“Passion” is not the first word that comes to mind when describing your average litigation support services firm.
It is a word that often comes to mind when describing the American entrepreneurial spirit – a passion for your work, your industry, your business and for the people who need your services.
“Preparation” is something that comes from hours and hours of dedication to a cause, an industry or a defining moment.
But what can happen when passion and preparation meet opportunity?
Both Kathy May and Robb Helt have a passion for their industry and have succeeded on their own for many years as entrepreneurs building successful businesses. Neither of their businesses could be described as “average”.
One way entrepreneurs continue to grow their business is identifying something that’s missing in the marketplace. Whether it’s something as simple as offering a new line of services, or as complex as merging with another company, entrepreneurs strive to grow their businesses and turn their hard preparation and passion into ideas that matter.
“For over 30 years, I sat at a court reporting machine, listening to testimony after testimony, story after story, about how an accident happened, how a contract was violated, how a doctor was alleged to have committed malpractice, hundreds and hundreds of hours of court reporting,” said Kathy May, who launched Alpha Reporting Corporation, a team of Memphis court reporters, more than 35 years ago.
She has grown Alpha Reporting Corporation into the largest court reporting firm in the state, with offices throughout Tennessee and into Mississippi. A Memphis Bar Association partner, May was one of the first in the industry to recognize and embrace the idea of a court reporting business and a sister trial technology company, Alpha Legal Solutions, to grow the services her portfolio of businesses could offer the legal community.
“To stay on the cutting edge of the reporting industry, I launched into technology, embracing the latest and greatest, implementing services that would better assist the court reporters while at the same time bringing added value to the legal community,” May said. “I never lost sight of this industry which has been my passion, but for years there had been a question in my mind, and that was, isn’t there a better way for these stories to be told, and for the case to be made? It was those questions that would lead me on a quest for the answers and a solution, and which ultimately lead to my opening Alpha Legal Solutions.
Another entrepreneur was faced with similar questions and challenges. Robb Helt had worked from late 1999 to the end of June 2004, for over 70 hours per week, with the lawyers at McDaniel & Wells in Jonesboro, Arkansas as the trial technology consultant, videographer and IT consultant.
“My job requirement within the Bobby McDaniel firm was simple – be the best and stay on top, no matter what it takes,” Helt recalled. “I learned quickly that you only get one shot in front of a jury, and when the lights come on and the ‘team takes the field’ you must be fully prepared.
“Little did I know that this would be the foundation on which I would build what some have called an insane work ethic, and an insatiable appetite to be the best,” added Helt.
On a parallel path, in 2008 May had made the decision to build a company that could help bring to life those stories, in a way that would assist the attorneys in presenting their proof to the best of their ability, using the latest in software and technology. Launching Alpha Legal Solutions as a sister company of Alpha Reporting Corporation, May was determined to build a new company with a vision of offering clients a full range of services to meet all their litigation needs, from discovery to the courtroom.
From her experiences building Alpha Reporting Corporation, a company with the reputation of being first in Reporting, first in Service and first in Technology, May knew that Alpha Legal Systems would need to offer the latest technology as well as outstanding customer service. With Alpha Legal Systems, May developed a suite of services that completed the process of establishing a one-stop legal service provider, no matter what those needs might be.
However – there was a void, a need to be filled. May had begun to realize in 2013 that while she had built a great team of trial techs, there was a higher level of passion and service that was missing. She needed a leader at the helm who truly had the passion for trial technology and building the best business possible to serve the legal community.
Helt had found his niche in trial technology, and by January 2005 had established Litigation Resource Group in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Helt has been involved in over 500 jury trials, mediations and arbitrations, including the massive BP Oil Spill litigation as the Lead Trial Technology Consultant for Halliburton.
“Some of my cases were small, such as two-day car-wreck cases, and some were multi-week Intellectual Property and Class Action trials,” said Helt. “Some had no media coverage at all, but others, like the release of the West Memphis 3, received national attention. It was with the West Memphis 3 coverage that my company, Litigation Resource Group, would truly go from the playoffs to the Super Bowl.
“On February 14, 2012, I checked into the Hilton St. Charles in New Orleans and began work on organizing the electronic jumble that was 125 million documents and 3,182 video depositions,” Helt recalled. “This was all in preparation for the largest environmental trial in American history, the start of Phase 1 of the BP Oil Spill trial.
“Working for Halliburton was a great experience and we pulled it off without a hitch,” said Helt. “I have been in many trials and many scary situations, but nothing was as nerve-wracking as having millions of documents in your database, and never knowing exactly where your lawyer was going to go next. This was truly an example of doing everything ‘on the fly,’ and while I have preached doing it this way for years, it was here that I had to put my money where my mouth was, because one miss, one pause, one nonexistent document on the screen when the lawyer called for it, and we were done.”
At the conclusion of Phase 2 of the trial, Helt realized he needed to make a decision on how to further grow Litigation Resource Group. His partners at the time, Christina Ellig and Andy Mortenson, were both ready to move in other directions, and Helt (in part because of his love for blues)made the decision to move to Memphis and open a new office.
