by April Runft on March 08, 2018
(informal) “Featuring or having the quality of a star performer; exceptionally good; outstanding”
What does “stellar” look like in e-discovery?
We recently launched a campaign asking you to nominate the e-discovery women in your world who personify stellar. What you’re telling us: stellar goes beyond navigating through tricky technical challenges, complex regulatory environments, overlapping projects, and the steady thrum of deadlines. Stellar means to make time in the chaos to mentor others, prioritize learning, celebrate the strengths of your team and colleagues across your organization, and be a champion for innovation—even if that means more work in the short term.
According to her teammates, Mimi Singh, associate general counsel and director of e-discovery at Evolver, more than fits the bill. The Relativity Blog sat down with Mimi to learn more about keeping up—and keeping a sense of humor.
Associate General Counsel and Director of e-Discovery
“I would like to nominate our Relativity Master Mimi Singh. In my 23 years of involvement in e-discovery I’ve never met a more competent, intelligent, warm, level-headed, detail-oriented, and down-to-earth professional—woman or man. Mimi excels at everything she sets her brilliant mind to. Her can-do attitude on top of her mastery of Relativity is refreshing and inspiring. She always approaches the challenges of our projects with measured thoughtfulness as well as a healthy dose of quick wit. Generous with her time, Mimi mentors everyone on our team so that each of us can excel at e-discovery. Her actions and professionalism inspire me every day to be better at Relativity and better at my job.”
– Terry Lundy
“Mimi constantly works to improve herself utilizing Relativity’s feature-rich platform to the fullest. In my 32 years in the industry, I’ve never met a more competent, detail-oriented, and down-to-earth professional. Mimi is approachable and fun, and her positive attitude leaves our clients always feeling well served and asking for more. Her actions and professionalism inspire the team and our clients every day to be better themselves at Relativity. Evolver, our clients, and the industry are lucky to have her.”
– Bruce Markowitz
April Runft: Hello and thanks for joining us. I'm April Runft and I'm part of the community and customer advocacy team at Relativity. We launched a campaign recently where we invited folks in our community to recognize stellar women in e-discovery. The women who inspire us. The ones who push boundaries, who champion innovation and pay it forward. I'm so excited to be joined today by one of those women: Mimi Singh. Mimi, welcome!
Mimi Singh: Hi, April.
AR: You were nominated by not one but two of your teammates at Evolver. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and where you work?
MS: Sure. I'm here at Evolver. I've been here a couple of years now. At its core, I lead projects for our clients. A large part of what I also do is in-house adoption of new technologies after vetting them in sandbox-type testing. In my role as Associate General Counsel, I'm involved with negotiation and drafting of contracts, be it for our clients or for partners with whom we are partnering for their newer technologies. And then the final aspect of my role is the professional development of colleagues. I co-partner with my boss in ensuring ongoing training and development of teammates.
AR: Great. And what should folks know about Evolver, and your strengths as a company?
MS: Evolver has three distinct divisions. IT infrastructure is a large part of what Evolver does: in the federal and governmental sector, and commercial as well. Cybersecurity and the e-discovery division make up the rest of Evolver.
AR: Pulling on that thread of e-discovery: can you share how you found your way into this industry?
MS: Happy accident, dumb luck, serendipity? Take your choice. I graduated law school in 1996 and started off as a litigator at a national law firm here in Philadelphia. Along the way I migrated to going in-house to an international mutual fund broker-dealer. After a few years, I morphed into tax and securities work, a small stint for post-grad-work at NYU, and then I was actually at another law firm in Philadelphia—an international one—doing essentially securities, tax, ERISA, and executive compensation, and looking to make a change, having been there two years and it not "sticking" for me. I was contemplating a change and my law firm asked me to do them a favor: work for one of their pharmaceutical clients on an over-the-counter drug where there were allegations of a failure to warn consumers. It was a document-review management position, but with obviously the technical components that go along with setting up and managing document review. This is in 2004—those were very, very heady, exciting times for e-discovery. I had no idea, I was sort of blind to it, but the federal rules were changing (the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure). And I was very fortunate. I was mentored by some excellent practitioners—litigators who were interested in e-discovery, and since 2005 I've pretty much been with a steady diet of e-discovery and very happily situated here.
AR: Well, we are glad you're here. So this could get awkward, but I want to read a couple quotes from the nominations from your teammates. So to our audience: you could read the full nominations on the blog, but I just want to pull out a couple here really quick. So one of your teammates said, "Mimi excels at everything she sets her brilliant mind to. Her can-do attitude, on top of her mastery of Relativity, is refreshing and inspiring. She constantly works at improving her craft to utilize Relativity's feature-rich platform to the fullest. She mentors everyone on our team so that each of us can excel at e-discovery." So I want to dig into these a bit further. Your teammates mentioned that you use Relativity to the fullest. Can you share any tips that you have for keeping up?
