Information Governance and Meeting Attorneys Where They Are with Rebecca Sattin, Sr. Director, Customer Success Operations, NetDocuments

Rebecca Sattin has experience working on both sides of the coin. Her background includes several years working within law firms in Southern California and over a decade in legal tech. In this episode of The Queue, she shares her expertise on how law firms of all sizes should manage their information governance, her transition from Worldox to NetDocuments, and what technology she’s excited about. Go deeper with Rebecca and Bill on:
  • Leveraging the entire discipline of your document management system, which starts with top-down adoption
  • The competitive advantages of having an optimized DMS, particularly for smaller firms
  • Meeting attorneys where they are: Outlook
  • The rise of Teams and Office 365 why larger firms have had a more extended transition adopting it
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Episode Guests

Rebecca Sattin

Sr. Director, Customer Success Operations, NetDocuments
Experienced technologist with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry as well as the legal vertical. Strong information technology professional skilled in Hands-on Training, Windows Desktops and Servers, Office 365, Document Management, Servers, and Active Directory. Superior communication skills; delivered cyber-security information to law firm professionals and facilitated design thinking workshops.

Bill Bice

CEO | nQ Zebraworks
Recognized as a legal tech industry visionary, receiving Thomson’s innovator of the year award. Founder of ProLaw Software (acquired by Thomson Reuters), West km (used by 70% of the top 1000 law firms worldwide) and Exemplify (acquired by Bloomberg Law).


Bill Bice: Hi, this is Bill Bice. I’m here with Rebecca Sattin. Rebecca is great to see you.

Rebecca Sattin: Great to see you too, Bill.

Bill Bice: I hear so many great things about you both in the industry and from firms that you have worked with. I’m excited for us to have this conversation. Give us a little background, I know you spent a lot of time in law firms and now you’ve switched to the dark side and you’re on the vendor side. So give us a little perspective on that.

Rebecca Sattin: I started working in law firms when I was young enough that I was very intimidated by all the lawyers and it was long enough ago that I remember when not all lawyers had computers. I worked in law firms, mostly in Southern California until 2015, when I joined Worldox as CIO and held that position until we were acquired by NetDocuments this past October, where I am now Senior Director, Customer Success Operations.

Bill Bice: Which uh, seems like a great place for you to be given how much you know about how law firms operate, maybe more importantly, should operate, so I want to go there right away. Let’s talk about your experience with information governance and what you see firms doing, what they should be doing, and what you’ve learned.

Rebecca Sattin: Well, I am quite opinionated on this topic, so even when I worked at my law firm, it was not a popular conversation to have with lawyers. Lawyers tend to want to never delete anything. They want to keep their data forever, especially their electronic data. Back when I worked in law firms, the last firm that I worked for, I did initiate a conversation with them about retention policies and what we should be doing. You know, if your client engagement agreement states that you’re going to either destroy a file 7 or 10 years after the matter has been closed, I think a lot of lawyers are thinking that you’re just talking about the paper file. And as soon as you start mentioning well, it’s just the file, that includes the electronic file, that starts to make them very nervous, because of course they all want to have that data for reference and hold on to it forever.

Bill Bice: And why? Why is it important to have retention policies around us?

Rebecca Sattin: Well, the more data you have, you know you’re responsible for protecting that information. So if you keep everything forever, then you’re responsible to protect that data forever these days. I mean, back in 2015 and before when I was having those conversations, the regulatory climate wasn’t quite what it is now. And now especially where I used to live in Southern California, you know there, there’s GDPR, there’s CPA. I mean, there, there are all kinds of different regulations coming out about, you know, how long you store information about people. And that includes the information that you’re storing in your DMS about people.

I mean, if you’re still actively working on a case, then clearly you need that information. But once you’re no longer actively engaged in working on that case, then you need to be aware of that. And I mean sure if the client says no, I want you to keep that data forever, then then I guess you’re OK, but I don’t know how many clients are going to say that. Because again, wherever their data exists, it’s at risk unless it’s being properly protected.

Bill Bice:  Right. One of the things you’ve talked about is that you have to know where the data is, otherwise, there’s no way for you to keep it safe.


Rebecca Sattin: Yes, exactly. And keeping that data safe, I mean, again, you know, I keep mentioning these things that bring up that I’m old, but back in the day when I first started working in law firms, the paper file was everything, and people, you know, with the advent of email, people started printing emails to put the copy of the email in the paper correspondence file because you had to keep everything if it was client correspondence, even if it was, you know, electronic, it still had to go in the file. And somewhere along the way, you know, people started putting in document management systems and it didn’t completely take the place of the paper file in a lot of cases, but really it did. And some people started moving their email conversations into the document management system, but not with the same obsessiveness that that they used to have.

