Nigel – 1958 – 2018

As many of you will already know, Nigel died peacefully in his sleep on the night of 03 October 2018 after a two-year battle against brain cancer. He is survived by his wife Amanda and daughter Sophie. (Photo care of Martin Flavell, showing Nigel in characteristic pose at Martin’s wedding reception)

There were two distinct parts to his professional life: 13 years as a soldier in the 14th/20th King’s Hussars (rising to the rank of Major) and a mere 27 years in litigation support/eDiscovery, “bestride the narrow world like Colossus”. Tributes to him have been flying in on various social media platforms and it is clear (as if we didn’t already know) that his simple love of life and the people in it, his encouragement and support of all those with whom he came into contact, his warmth and sense of party touched the core of so many people from so many parts of the world. There was only one Nigel in the eDiscovery world: the legend, like Prince, required no surname. “Have you seen Nigel?” “How is Nigel?” “Have you heard from Nigel?” “Where’s Nigel?” “What news of Nigel?” regularly punctuated the air at legal conferences. Everyone knew who “Nigel” was.

I first met him in 1991 when he launched his litigation support career at what was then Masons (I was at Lovells). I don’t think he ever felt truly comfortable in a law firm environment and, after just a year and half, he left to set up the first of his document coding and scanning companies, operating out of his dining room in Wiltshire. Nigel was a pioneer of these services within the legal community in London (and the UK): his company, Bowhawk, was one of a very, very small number of enterprises that could convert hard copy legal evidence into electronic images (“scanning”), along the way creating an electronic record containing each document’s basic bibliographic information (“coding”), thereby enabling large numbers of documents to be searched, sorted and viewed at the drop of a hat. This entire process had to be legally admissible and stand up to close scrutiny in a court of law. By its very nature, therefore, it had to be conducted following the tightest checks and controls with no room for mistake. This, I suspect, very much appealed to his “by-the-numbers” military training.

I understand Bowhawk’s first big break came from Miles Alexander and Gavin Bacon at Simmons & Simmons when he was hired to go to the Middle East for a year to organise the coding and scanning of trunk loads of documents to be reviewed by lawyers in London following the regulator’s investigation of BCCI from 1991. Whilst penning this piece it occurred to me that indirectly, Nigel was responsible for my position at Simmons & Simmons after Gavin decided the document handling skills developed by the firm’s paralegals on the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) matter were a valuable resource and he created their litigation support group, with me at the helm.

During the 1990s Nigel and I always seemed to be lunching together at the moment when defining events happened in our personal or professional worlds. Whilst I was at Simmons & Simmons I joined an exercise Nigel was already embedded in with Miles: the coding and scanning of thousands of tobacco industry documents out at Northolt, towards the end of the Central Line in west London. He had entered in a joint venture with another company under the terms of which Bowhawk would provide document coding services and the other company the scanning. The tobacco industry back then was incredibly sensitive about the leak of confidential material to the press (following paralegal indiscretions in America), as well as very conscious of the costs of defending their legal positions. Documents were “processed” in batches and mathematicians had been employed to devise the basis upon which statistical samples would be taken for quality control. Nigel and his associate were paid by the batch if the sample passed the tests; if it failed it went back through the process free of charge.

At a critical stage in the incomplete exercise, Nigel’s associate decided enough was enough and walked away leaving the client, the firm and Nigel high and dry with no-one able to pick up the dropped scanning part (and precious little appropriate experience in the UK market to step in). Scarcely without breaking stride Nigel girded his loins (I imagine) and took over the scanning part lock, stock and smoking barrel, thereby saving the client an enormous amount of difficulty and money. Such was the measure of the man.

In 2000 Nigel joined Millnet (now part of Advanced Discovery/Consilio) where he was responsible for developing the paper-based company’s digital services wing, specialising in the nascent field of electronic disclosure (eDiscovery). Thus was the infamous DocBuster born!

I don’t think Nigel ever lost the taste for being his own boss and in 2005 he set up his next venture, Trilantic, offering hard copy and electronic litigation support service to an international client base. I think mainly from this point on he hit the conference circuit (I remember him and Amanda at ILTA in Orlando in about 2006). His cheeky grin and warm hospitality made him an instant hit in America. This, combined with his Eton schooling, Sandhurst training and not so quiet confidence, made a winning formula. He also surrounded himself with fiercely loyal work friends who were regulars (as was I) at his enormously popular Thirsty Thursday drinks parties. Then there was the annual Commonwealth brunch he organised in café’s in, and on the periphery of, Central Park ahead of New York’s LegalTech conference every February.

This winning formula resulted in the sale of Trilantic to Huron Legal (subsequently acquired by Consilio), overnight giving that US behemoth a European presence. Again, Nigel indirectly created a position for me as I took on his role at Huron London in 2014. After Huron Nigel began what I think must have been the most enjoyable period of his career. He travelled the world as an international legal technology consultant, speaking at conferences and being consulted on a host of related subjects, from data privacy to eDisclosure, and, of course, networking the hell out of everywhere!

When I think of Nigel I think of a bon viveur, (in the nicest possible way). He gave so much to life and was unwaveringly optimistic even in the face of tremendous personal and professional challenges, even over the last two years. He used to send out occasional and cheery email updates on his two-step with cancer and, throughout, his glass was always half full and sometime over-flowing. He was an inspiration to many of us, and a constant light to us whatever our circumstances. That light has now moved elsewhere but I stall bask in its warmth. As Legal IT Insider beautifully reported on hearing the news, “Nigel Murray Moves To The Cloud”!

Safe journey, Nigel.

By Jonathan Maas