Consensus can be helpful, but you don’t want people to always agree with you—especially your teammates. According to Judy Torres, vice president of information technology for Advanced Discovery, diversity of opinion is crucial when building successful teams.
The Relativity Blog chatted with Judy for our Stellar Women in e-Discovery campaign on the rise of automation in e-discovery, the value of mentorship, and why no message is ever truly deleted, which may come as an unwelcome surprise to many avid Snapchat users.
Vice President of Information Services
“Judy has made a measurable impact in the e-discovery industry with her more than 20 years of experience in information technology, data analysis, software design and testing, and customer support. In her role as the leader of multiple diverse, multifunctional information management teams, Judy has focused on streamlining processes by implementing new technologies and tactical strategies.
“Her hands-on involvement in technical initiatives, deep understanding of data analytics and reporting, and strong leadership skills have allowed her to play a critical role in operational management and strategic organizational development.
“Judy participates in numerous organizations that work to improve and promote the e-discovery industry including the Association of Litigation Support Professionals, Women in E-Discovery, Sedona Conference, [and more].”
– Diane Block, marketing advisor
Mary Rechtoris: Hi listeners. I'm Mary Rechtoris, part of Relativity’s community and customer advocacy team. Thanks for tuning in to Stellar Women in e-Discovery, a campaign that invites members of the e-discovery community to nominate standout professionals in the legal field. These are women who push boundaries, champion innovations, pay it forward, and inspire. Today one of our nominees, Judy Torres, is joining us. Judy, welcome!
Judy Torres: Thank you!
MR: Can you tell listeners about your current role as VP of information services at Advanced Discovery?
JT: As VP of information services, my team includes the hosting teams, or litigation support teams, who support our Relativity users day in and day out, as well as support the project managers within the hosted environment and the electronic discovery processing team here at Advanced Discovery.
MR: Thanks for sharing. Before joining Advanced Discovery, you were the director of information services for Socorro Independent School District. Can you walk us through your decision to move from the education sector to e-discovery?
JT: That was an interesting time. I was in the public sector for 14 years with management information systems. I don’t know if anybody can really remember when that division was called MIS, which was pretty standard across the technology field. This is where we were managing data for services that students received throughout the school district as well as applications for all of the various business units.
I didn't even know what electronic discovery was when I initially came into the private sector in 2006. They convinced me that that was the right role for me. They were recruiting me for a couple years when I did transition to the private sector in electronic discovery. Sure enough, it is data—processing data, managing data, and ensuring that the quality of data is maintained throughout each one of those processes. Although it took a little time to ramp up and adapt my brain to electronic discovery, once I got it, I was addicted.
MR: Do you see yourself going back to the education side of things?
JT: It’s definitely a slower pace. On many of those nights when you have tight deadlines and your teams are working as hard as they can, and you're managing the changing dynamics of the industry of what's the newest and latest buzz of what people want to do, those are the days when you say, ‘Gosh, remember those great days in the education sector where people went home at five?’ But, truth be told, for individuals that are in technology, there is a characteristic about us that we always want to learn, do things better, and re-engineer things. It would be difficult to go back to the education sector.
MR: One of Judy’s colleagues nominated her for the Stellar Women campaign. I would like to share the nomination with our listeners:
Judy has made a measurable impact in the e-discovery industry with her more than 20 years of experience in information technology, data analysis, software design and testing, and customer support. In her role as the leader of multiple diverse, multifunctional information management teams, Judy has focused on streamlining processes by implementing new technologies and tactical strategies.
Her hands-on involvement in technical initiatives, deep understanding of data analytics and reporting, and strong leadership skills have allowed her to play a critical role in operational management and strategic organizational development.
As illustrated in the nomination, you have experience not only e-discovery, but also in leadership roles. How would you describe your leadership style?
JT: Definitely a micromanager ... I’m kidding. What I like to do is mentor, understand all the angles and take all perspectives into consideration. I think I’m open and receptive to all opinions. I don’t like teams that completely agree with me and I think that if that ever happens, I need a completely new team. I like them to be, not necessarily argumentative, but I want different perspectives. Then, I am considering all angles for the right approach on anything, whether it is a process, tool, or decision.
For the immediate leaders that report to me, we have a great relationship where we try to shoot arrows in all directions to make sure we are covering everything.
MR: What are some challenges you find that teams must overcome so they can operate at their optimal efficiency?
JT: I don’t think it’s unlike any other company—the global teams that aren’t all in the same office. We really need to tighten up our communication skills and we need to communicate differently. We have cameras and Zoom accounts so we are all communicating and we can all see each other so that everyone feels included. There are many group email addresses because you don’t want to overlook someone who may not have gotten the message.
The virtual office situation has overtaken not just e-discovery, but any industry. We must overcome challenges as a team to make sure everyone feels that they are a part of that team, whether or not they are in that office.
MR: Backtracking a little bit Judy, you said your leadership style is one of mentorship. Have you had a mentor that helped shape the way you view leadership or running your team?