Bill Bice: But some of the discipline got lost in the transition, yeah.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes, exactly. And some people are still that disciplined about putting those emails into the document management system and that is only going to serve them well because, you know, one of the nightmare situations that I’ve had to deal with is that, you know, if you’re not putting your email messages pertaining to that client into the document management system, what if a lawyer leaves the firm these days? Everybody’s using exchange online, so if that person leaves the firm, first of all, you’re paying for that person’s Office 365 licensing and you don’t want to pay for that indefinitely.

If they no longer work for the firm, but if they never moved any of their emails into the document management system and it’s all sitting there just in that mailbox, are you going to take a paralegal away from billable work to have them go through that email and move everything that’s relevant into the document management system? That adds risk that adds expense that adds all sorts of problems that nobody wants to deal with.

Bill Bice: Are you going to pay for it for the next 10 years? In case you ever need it.

Rebecca Sattin:  Yeah. Not to mention just the general, I mean there might be data in that mailbox for cases that have been closed for seven or ten or more years, so.

Bill Bice: Yeah, Right. But you don’t really want to hang around all that time.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes.

Bill Bice: So you, when we were talking earlier, you mentioned, you know, people don’t like to talk about it, but law firms also get sued.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes.

Bill Bice: And so these retention policies are really important in terms of what applies to what’s discoverable.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes. And I’ve also seen situations where, you know, lawyers have to produce even if the firm is not sued, they might just be like a third-party a in an ongoing case, and they still might have to produce some of their information. And I remember a couple of partners in that situation at a firm where I worked at one point where one of them was super organized and he had emails that were in the document management system and he had some emails that were still in Outlook that he hadn’t moved yet, but they were in a folder for that case.

And all of those emails were in that folder and the other partner was one of those people who, I would say how can it? I can’t really say this in any way other than to just say it. Basically, he had an inbox that just had like 350,000 items in it and no folders, and the other partner shamed him for not being organized.

Bill Bice:  Right.

Rebecca Sattin:  And he said, I’ll take care of it. I’m on it.  I’m going to find everything, but it just put more work on him when he should have been billing on something else instead of on this situation. And so the more you do not keep your data organized and in a document management system, the more you’re putting yourself at risk like that. I actually just met the Worldox customer, a Worldox user at ALA  last week who was talking about how he has a very small firm and the fact that all of their data is very organized and saved in a document management system has made him more competitive because he can find everything so quickly. And if he’s dealing with another firm of the same size on the other side, they often have trouble finding their information because their data is not in a document management system.

Bill Bice: Yeah, it’s a huge competitive advantage, whatever the size of your firm is to do that. What have you seen work well for firms that really want to be good at using their DMS?

Rebecca Sattin: Well, I think certainly the commitment to storing everything there has to come from the top, umm, the leaders of the firm need to make sure everybody in the firm understands what goes in the DMS and why it’s important because the security of your information is not just the responsibility of the person at the top. It’s the responsibility of everybody at the firm.

Bill Bice: I would agree that that, you know, buy-in from the top for any kind of technology adoption is table stakes; rarely can you get something to work without it.

Rebecca Sattin: Definitely.

Bill Bice: I mean, there are exceptions that prove the rule.

Rebecca Sattin: Although I’m sure we’ve both seen people try to get things to work without buying from the top too, and it often doesn’t go very well so.

Bill Bice: But, it’s so much easier! No, It is so much harder and you know my second rule for that is that you’ve got to meet people where they’re at. And so if you want attorneys to use it, you’d better start in Outlook as a jumping-off point or otherwise you’re just you’re never going to get there.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes, everybody is very attached to Outlook.

Bill Bice:  Well, it’s kind of a better or worse, but you know we used to have these discussions about who’s going to win the attorney desktop. And of course, there was one a long time ago and there really is no competition.

Rebecca Sattin: Yep. Although I think Teams is starting to do well, I mean it’s still Microsoft, but at least for internal communication, I see a lot of firms of a certain size, especially what with the pandemic, you know, and everybody was working remotely. Teams became of primary importance once that happened.

Bill Bice: Yeah, this comes on strong and you know, I live in Outlook and Teams and I really like having the internal communication in Teams and external within Outlook, to the extent that you can that discipline in place. What does Teams do for your view on information governance?

Rebecca Sattin: Ohh well, because it’s part of the Office 365 universe, you have the advantage of having all of the controls in the security and compliance component of that product, so it’s definitely something that you can lock down, although again, you know based on the size of the firms, I know a lot of large firms were really reluctant to use Teams and are still reluctant to use Teams.

