This is a rendering my daughter made for me of what I remind her of when I am in “story-tellin” mode. I am very late on this, which is not usual for me. January 21st was that magic day I fell in love with a profession where we kept information in legal-sized manilla folders, with labels made that came in rolls, and we had to lick them to activate the glue. Yellow was State Farm, Pink was Allstate, there was a “fat files” room when the contents in the pull-out file drawers got too big. There is so much I can relate to that journey that helps a colleague understand, with real stories they can relate to, about how a Hurricane can facilitate a breach (Houston we had rocks on the roofs during Hurricane Alicia what were we thinking!) or why going after a crane operator’s loading data may be easier to get and you’ll have the same information more quickly than the three vendors in front of the crane operator to the bigger target because of the legal and information work I’ve been blessed to do all these years. I’ve seen lawsuits, litigation, and the simple fact is that information, in any form, is an asset or risk to the organization. You can protect it, produce it, insure it, and comply with regulations governing it. A friend of mine said it most wisely: it’s no longer best practices, policy is dictated by the regulation in the locality where the data resides..
One of my favorite bosses’ the late James Ross, who at 26 was one of the US Attorney trial team in the lawsuit against The Government of France, over a little thing my fellow Texans remember as the Texas City Disaster would tell me, “Bird, there’s value in seeing something that says ‘Sally, by and through her next friend, Jane versus.’ What that tells you is there was a time that Sally could not sue, and the laws were changed to allow it through a next friend and all that history enriches you.” I love the experiences of working for brilliant legal minds in toxic tort, admiralty, marine, product liability, take or pay, Qui Tam, medical malpractice and spotting things in documents others did not see (differing kerning, or lasers in 1954?), and the tactile feeling of well logs with coffee stains and singed edges from the fire from an O2 compressor. The professions around that asset are exhilarating.
Information over these years has started or become part of so many disciplines because it all boils back to that simple consolidation: information is a risk or an asset. If you have information, profit can be made from a bad actor taking it. It’s one reason we are seeing bolt-on cyber practices to discovery companies as the job postings are 100 to 1 for cyber positions over discovery. Protecting your data is even more important as those documents that may be missed in a production for valid reasons, may have information that disrupts financial markets or provides the jury a bias to award massive punitives. It’s one of the thoughts I used when privileged to serve ARMA Houston in around 2005 to grow its paid luncheon attendance to a record high of 212 and the workshops to 65 (I remember the day the meeting took up the entire top floor of the HESS Club) by reaching outside membership to the real stakeholder communities of practice (IT, Legal, Privacy and Security) rather than just mailing a member list. Documents are exciting and I’m going to stand here long enough for you to get excited about information as an asset. That chapter still holds my heart along with Austin.
This year I want to thank every brilliant legal mind who influenced my journey and fought for the common man. Who stood up and made case law for the same school rule of expert testimony, for assumption of the risk, for 12g actions, for a business invitee’s right to safety, and those who pioneered rear-end defense and reverse contingent fee. I can’t imagine the next evolution the 4th Industrial Revolution is going to bring us with information that is stored in autonomous cars..
So, this year, I’ve decided to do a short interview, with as many women who will allow me to, who have not only inspired me, but influenced and changed our industry. Their DNA runs through us all, and many of them are pioneers and thought leaders. This 45th anniversary of walking into a law firm in Houston, will be an all-year celebration. Stay tuned for the “Women Who Influenced and Changed Our Industry” series. Until then …