What Our TV Dads Taught Us about the Legal World

Father’s Day was inaugurated in 1908 about a month after the first Mother’s Day, and now heralds new socks, trips to Home Depot, and cookies shaped like neckties. Since we recently learned what our moms taught us about e-discovery, it seemed important to look to our dads for the same advice ahead of their day—celebrated on June 19 this year in many parts of the globe.

But let’s say—like me—you were partially raised by television. There’s no shame in it. As we dads know, we don’t always say exactly the right thing at the right moment, but the prolific fathers on TV consistently gave the perfect advice at the perfect time.

Let’s check out what some of the top TV dads taught us about the law and e-discovery—whether or not they intended.

“I’m your father. It is my job to protect you. It’s a job I refuse to quit, and at which I can’t afford to fail.” – Uncle Phil, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Not every case is fun. Not many would say processing a new TB of data is at the top of their bucket list. But there is one common thread behind the work our community does—protecting their clients and their organizations to the best of their ability. Whether that means finding the truth during an investigation or ensuring transparency with the government around a major acquisition, there’s a ton on the line.

Uncle Phil taught us how to have passion and conviction, and that’s applicable whether we’re standing up for our client or for our punk nephew who got shipped out of west Philadelphia because he couldn’t play one damn game of basketball without it turning into an all-out brawl.

“Don’t you know when you make a mistake, you fess up to it? Trying to cover it up would only make it worse.” – Carl Winslow, Family Matters

It sure would be great if the first approach to every problem in e-discovery worked. No new custodians ever pop up a month into a review, right? And no one has ever changed the timeline for a production once it’s been set, right?

That’s why it’s important to evaluate and reevaluate your workflows. If something changes, step back, admit that the current approach might not be optimal, and adjust.

We’ve seen teams process data and begin review immediately—then quickly pivot that review as they process an unexpected collection behind the scenes. We’ve seen teams begin a TAR workflow, realize that the richness of responsive documents was lower than expected, and then adjust accordingly. The best teams use data in real time to make these types of calls, and ultimately achieve better-than-expected results.

“Them who don’t look, sometimes get took.” – Mike Brady, The Brady Bunch

Granted, Mike Brady was talking about how to properly shop for used cars without getting hustled, but do we always take the time to pop the hood of a case before throwing every resource at it? If you’re diving into discovery without first using the right technology to gain insight into your data, you might find yourself overwhelmed.

Some of our favorite ways to make sure you don’t get took:

  1. Analyze and synthesize data with ECA. With early case assessment, you can quickly aggregate the data for your case and get an understanding of it before review ever starts. The more you can use visualizations or analytics during this phase, the more empowered you’ll be to make important decisions—such as what data to prioritize or what to exclude.
  2. Use basic analytics at the start of any case. Quite a few of our customers have a hard and fast rule to use email threading on every project, and the most successful ones understand how it fits into existing workflows. There’s a lot of upside to removing redundant data from the get-go, no matter the size or makeup of your case.
  3. Leverage visualizations that help spot unusual patterns during review. By building custom dashboards using pivot tables and charts, you can do more than just track a review—you can track a case with exactly the information that’s relevant to you. Some folks may want out-of-the-box templates, while others crave a dashboard all their own.

“No matter how old a man gets, he can always learn something new.” – Ben Cartwright, Bonanza

The law evolves—from new international considerations to court approvals of revolutionary technology—and it’s tough to stay ahead if you’re standing still. Access to emerging lessons abounds—from online sources to in-person conferences like ILTACON and LTNY—so there’s less excuse now than ever for falling behind.

Personally, I make it a goal to teach my son at least one new thing every day. Granted, he’s one, so the past two days’ learning points were “how to not throw food on the ground” and “what a lamp is,” but why not learn at least one new thing every day yourself? Read about technological innovation or a new case that’s relevant to your practice. Watch a webinar. Talk to one of your seasoned peers.

“Young man, since you broke Grandpa's teeth, then he gets to break yours.” – Homer Simpson, The Simpsons

No list of paternal advice would be complete without the wise words of Homer Simpson. To one, Homer’s slightly rejiggered take on “an eye for an eye” might sound like petty revenge. To another, there’s a flipside—that the work resulting from an action should be just and proportionate to the action at hand.

Clearly, Homer’s been studying the recent changes to the FRCP and thought long and hard about what the new proportionality factors mean for his daily life. What do they mean for yours?


Okay. So maybe some fatherly advice needs to be stretched to be salient—but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from the top dads on TV. When I look at my own son—and the food he’s thrown all over the ground—I still espouse the wise words of Danny Tanner: “Clean is good, dirt is bad.”

Shawn Gaines is director of marketing communications at kCura, where he guides content strategy, PR and analyst relations, social media, and brand messaging.