JT: I have totally hit the mentorship jackpot throughout my life. I have been so fortunate and, you know, they've all been very different. I've really tried to take the best aspects of each one of them and try to put a little piece of them into me and how I've developed. I've had mentors in the education side that were great at making me believe that I could do anything and I’ve had other ones that made me believe I just had to work harder to achieve things. I’ve had others that taught me to communicate news [in a] better [way]. Sometimes I was too blunt. I’ve had some that have been proponents of technology and incorporating that into the classroom, or how to position a stance to get buy-in on proposing a solution to the board of directors.
In e-discovery, Margaret Valenzuela, who was the owner of Altep, is just so proper. It reminded me that sometimes you need to sit there, smile, and listen. And, be sure you are really listening and taking in all the information before you're responding. Don't listen to respond; listen to understand. I've been fortunate. I hope that someday the people who are within any of my teams feel the same way.
MR: That is great insight. Going back to the e-discovery field, what are some major milestones that you’ve seen occur in the past few years? What trends do you see shaping the field in the years to come?
JT: We can’t deny that e-discovery has come a long way. When I started was really the beginning of native productions and native hosting. Prior to that, everything was kind of processed through imaging. I came into the industry at the right time.
Throughout this process, we've seen more automation, whether it is automation from processing to hosting, and automation for review with the incorporation of analytics. I think we're going to continue to see that potentially happening closer to the left on the client side where there is more automation on the collection of data. I think we’re going to see more automation on the collection of mobile devices. Here’s my big prediction: incorporating more of the users, the phone owners, as first-level reviewers who can mark items as private.
Social media is also a big part of our future in e-discovery. Although it’s already here and we do review Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, and LinkedIn accounts, I think that part will become easy. It is not as easy as standard ESI processing right now.
MR: And now you have Snapchat, where the messages disappear.
JT: Believe it or not, it’s just like everyone’s impression that when you deleted a document on your desktop, they thought that it was gone. Then later, when forensics would come and collect it, and you're like, “Hey, didn’t I delete that? That document is still there.” Snapchat is the same way. That is simply a flag on those documents. If the device were collected and the user authenticated the collection of the data, you would certainly collect all of those deleted Snapchats.
MR: Users better beware.
JT: Exactly. That’s what’s so dangerous to be honest with you. Because we think about email in the early stages of discovery where people were more care-free with their communications, and that’s where you could really find the smoking gun. People simply weren’t aware that that information could be potentially collected and reviewed by attorneys. Throughout the years, people have a better understanding because they’re signing agreements with their companies that say, “we have access to your data, we’re saving your data, and we can look at your data.” So, people are more formal in their communications and cautious about how they communicate with others. But that care-free style is still on social media. Whenever smoking guns come out, they all seem to be coming from a mobile device or a WhatsApp account.
MR: People are way more casual, and have gotten in gotten in trouble for a tweet.
JT: No doubt, and that is so interesting. People begin to feel that freedom—and it is a freedom, their own personal accounts. They are communicating opinions and are not realizing the impact of those. And then they are always, or most of the time, coming back and apologizing. Now, society is holding people accountable. It’s not just your employer that is going to hold you accountable. You may be in a position where you have millions of followers and they may hold you accountable as well.
MR: We’ve seen that time and time again. Going back to the nomination, I want to share the final piece that your colleague had to say.
Judy participates in numerous organizations that work to improve and promote the e-discovery industry including the Association of Litigation Support Professionals, Women in E-Discovery, Sedona Conference, Electronic Discovery Group, Electronic Discovery Professionals, [and more].
Why do you think it is important for professionals in e-discovery to join these types of associations?
JT: First and foremost, it is to network. You’re going to meet so many individuals that experience the same challenges that you do day in and day out. These are forums to solve a lot of those problems and discuss situations, or even understand from a legal perspective, from a technology perspective, from an information perspective, how particular issues are viewed.
There is a multitude of associations out there. I would recommend start with one. Maybe just go into a LinkedIn group and see some of the communications. Find one that's right for you. Meet the people and meet the individuals who communicate day in and day out with the groups. Who are the leaders of the organization? Do they have networking functions or social functions where you can meet people face to face within your chapter or your local area? Do they have annual seminars that you can go to? It's not that you have to go to everything, but it's just a great resource to turn to when potentially you're facing a challenge that you're not sure the appropriate direction. It gives you many options of how a whole circle of people are facing that problem and how they may approach it.
MR: That reminds me of what you said about having all these different mentors who have helped you in all different facets of your career.
MR: Judy, with time wrapping up here: what advice would you give someone who is just starting their career in the field?
JT: Well, it's a broad field. So, unless you know what area you want to be a subject matter expert in, I would say try to dabble in a little bit of each. Try to learn about the entire industry from information through processing, hosting, and production. Learn it all, or learn a little bit of it all, and then focus on one area that you’re interested in. But, above all, once you do become that subject matter expert in that area, own your knowledge. Own it, defend it, and teach it. There are so many that want to learn and not that many that want to teach it. So, share your knowledge and own your knowledge.
MR: Thanks so much for joining us today. This has been great.
JT: Thank you.
MR: From Stellar Women in e-Discovery, I’m Mary Rechtoris. Have a great day.
Mary Rechtoris is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, where she specializes in customer advocacy.