part of the opportunity. They asked about my ideas. I had them all written down. I went to in and gave them to her. She said, “okay, well, let's go ahead and start one or two of these on the next project.” We just started from there and started small. It worked great. The project went better than ever, and then we just kept it going from there.
MR: Before getting into the legal tech space, you were a teacher?
JS: Yup. I taught 7th through 12th grade science.
MR: Oh boy. That’s middle school, right?
JS: Yes. My first year teaching was seventh grade science in Hawaii.
MR: Well, Hawaii is cool.
JS: It was great.
MR: How did you go from teaching to the legal tech side of things?
JS: I went to law school. I had always planned on going to medical school, which is my science background. After teaching for a little while, I decided that if I go to law school, I'll be done by the time I'm 30. If I go to medical school, I’ll be going to school until I'm dead. So, I went to law school instead, which is probably not the greatest way to make that decision. But I really loved law school. If I had the choice, I'd go back to law school and spend years and years there just learning.
MR: Really? I just went to my brother's law school graduation this past weekend and I don't know how many of those students felt the same way.
JS: I think it’s my scientific brain. I like the way teaching is done in law school. It’s so fun.
MT: Touching on that, I've been lucky in my life to have many teachers who have also been a mentor to me. That's been a really great relationship with a positive experience. What has your experience been being a mentor or mentee?
JS: Sure. The team that I currently have and in my past teams, [they have] been an attorney that started out as a doc reviewer. They have seen the opportunity e-discovery offers and gone with it. I take a lot of pride in the fact that not only am I providing them with an alternative career path, but giving them the skills that they need in order to progress. I have people that I've mentored since 2006 that are in top-level law firms, other vendors, and some work here at Relativity. It's all over the board. And it's just great fun. The other thing is, many people go back to the traditional law job. They say that the skills that they learned while working with me were very helpful.
MT: Mary and I are both relatively new in the e-discovery field. Why do you think it's important for people like Mary and me and so many others to have a mentorship and have that role model figure as they go through their careers?
JS: [It’s important] because of the stigma that's associated with our industry—the fact that our industry is so young, and the legal field is against change. Bringing in young, new people that aren't familiar with the industry [leads to] an influx of new ideas. If everybody came in and they had worked at a traditional law firm, there’s one way of doing things. [Now] you have people that come in from all walks of life. That's one of the great things about a lot of the attorneys we get—they've been all over the place. One of the reasons they don't find a traditional job is because they traveled too much or because they're coming in from an alternative career. All of these people have different things to offer.
MT: Listeners can’t see but there’s a lot of head nodding going on.
MR: What you're saying is bringing young blood into the mix facilitates change for law firms. In your nomination for Stellar Women in e-Discovery, [it says] you're known for questioning the status quo. Can you mention a time that you have done this and it was successful?
JS: I think the funniest part of this question is that my questioning of the status quo is really getting back the fundamentals. Why do we do discovery? We do discovery to find the evidence in the case. Our industry has gotten away from that. One of the ways that we question the status quo is to go in at the beginning of a case and find that evidence. Find the evidence before the company has spent millions of dollars on the matter to only find out that they didn't have as good of a case as they thought they did. In one instance, we were working with a law firm. They had an employment law matter. They came to us and said we need to collect 20 custodians, but we don't really know what's going on. We just have to collect everybody, and then see what's going on. And we said, well, wait a second. Why are you collecting these 20 custodians if you don't know what's going on? So, we recommended to start with three custodians. So, we started with three custodians, did our analysis, and were able to pretty much build the timeline of the case. Based on our initial analysis, they wound up saying that they had everything they needed. We did a confirmatory analysis and we wound up only going through seven custodians instead of 20. One of those custodians wasn't even on the original list of 20. They were able to settle the case before spending very much money at all. We found the evidence that they needed in order to dispute the allegations against them. It cost our company money, but now we have a long-term client that sees our value.
MR: Jumping in with a quick plug. The Stellar Women in e-Discovery campaign is celebrated at Relativity's annual fall conference through our live awards ceremony in Chicago. Each year, we recognize the stellar woman in the field who embodies this podcast's core values: elevating women in tech, breaking barriers, mentoring others, and paying it forward. Know someone who comes to mind? Nominate her at relativityfest.com.
MT: You touched on it before—the legal field and so many industries are changing. How can young associates differentiate themselves with this change? Do you think it's practical things like going out and getting certifications? Or, is it about really investing in mentorship? How do you see the way forward for young associates?
JS: The number one thing is for young associates to use your experts. Learn how to manage others and let others do some of the work. We come up against a lot of young associates that are thrown into managing cases, and some of them feel like they have to do everything themselves. They [feel like they] have to make all the decisions and get the work done and structure everything. The ones that do the best are the ones that ask us [questions] and allow us to mentor them a little bit. I’ve been in this industry for 15 years so I've seen all of the mistakes. I can recommend against doing those. Let the experts do their job is what I would recommend. That's one of the things I think a lot of law firms forget to do is teach people how to manage others. I had one associate where I had been working with him for two years and finally met him because he's out in San Francisco. I went to a coffee and tea place and I've never met him before. He just runs up and gives me the hugest hug. He says, “I learned so much from you. I can't believe how hard your team works. I saw the way you managed and taught your team and I've incorporated that into how I do things.” The things that he was mentioning weren’t that he learned how to do e-discovery, which I thought was really, really cool.
MT: Switching gears a little bit. Can you tell us about some things you enjoy doing outside of the office that have nothing to do with the day-to-day? Just some things that make you happy.
JS: Well, I’m a crazy dog lady.
MR: We love dogs. Mila is more of a toy poodle type of girl. If I had my dream dog, it would be a Great Dane. Where do you fall in that argument?
JS: My best friend for 15 years was a Labrador Retriever. She was 95 pounds. We went everywhere together. She actually visited 22 different states with me. We've lived in four different states while she was alive. Now, I've gone the opposite direction. I have two what I call Snorkies. They’re seven pounds and eight pounds. They're half miniature Schnauzer and half Yorkshire Terrier.
MR: What are their names?
JS: Baldur and Eira. I was in a Vikings stage.
MR: Did you watch that show?
MR: My dad watches it and it looks pretty good.
JS: Nobody knows what their names are. Most people think that it's Boulder like a boulder.
MR: I like Baldur. It’s unique. There’s a lot of dogs named Tom.
MR: Scout is a big one.
JS: There’s a lot of Thors and Lokis now. I tell everyone it’s like Thor and Loki, but better.
MR: It’s more unique. You can say that my dog is better than yours.
JS: They have their own Instagram.
MR: We’ll have to give them a follow.
MT: Ninety percent of the accounts I follow are dogs.
JS: I don’t accept humans.
MR: If there’s not a dog in your picture, don’t even try with Jacy. She won’t accept. Closing here, we touched on this a little bit. Do you have any advice on how we as an industry can promote up-and-coming female leaders in e-discovery and legal tech?
JS: What you guys are doing here is fantastic. More of this would be wonderful. The other thing is to make sure that we're all together. It's not a competition for who's the best woman. Let's take on this industry and kick some butt.
MT: At the conference that Mary and I attended, they emphasized making friendships. As you said, we're all stronger and better together.
MR: It doesn’t need to be adversarial. Jacy, thanks for swinging on by today.
JS: Thank you for having me.
MR: Listeners, please subscribe to the Stellar Women in e-Discovery podcast on whatever platform you use to listen to your favorite podcasts. And with that, for Stellar Women in e-Discovery, I’m Mary Rechtoris.
MT: I’m Mila Taylor.
MR/MT: Signing off.