“As I began to work closely on a few cases with Bryan Smith of Morgan & Morgan, I realized that Memphis was a market that was ready for a company with our technological ability,” Helt said. “I knew that I brought into the mix my close relationships with software developers, as well as the amount of hours I spent teaching, speaking and researching in this field.”
At approximately the same time, May had begun looking for someone to help her further enhance Alpha Legal Solutions and continue building the services that would answer the needs of her clients.
“On November 8th, there was an attorney taking a deposition in our office. He was sharing with me the facts and circumstances of his case, which was a case that certainly demanded, if not screamed, of a story to be told,” May related. “That attorney was Bobby McDaniel, a well-respected and admired trial attorney – in fact, the very attorney that Robb had started working with over 14 years earlier. After I began to understand the facts of his case, I mentioned to Bobby that he might want to consider trial technology when it came time to present his case.
“Without hesitation, Bobby said that he had been using trial technology for years, and his ‘guy’ was Robb Helt. He said, ‘Robb is good, he knows what he is doing, and he is very passionate.’ That was the key word – passionate. That was the word that resonated with me. If Robb truly had that passion, then I knew we had our missing link,” said May.
May approached Helt to meet him, and both began to learn more about each other’s businesses, and their shared passion for the business.
“Alpha Legal Solutions had been in business about five years, and because there is not a true ‘how-to’ manual on trial technology and how it should or shouldn’t be used, Kathy began to realize that I was someone who had the experience and the desire to bring to Alpha Legal Solutions, the missing link,” Helt said.
From her perspective, May noted that “We met, and we began to discuss where he was, what Litigation Resource Group was doing, what Alpha Legal Solutions was doing, and if the merger of the two companies could create a better service tool for an industry that we were both passionate about, and within one month the ball was rolling.”
On January 6, 2014, the merger of Litigation Resource Group and Alpha Legal Solutions was completed. The new Alpha Legal Solutions brings together the passion of May and her never-ending quest for the best way to communicate the story in the courtroom, with the passion of Helt to bring new understanding of the best ways to utilize trial technology in telling those stories.
With the merger, May continues in her role as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Legal Solutions, while Helt comes on board as the President of the firm.
When preparation andpassionmeets opportunity – all those years that Helt and Litigation Resource Group spent seeking out new technology and new ways to serve the legal community, coupled with the years that May, Alpha Reporting Corporation andAlpha Legal Solutions were building relationships and striving to meet a gamut of needs from discovery to courtroom, prepared them for the opportunity.
The opportunity – seized when Helt and May met in late 2013, and realized in January 2014 with the newly-enhanced Alpha Legal Solutions – an opportunity to provide the legal community with the best-of-breed trial technology, and to become the go-to firm when it comes to knowing what trial technology to use, when to use it and how to use it.
“Both Robb and I have, throughout our careers, been deeply committed to serving the legal community to the fullest of our respective skills, knowledge and passion,” May noted.
Helt added, “Although I may not always be the person in the courtroom, I lead a great team. This is my true passion. Our team at Alpha Legal Solutions is now one of the finest in the country, and we strive daily to make ourselves even better.”
One example of the synergy of the two dynamic entrepreneurs is evident in their new trial technology project. May and Helt are now in the process of developing strategic and beneficial ways to deliver finished video to lawyers. Helt has actually created a new algorithm for delivery that Alpha Legal Solutions rolled out in March of this year, which gives lawyers the ability to review depositions in a cleaner, more “user-friendly” environment.
Helt is also focusing heavily on additional training for the Alpha Legal Solutions team. “Anyone can push buttons in the courtroom when things are going perfectly, but what happens when something goes wrong? This is where our team rises to the top of their game. We know how to handle those unexpected equipment failures. We know how to turn left as soon as our client hits the turn signal. We will not take the approach that we are just the person pushing the buttons – we become an integral part of the legal team. We want to help you build your case, and get your thoughts, facts and stories across to the 12 jurors in the box, or the adjuster across the table.”
The combination of the two companies, and the knowledge base and skillset embodied in the leadership team, is the result of preparationand passion, over and over again. And now Alpha Legal Solutions wants the opportunity to partner with law firms to take them to a whole new technological level alongside Tennessee court reporters.
“The merger of Alpha Legal Solutions and Litigation Resource Group creates an anchored and synergistic, litigation support company that will improve client confidence, widen our client base, and heighten the level of capability demanded by attorneys to better service their clients in trials, mediations and arbitrations,” May said. “While the long standing creed for Alpha Reporting Corporation has been 1st in Reporting, 1st in Service, 1st in Technology, I strongly believe that Alpha Legal Solutions is now positioned to emerge as 1st in Service, 1st in Technology, oh, and 1st in Passion.”
The “new” Alpha Legal Solutions is headquartered at 236 Adams Avenue in Memphis. Additional information about the company is now available at their website, AlphaLegalSolutions.com.