Social Privacy

Social Media – To Post or Not to Post

Social media can be a great way to connect, share events, and so much more.  But, as with most
things, there is a risk of misuse.  The best part about being as old as I am is that I wasn’t in high school with smart phones and social media. While I was not out there breaking the law and
partaking in a lot of questionable behaviors; I was still a kid having some fun. When I was a teenager, I would have never thought that a picture, video, comment or meme is forever. I would have allowed my immature, teenage humor to block any logical thinking I may have had. The reality for today’s kids is that they will be judged on those immature, teenage humor pictures, videos or comments, potentially for years to come. A company 10 years later may unfairly dismiss them from a job because they found something on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that has no bearing on who that person is today. The notion that the internet is forever does not only apply to teenage humor, it also applies to the legal field.

BTG has worked on several federal cases that are largely being adjudicated because of Facebook returns and cell phone dumps. Facebook returns are what the government will receive from a subpoena of Facebook, to receive all of the metadata related to your account. Within the metadata, is your GPS coordinates when that post was made, all individuals you have contact with, and all photos, videos, telephone calls and comments you make. Even a picture or video that you’ve shared and then deleted will still be provided in the subpoena request! This is also true with a cell phone dump. Any and all metadata on your phone is now in the hands of the government.  Even if you are not under investigation for federal crimes, this metadata, if hacked, can contain some very personal information.

Knowing what I know now does make me pause before I hit send on that post or text message. Not only should we be bringing this to the attention of our children, we as adults need to realize the harm that a picture, video, or comment can cause you if somehow your metadata becomes available to someone you wished it wouldn’t have. Whether you’re under investigation or not, a friend of a friend of a friend’s cousin’s uncle’s brother may be- and that might unwittingly lead to your data being available to complete strangers. 

Behind the Gavel logo

BTG- Past, Present, and Future

As we begin this New Year, we are going to take a little ride down memory lane.  I am always
motivated by looking back to see where we’ve come from – what we did well, what changed, and what challenges we were able to overcome.  So here we go….back to the beginning.

Behind the Gavel was born in February 2016.  Co-owners Cary and Daley started this company
because they are motivated to ensure that everyone receives fair and equal representation.  That motivation made them unstoppable and the rate at which the company grew was evidence of that.  Less than two years later we had already outgrown the office space and in October 2017 we moved to our current office location.  This allowed us to hire the staff we needed to keep up with the work coming our way. 

Along with the excitement of a new office space, we released our online review platform, De Novo, on October 4, 2017.  De Novo is a game changer in discovery review.  With the ability to log in and search through the discovery, tag documents, share notes, sort and filter – attorneys now had a tool like never before.  In just two years, we exceeded 300 users on De Novo but the growth did not stop there! 

For our first two years the 9th Circuit kept us very busy, however we knew there were cases nationwide that could benefit from our services.  In 2018 we expanded to the 7th Circuit and in 2019 we were into the 7th Circuit and 10th Circuit!   We are grateful to all of the attorneys that have trusted us to help with their case. 

Not only have we grown as a company but our staff have been tested, stretched, and manages to keep getting better and better.  Each full time employee successfully led their own case in 2019, coming in under budget.  The content of discovery is not always pleasant but they charge on and work through issues while developing processes that are better than before. 

The past four years have been full of excitement, challenges, growth, some frustration, and a lot of fun.  But what trumps all of that is the passion of this team at BTG – a passion to perform at a high level and provide the best work product that we possibly can and the support to go with it.  You will not find a more dedicated team with a bigger heart for justice.  But you don’t need to take my word for it. It is in the 12 TB of data, the 4.5 million pages we have processed and most of all the 544 defendants and their attorneys that we have worked for.  98% of those attorneys would recommend BTG on a case – but then, when we save them an average of 330 hours on a case who can blame them? 

Looking back is fun and celebrating our success even more so.  Now that we have looked back, we are looking to the future.  We are continually refining our processes and excited about what 2020 holds for BTG.  Care to join us for the ride?

Visual Learning

Show AND Tell

I am a visual person. You could tell me how to do something eight times, and I could still get lost. Writing and reading notes, drawing diagrams, looking at a photo or recognizing patterns is my best chance at retaining information. I know I am not alone in this. When I was in high school, I learned math not by understanding the logic of an equation as explained by my teacher, but rather by staring at examples and recognizing the pattern of their results.