And in fact, at Legal SEC and at ALA, at a lot of different conferences, you know it seems like the larger the firm, the more likely they’re not fully on Office 365 yet, they’re still using on-premises Exchange servers or they’re in some hybrid situation. So I think in this sense, the smaller firms I think have adopted it much more quickly, but of course, Microsoft put greater restraints on the smaller firms than the larger firms. Microsoft allowed continuing enterprise agreements and things like that, whereas smaller firms had less of a choice about what products they were going to use.

Bill Bice:  Yeah, certainly seeing a lot more movement in large firms to 365 and uh, just they have a ways to go to catch up with small firms and moving to the cloud and SaaS but it’s uh what’s happening slowly but surely. You’ve gone through the acquisition, you’re part of the NetDocuments now. What’s happening on that front for you, for Worldox customers?

Rebecca Sattin: So let me start with the Worldox users. If people have our Worldox on-premises products, there’s really no change. We have the same support team. We have the same developers and you know if we find bugs in the product, we’re going to be fixing bugs. In fact, I think we have a patch coming out in the next week or two for the on-premises products and also for Worldox Web. So you know if they have problems, they can continue to call Worldox Technical Support and talk to the same people that they’ve always talked to.  It’s a little bit different with Worldox Cloud. We do have a sunset date for that of September of this year and you know that makes perfect sense to me because NetDocuments is a cloud product and why have two competing cloud products under the umbrella of 1 company.

Bill Bice: So those customers need to make a transition, but there are Worldox customers that are running in the cloud that is hosted by somebody else.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes, they do. Yes, if somebody is hosted by somebody else then we consider them to be on-premises customers because they’re still running the on-premises product just hosted by another company. So yeah, nothing that changes for those customers.

Bill Bice: So if you’re a Worldox firm, and it’s hosted you have to think about where it is, in terms of whether this affects you are not?

Rebecca Sattin: Yes, if it’s hosted by Worldox and part of Worldox Cloud, then you know they need to be looking at their options. And there have been many that have chosen to migrate to NetDocuments. One of the advantages actually to migrating to, I mean there are many advantages to migrating to NetDocuments, but because we now have the Worldox developers and the NetDocuments developers working together, they’ve been able to put together ways to streamline the migration process. Uh, I mean, it was never a difficult process, but they’ve made it a lot easier and a lot more seamless for Worldox customers.

Bill Bice: Yeah, we and we integrate with both of course, and so we’ve, we’ve seen exactly that, that transition.

Rebecca Sattin: And actually, that’s one of the biggest concerns when customers talk to us about a migration process is you know all of the things that integrate with Worldox. They want to make sure that if they’re going to migrate to NetDocuments, you know, they can still use those same other products. So like your products, that’s definitely been a big concern.

Bill Bice: Yeah, NetDocuments have a great API and it’s easy to integrate with, so I’d imagine the answers are pretty good on that front.

Rebecca Sattin: Mm-hmm.

Bill Bice: So the other things that have affected you in this, I mean you’ve kind of gone through stages here of going from the law firm side to Worldox, which was you know a relatively small company within the legal tech sphere as a whole. Now you’re part of a much larger company. Any learnings or experiences from that that you find interesting?

Rebecca Sattin; Well, I’m going from a law firm to the dark side. I would say maybe not exactly what I expected. Because law firms, law firms work in a particular way. I mean, I’m not saying that…Well, what am I saying? So working for Worldox, was a good transitional place for me to be because Worldox is not, so we didn’t have an internal sales team. OK, so a lot of what I got to do working with Worldox was what most people would consider to be consulting because of my experience.

I worked with a lot of Worldox customers and often was in a position to give them advice on things that maybe only peripherally had to do with document management, but because I had the experience that I had, I was able to advise them on other products and I saw a trend happening during my tenure at Worldox where a lot of law firms like if, if, if they did, if they worked with a lot of healthcare if they were the lawyers for healthcare companies if they were going to bring in an IT director, they would often bring them in from healthcare instead of from another law firm like back when I worked in law firms. If you didn’t have law firm experience, nobody wanted you to work there because you had to know how law firms work. But with the greater demands from clients for security and security because they have to deal with regulations like HIPAA and things like that, now the law firms wanted to bring in people who had an understanding of that regulatory environment.

So we would have Worldox customers who would bring in an IT director from healthcare who knew nothing about how law firms worked and based on my experience, I would end up often spending time with them and sharing some information so that they could essentially hit the ground running. So that was an interesting trend that I saw working at Worldox, but when the acquisition happened, it was interesting because the two companies, a lot of people would say they’re completely different. And one of the ways they are different is just that, you know, NetDocuments definitely has a much greater focus on a sales team. They have an inside sales team, whereas Worldox didn’t and that was one of the biggest changes for me. But the resellers, the people who did all the implementations of Worldox, a lot of them also work with NetDocuments.