MS: Keeping up. It's certainly a challenge, but before keeping up, you’ve got to catch up, and it was actually a labor of love for me. I undertook, over the course of the year, to get my [Relativity] certifications in five different areas. And I think that was pretty invaluable for me to understand—as one of my colleagues said—the feature-rich aspects of Relativity. And I think it's very important to dig deep, and for me, the certification process, Community posts and blogs, and then even the manuals were extremely helpful. Keeping up: my two recommendations are the [Relativity] Fest workshops. They're three hours long. They're very in-depth. They're excellent. And then have relationships with the Solutions team, who will mentor you. I've had the good fortune of having that through some of your brainiac colleagues. So that's what I do to keep up.
AR: And then just to go a little bit further. When you mention resources like the blog: what does your cadence look like for that? How often are you sitting down with that?
MS: Fortunately, we're allowed to set how frequently we get it, because I belong to several of the Community forums. I get them on a weekly basis, April, and then I sort of dig in and read them, and anything that I particularly want to get into further, as you mentioned, for keeping up with it or deepen my understanding, I save it as a favorite. But that's my cadence—it's weekly.
AR: Great advice. So looking back at your nomination, another thing your teammates said: "she approaches the challenges of our projects with measured thoughtfulness and a healthy dose of quick wit and reality. She's approachable and fun, and her positive attitude leaves our clients always feeling well-served and asking for more." So thinking about that client piece, what do you see as the number one key ingredient for helping your clients be successful in e-discovery?
MS: So unpacking that a little bit...e-discovery is extremely complicated and very, very expensive. Now it's a large part of the litigation spend, and I think for success, it's important to understand the "what" and the "why" before you jump into implementing the "how." A lot of e-discovery practitioners are perfectionists, but the standard for e-discovery is not perfect discovery. It's based on an evolving standard called proportionality. Inbuilt in that standard is reasonableness. What's reasonable based on what that data source is, what the needs of the case are, based on the relative access of that data to both of the parties. Several factors, and to be successful, the guidance has to be holistic, recognizing how interconnected things are. So, for example, if you're looking at a matter and you have documents that are marketing PowerPoints, in this day and age, with Microsoft Office, everybody embeds files. This has a cascading effect on the volume of documents, the volume of review needed, the production volume, the complexity of unrelated documents being embedded.
In order for that client to be successful, you first as a practitioner need to know that they even have that data. If you understand that early on, you can help [outside counsel] shape what that ESI protocol will look like, that [protocol] governs the rules of engagement. Negotiate what makes sense for those PowerPoints—that shapes processing instructions. That shapes how the data is hosted. That shapes how it's reviewed, produced—and then there are complexities at the privilege log stage. All of that is just one example. A recent example that I had. In order to be successful, we need to have helped the client very early on and then shepherded the process all the way through to successful completion. And then for that same client, templatizing it and then training other team members on how to do it going forward. And so I think that's an example of how success can be achieved. Without doing any of it, the consequences can be expensive, time consuming, and just bad.
AR: Well, it sounds like then we could agree that good e-discovery really requires diverse perspectives on your team. So like the technical, the legal, the innovative, and maybe a healthy dose of the cautious in there. So how do you try to blend those perspectives on your team?
MS: So our team, I'm very fortunate. They're a great team. I'll say that everybody on the team is probably stronger than me on the innovative side—or at least, the Dev team is stronger than me on the innovative side. Development can help do scripting that actually works hand-in-glove with Relativity, which is very open to developers, by the way, as you well know.
The cautious part is something that I think is fairly key. So as a team, whatever we do needs to be defensible. That's what e-discovery is. It's got to be proportional. It's got to be defensible. And so whatever you track—however innovative, however technically clever, however legally sound—needs to be cautious. It needs to be documented and the consequences are pretty dire—they range from inconvenient to dire—if you’re not cautious.Continued hard work and complementing of people's skillsets is key.
AR: Two more questions for you as we wrap up here. I want to take it back to you personally, and I'm wondering: do you think that there were any unexpected skills that you have that may have given you a competitive edge as you built your career?
MS: Not so much skills as just background. I was fortunate enough to be an e-discovery lawyer at a couple of law firms, then I had a brief pit stop in-house at a large automaker, and now I'm in the third part of that trifecta, or triangle, which is the litigation service provider end of things. I think having that holistic, prismatic view of the three parts of that triangle are my strengths, if you will, rather than a skill.
AR: Final question: what was the best piece of feedback that you've ever received?
MS: I hope it is that the same clients keep coming back for more. It's a free world. They have free choice. So I think that's the best feedback: they keep coming back.
AR: Excellent. Well, that's all the time we have for today. Mimi, thank you so much for being here. This was insightful.
MS: Thanks for having me, April. I enjoyed being here.
AR: And listeners: thank you for joining us. Until next time—for The Relativity Blog, I'm April Runft.
April Runft is a member of the marketing communications team at Relativity, specializing in content development.