One of my first cases with Behind the Gavel involved a huge drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy. There were many players, with the investigation turning in a hundred different directions along the way. “Who is this guy?” I kept asking myself, “How do these people fit together?”  We know how daunting some of these types of cases can be and these are just some of the questions we address for you in nearly every project. 

So for those of you who are with me on the visual-aid-train, have we got a tool for you!

The Relational Chart is a tool designed to lay out a conspiracy in a series of visual aids. We analyze discovery for patterns of connections between co-conspirators, display them on diagrams and provide you with a citation for every instance we find, so you can see for yourself our logic behind each affiliation. Those connections can be pulled from agency reports, wiretap data, toll data, and more. We also provide our own flowchart that creates a picture of the conspiracy as we understood it through reading the discovery.

As with our other products, the Relational Chart is created for all defense counsel and can be navigated through by just a couple clicks. But don’t worry, if you do need help with any of our products, we are here for you and can schedule a training at your convenience. We will SHOW you how to get the most out of everything. After all, we visual learners need to help each other out.

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Lawyers- As seen by a Software Engineer

We non-lawyers often see attorneys a bit like doctors.  There’s a lot of school involved, hearing them talk can make it sound like a foreign language, and they’re all insanely rich.  Television programs have gone a long way to perpetuate misconceptions about those in the field of law as with probably every other profession.  I’m a software engineer with over thirty years of experience but here at BTG this has been my first foray into this arena.  What I have learned has opened my eyes a bit and made me feel pretty good about what I’m developing for our clients.

First, the amount of data that defense counsel must review is astounding.  How did this get done in the days before software?  500,000 documents that might be email, affidavits, phone records, and many other types of files.  Every case is different and the files provided might be of a similar category (wiretaps, emails, etc.) but the format can differ wildly depending on the law enforcement agency that the data originated from.  So we do quite a bit of custom development to parse through the data and organize it, so that it can be reviewed in De Novo, our online discovery review platform.  It can be time-consuming to get it right, but the end result is reviewable, searchable data that a lawyer can use to focus in on their client.

Second, lawyers do not have a lot of time to become technically proficient with software.  This was a bit of a revelation to me that what I take for granted as an everyday skill is not present in many lawyers.  Now it’s also true that being a software engineer I tend to be surprised at the level of computer acumen in most people, so let’s not single lawyers out as being technically backward.  I’m talking about my perceptions.  But when you think about it, it makes sense.  They’re trained to work with the enormous history of case law and apply it to the defense of their client.  Their focus must be on the application of law.  When we at BTG hear grateful reports from our customers about how easy it is to use our products, that it saved them time in developing strategies for their clients, it encourages us to continue to improve what we do.

Lastly, it takes a long time to prepare for a client’s defense.  Those television shows get a case wrapped up in an hour or less.  The reality is months, sometime years where you do some work, wait, work a bit more, wait again, lather, rinse, repeat.  It means that we have to keep data for a case available for a long time and supplemental data may come in during the time a case is alive as well.  A case that we’ve archived may get brought back out because of any number of reasons.  So we keep data around for quite a while and are prepared to update a case with new data as it is given to us.

In my years developing software the best work is that which is appreciated by those who use your product.  There have always been wonderful moments where someone has told me how much their tasks have been helped by some application or utility that I’ve written.  At the end of the day, that’s what keeps me going working at a keyboard day after day – hearing the success stories.  I hope that those of you who work with us find what we provide a “couldn’t-do-without” type of help.  That’s what we’re here for.

lawyer computer

Handling the “scary” side of discovery

Halloween is a funny time of year.  There are the cute little kids wandering around in puppy costumes and princess dresses. Then you have the older kids that want to be “scary” with their vampires and creepy clown attire.  But that is all pretend.  The (very real) disturbing images are the ones that come out with discovery in criminal cases.  Autopsy photos.  That’s real. The crime scene photos before the body gets to the morgue.  Real disturbing.  And we haven’t even discussed Facebook returns and images stored on defendant cell phones.  We can, and have, looked through every photo because occasionally things are sold on Facebook that shouldn’t be.  Facebook Messenger can be used to conduct business transactions that aren’t on the up-and-up.

We look through all of them and tag them so attorneys can focus on a small number of images or messages instead of a 600,000-page Facebook dump. If one ever needs a lesson about not taking pictures of your private parts because you never know who might be seeing them, this is it!