So I’m essentially working with that same group of people and the two companies as well, I would say, had similar beginnings. They both started with, you know, a developer with an idea and family-owned companies that grew from there. Umm, so that was something that we had in common. And there are definitely people who work at NetDocuments who have been around for quite a number of years. Just the same as with Worldox, where there have been people who have, I mean, Worldox was 35-36 years old, which is, you know, ancient in software.

Bill Bice: Oh, it is I remember working with Tom way, way back when. Yeah, it was really interesting for the Worldox partners because many of them have already started working with NetDocuments so it made a very smooth transition for them. The whole thing made a lot of sense.

Rebecca Sattin: Yep. Definitely.

Bill Bice: So are you seeing benefits to the customers now as part of a part of a larger company? I mean, NetDocuments certainly, you know, certainly on a different scale. It’s raised a lot of money, you know, it’s a pretty significant company.

Rebecca Sattin: Well, on the software side of things, I mean, I see the work that that we’re doing, you know with NetDocuments on new products that I’m very excited about. One of those products is something called Pattern Builder, which is document automation; I first saw it before the acquisition happened and I you know, I couldn’t help but it almost made me long for the days that I was at the law firm because I thought of all these different uses for that and how fun it would be to put those things together. Basically, you create apps within the software that automate processes and something that has just come out this week. Maybe it is a data table, so you can actually store some of the information that you’re going to reuse in your automated processes. And so that’s something we’re very excited about.

Bill Bice:  Yeah, document animation’s a pretty obvious extension uh for document management. So it’s kind of surprising that it’s just now happening in one sense.

Rebecca Sattin: Well, on the other hand, it’s something that a lot of the all-in-one systems have always had as a part of them. And so it definitely makes sense to me that it almost seems to me that it belongs in the document management side rather than the case management or time and billing side of things because you have your documents. I mean that that’s where your documents are going to be stored. So it makes sense to also have the processes that are creating them live there.

Bill Bice:  Yeah. The key is going to be really good database integration there because that same data that are used for creating documents is used in other places. One of the problems we have in legal tech over and over again is just going the same data in multiple systems and you know some point we’ve gotta we’ve gotta actually solve that problem.

Rebecca Sattin: Yep, I think that’s not just a problem in law firms. I think that’s a problem in every industry.

Bill Bice: Well, I totally agree. Law firms, I do think make the problem even worse, you know? I’ve done a lot of work in markets outside of law firms and they just have a unique ability to make that challenging.

Rebecca Sattin: Why do it once when you can do it twice or three times?

Bill Bice: And I mean it’s, you know, particularly the larger the firm gets, the more difficult it is to upgrade these well-established systems that have been on premise that are SQL based that have all these custom integrations built around them. It’s a very tough problem to solve.

Rebecca Sattin: Yeah, I think the magic words there are the custom integrations because nobody likes using anything straight out of the box. So once it’s customized it’s there pretty much for the duration.

Bill Bice: Right. Yeah. So it’s part of why it’s so much more difficult than larger firms to move to SAS because you have to account for all of those things. And part of the problem is the SAS applications that are legal specific. Just need more time to mature. So like what you’re talking about with pattern builder, that ability to create what are essentially custom workflows, that’s a fairly new concept within SAS applications and legal. And that’s the better way to get custom things implemented for a firm and then have an API wrapped around that so that you can integrate it with other pieces. It makes a tremendous amount of sense, just a lot of effort to get there.

Rebecca Sattin: Yeah. And I mean it is because it’s a no-code product, you don’t necessarily need to have somebody in the IT department be the owner of it too. I mean, you can have somebody who is just, you know, tech-savvy, but they don’t have to have a development background or IT background really they just have to be a little bit tech-savvy to be able to do it so.

Bill Bice: Yeah. And you have, uh, you know, practice management specialists who can apply development kind of type process around it. You don’t have to have the technical depth, I would argue you still have to have the development process in order to get to the right end result. Because otherwise you just end up with, uh, sort of, no code workflow all over the place. Uh, but if you have the right process around it, you can scale the end results much more effectively.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes, actually defining what you’re trying to do before you actually start doing it is always helpful, but it’s a step that’s often skipped.

Bill Bice: That is the plain English version of what I was trying to say.

Rebecca Sattin: Yes.

Bill Bice: Well, Rebecca, this is this has been a lot of fun to catch up with you. I love all the things that we have tackled. Thanks for spending time with me.

Rebecca Sattin:  You’re welcome. I enjoyed it too. I never get to just sit down and chat with people these days, so this is fun.

Bill Bice: But you should because you have so much experience to share with everybody.

Rebecca Sattin:  Be happy to do it again sometime.

Bill Bice: Thanks.

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