Being employed in a field where porn and dead bodies will show up on your work computer also adds an interesting aspect to the workplace.  Being conscious of workplace culture is never more important than when you KNOW unsavory (possibly unintentionally hilarious) items will be on your screen.  The person walking behind your desk might be in for an accidental eyeful (search warrant photos, I’m talking to you)!  There’s a fine line between laughing about the off-color meme from a cell phone dump with the rest of the team on the case and getting in trouble for harassment.  We do take the time to mark any such files as “inappropriate” for defendants awaiting trial while incarcerated.  Their discovery needs to be clean for them and their respective facility. 

Videos, photos and audio files come in various file types, some of them not very accessible from your computer, unless they are converted.  We convert all these file types into a format easily opened without any special program.  You could call us “the first line of defense” when finding the needle in the haystack or the masters of the social media universe.

We hope you enjoyed pretending this Halloween and had a Milky Way bar (or two!) along the way.  If you’re going to have [a] 100 Grand, don’t brag about it on social media.

pink pig figurine on white surface

CJA Cost Savings

Hold onto your hats, we’re going to do some math!

 We here at BTG are well-aware of how difficult it can be to get funding from courts that are suspicious of requests for seemingly “Cadillac” services for a defense.  It is an extraordinary, uphill battle that’s often intimidating, frustrating, and defeating.  We’re here to provide you with a little information to put in your back pocket the next time a court balks at the use of BTG or any other service-provider.  We are steadfast in our belief that we are not an expense.  We can and will save money and we will provide the best available products with the best possible service.

 

Let’s say a Grand Jury indicts 50 co-defendants in a massive federal drug conspiracy case.  The 6th amendment requires that all 50 of those defendants receive representation.  Let’s assume that all 50 of those defendants can’t afford an attorney, so they’re appointed a Criminal Justice Act Panel attorney.  Through our research, 70% of those attorneys are either solo practitioners or practice in a small firm (2-5 attorneys).  It is highly unlikely that they have the time, staff, or software/equipment to process and organize discovery in-house. 

 The case itself contains voluminous discovery.  There are multiple wiretaps, transcripts, tons of Facebook and Twitter data, phone downloads, toll records, surveillance video, pole-camera videos, and tens of thousands of pages of police reports and court pleadings.  It is overwhelming.  In order to perform their due-diligence, however, each attorney must somehow wade through all that stuff to find the most pertinent information for their client. 

 In our experience, attorneys do not receive neatly organized discovery from the government, and the government isn’t under any real obligation to produce it that way.  It is often distributed on multiple cd’s, dvd’s, blu-rays, external hard drives, in no particular form or fashion, and typically without any sort of index.  Suffice it to say, it takes a substantial amount of time to get everything in order to even begin a meaningful discovery review.  It may take several hours just to find a single document that a client is mentioned in!    

 Let’s assume that it will take each of those attorneys 100 hours to process and organize their discovery (keeping in mind that 70% are solo practitioners or work in a small firm and lack the staff to do it for them).  Let’s assume that the hourly rate for each of those attorneys is $135.00 per hour.  Each attorney, therefore, will require a budget of $13,500.00 for discovery processing and organization.  The total cost then, would be $675,000.00 for the entire case (50 attorneys x $13,500.00).

 If all of those attorneys instead hire paralegals to organize discovery, and those paralegals have an hourly rate of $45.00, the cost will be $4,500.00 per paralegal for a total of $225,000.00 (50 paralegals x $4,500.00) for the entire case.

 (here comes the math)

We have compiled three tables to outline the cost and cost savings for an entire case that utilizes BTG:

***These estimates are extremely conservative.  According to our survey results, we average over 300 hours saved per attorney per case

 

Attorney Rates:

 

Budgeted Attorney Hours

Cost (1 Attorney)

Total Cost (50 Attorneys)

Estimated Savings

100 (No BTG)

$13,500.00

$675,000.00

0

75 (BTG saves 25 hours)

$10,125.00

$506,250.00

$168,750.00

50 (BTG saves 50 hours)

$6,750.00

$337,500.00

$337,500.00

25 (BTG saves 75 hours)

$3,375.00

$168,750.00

$506,250.00

  

Paralegal Rates:

 

Budgeted Paralegal Hours

Cost (1 Paralegal)

Total Cost (50 Paralegals)

Estimated Savings

100 (No BTG)

$4,500.00

$225,500.00

0

75 (BTG saves 25 hours)

$3,375.00

$168,750.00

$56,750.00

50 (BTG saves 50 hours)

$2,250.00

$112,500.00

$112,500.00

25 (BTG saves 75 hours)

$1,125.00

$56,250.00

$168,250.00

  

Historically, for all of our work-products (Discovery Hub, Relational Chart, De Novo), our average cost is $2,100.00 per defendant (equaling approximately 16 attorney hours or 47 paralegal hours).  The more defendants on a case, the less that cost becomes.  In terms of total cost on cases with 10 or more defendants, our average total cost is $46,000.00 (our cases have ranged between a single defendant and up to 62 codefendants). 

 

Putting everything together:

 

Hours Saved

Case Savings Attorney

Case Savings Paralegal

Fixed BTG Cost Per Defendant

Average BTG Cost

Net Savings Attorney (per defendant)

Net Savings Paralegal (per defendant)

Net Savings Attorney (average)

Net Savings Paralegal (average)

0

0

0

$105,000.00

$46,000.00

-$105,00.00

-$105,00.00

-$46,000.00

-$46,000.00

25

$168,750.00

$56,750.00

$105,000.00

$46,000.00

$63,750.00

-48,250.00

$122,750.00

$10,750.00

50

$337,500.00

$112,500.00

$105,000.00

$46,000.00

$232,500.00

$7,500.00

$291,500.00

$66,500.00

75

$506,250.00

$168,250.00

$105,000.00

$46,000.00

$401,250.00

$63,250.00

$460,250.00

$122,250.00

As you can see, there are only two scenarios in which BTG doesn’t save any money:

1)      If the attorneys or paralegals don’t use our work-products, or

2)      Our work-products don’t save paralegals 25 hours of time

 Regarding the second scenario, we believe that we save 25 hours nearly automatically by centralizing the flow of discovery.  Attorneys, paralegals, and other staff do not need to copy multiple discs (we’ve had cases with over 100 separate discs in a single discovery disclosure) or download materials from government platforms.  Additionally, or work-products take care of all discovery issues that would ordinarily require special attention by a paralegal, an investigator, an IT person, or some other subcontractor (OCR, audio/video conversion, Wiretaps, social media data, phone data, etc.).  We do it all in-house and we do it all with CJA panel members in mind.

 From a logical, financial, mathematical, practical, and/or nearly any other perspective, BTG just makes sense for this case and cases like them.  Why do something 50 different ways when you can have us do it once, and better than it’s ever been done before

 Please call us, email us, or contact us through our website.  Our goal, very simply, is to help. 

two-person-standing-on-gray-tile-paving-1

Our Company Story

We are Behind the Gavel and this is our story.  Behind the Gavel was started by Cary Christiansen and Daley Benson in February 2016.  The desire to start this company came from years of experience working on federal criminal cases where many attorneys lacked sufficient resources to manage and review complex, voluminous discovery.   Cary’s background includes positons at the Federal Defenders Office in Las Vegas, NV and Spokane, WA as a litigation support specialist/ACSA for over fifteen years.  Daley has worked as a contract paralegal and a litigation support specialist on many complex cases throughout the United States.  He has assisted attorneys through every stage of litigation via research, writing, analysis, organization, trial-preparation, and a number of other litigation-related tasks. Daley has also created a first-of-its-kind interactive charting technique that can be applied to multi or single defendant cases.

With Cary’s IT background and Daley’s experience with the litigation process, they knew they could create something better for attorneys who deal with complex discovery situations. 

Our approach is easy: “Keep it simple”.  We understand your workloads and time constraints and want to focus you on the review process rather than spending time learning complex software or using ineffectual methods.  In fact, while educating attorneys about our products, they are often surprised at the depth we go, while still making the product user friendly and effective. 

With the ability to save attorneys hundreds of hours on a case and get them to the pertinent material quicker and easier, BTG has become a valuable resource on CJA appointed cases across the U.S. 

Cary and Daley have built a team committed to due process, equality, and justice.  They have developed tools that are easy to learn, easy to use, and come with a team of support committed to your success.  In fact, a big part of our story is the culture here at BTG.  While we understand the seriousness of the work we do and treat every case, big or small, as if it is the most important work we will do, we also have learned to find time to let off steam and have some fun.  Our team values collaboration, whether that comes in the form of improving internal processes, or teaming up against Daley in a nerf war.  As a team, we celebrate accomplishments both professional and personal and our office is very unique because it is full of people who want to be here.  At BTG you will find we are passionate about the work we are doing, motivated to perform at a high level, and genuinely care for one another and the success of this company. 

Over the last 3 years, BTG has worked on dozens of Federal, State, civil and criminal cases.  Combined, those cases contained approximately 2,500,000 discovery pages.  We have helped legal teams all across the United States with massive conspiracy cases, gang cases, drug cases, firearms cases, human sex trafficking cases, RICO cases, Title III cases, fraud cases, and more.

Our team continues to grow, as does the scope of the work that we are able to complete.  We have no geographic boundaries and look forward to continuing to assist attorneys become more effective and efficient with our innovative tools and hard working, dedicated staff.    

working on laptop

Going Beyond Adobe Keyword Search

How many times have you been told to just use Adobe keyword search to find your clients’ documents? Adobe keyword search is definitely a useful tool, but should not be the only tool when you are looking through thousands of documents with varying levels of clarity. In our experience, documents range from crystal clear to having been scanned so many times they are very difficult to read. Adobe keyword search is only as good as the document itself, which often times is not very good.

 

We have found that the Adobe keyword search can be a valuable place to start, but not an end product.  The Adobe keyword search will give you results and documents to start looking through so that you can at least begin sifting through all of the discovery in the case.  We prefer an “eyes on” approach for all documents, and here is why. 

 

Even clear documents can have issues with the keyword search. There have been many times a document seemed clear enough to use the search function, but naked to the human eye in the middle of the word there is an extra space thrown in, which means that Adobe cannot pick that word up. For example, let’s say your client’s last name is Smith, but somehow the OCR processes it as “Sm ith” so when you go to that document and type in “Smith” your clients name will not come up. Adobe sometimes even misplaces letters with numbers so Smith in the keyword search is being registered as “Sm1th”, which again would not come up when you search “Smith”. These issues could lead to multiple documents being missed that contain your clients name and could be vital to their representation.

 

Adobe also cannot pick up on handwriting so if there are any handwritten documents, they will not be included in the search results. We have received so many handwritten documents that can hardly be read by a person, so how can we expect a machine to be able to read them? Another thing Adobe cannot pickup is text in photos, so all of those search warrant photos that include house numbers and personal information of the occupants will not be included in any of the search results from Adobe.

 

We hope this gives you some good insight so that next time you hear “just use Adobe keyword search” you have a better understanding of what exactly that tool can provide and what it can’t. An “eyes on” approach will give you accurate search results for your clients’ name so that you know you have all of the documentation referencing them. Help us in giving every defendant and defense attorney access to all documentation pertaining to them and not just what shows up in a keyword search.

This is the sign you've been looking for neon signage

How it works – hiring BTG on your case

Hello there!  We are so pleased that you are considering Behind the Gavel.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and unsure how you might get through those thousands of pages of discovery with the confidence to get to every necessary detail, we can help!

First, we recommend viewing a demonstration of our products, so that you understand the value we can add to your case.  We will schedule a demo at your convenience and encourage all interested attorneys to participate.    We will give you an in-depth look at how we organize discovery and the tools we offer. 

Once you have learned what we can provide for you, and you have decided BTG is a good fit for your case, there are a few simple steps to bring us on board.   

You may want to consult with your case budgeting attorney or CJA Administrator to see what sort of funding is available.  We are always happy to provide demonstrations and additional information to CBA’s and CJA Administrators who may not be familiar with our services. 

Next, we will complete a detailed estimate, which will include all of the work you can expect us to complete, a timeline, and the cost.  We will generate the estimate based on our consultations and discovery review.  Our bids are all-inclusive and, barring large, unforeseen discovery disclosures, cover our funding for the life of the case. We’re able to generate a bid within three days of receiving discovery. If discovery is unavailable, we can work with you to

put our best estimate forward.  

Finally, when you have the bid in hand, submit it to the court through a funding request or funding motion.  If needed, we can help you generate a funding motion.  If the judge approves we will begin immediately!

Ultimately, it is up to the defense attorneys on a case to decide what vendor, if any, they want to utilize. The more attorneys that support our services, the better. In our experience, the Courts are more open to funding a vendor if the majority of attorneys agree that one is necessary. We pride ourselves on our flexibility and we’re willing to work with you, your team, and the Court to make any changes and answer any questions throughout this entire process.

 

So there it is, a few simple steps to implement what will become invaluable and indispensable tools to represent your client at the highest level.   Still have questions, just ask!!