Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Harbor Labs - my new venture

When I returned from Israel, I decided to leave the security consulting company that I founded in 2005. While I enjoyed my time at ISE, and I learned a tremendous amount about business and the security industry, I felt it was time for me to move on. I am focusing a lot more energy now on building up the security group at Johns Hopkins, and I'm very excited about our new executive director who I believe is leading the way to great success. We expect to hire up to two faculty in Security this year, and we are pouring tremendous energy and funding into our information security institute.

Meanwhile, I have founded a new company called Harbor Labs, which is a consulting company focused on the litigation industry. The objective of Harbor Labs is to provide expertise in legal cases, including testimony, reports, source code review and analysis. My goal is to partner with other experts and to put together a technical team that can support either a plaintiff team or a defense team by de-mystifying technical concepts and presenting the facts in a clear and understandable manner.

I have been working as an expert witness in high tech litigation on and off for sixteen years. How do I decide whether or not to take on a case? First, I determine whether or not I or any of my partners or employees have any conflicts of interest with any of the parties. Assuming that we pass the conflict check, I then listen to the lawyer's explanation of the lawsuit to evaluate whether they have a good case and that they are on the right side of the issues, and that I have the proper domain expertise. If I feel that their case cannot be supported by the facts, that the lawyers misunderstand the technical issues involved, or that the subject matter is outside of my area, then I politely decline.

At this point, it might seem that no case can ever clear these hurdles. But, many of them do. The next step in my decision is to utilize whatever information the lawyers share with me to assess if I am speaking with the party that ought to prevail in the case. If that is so, I contemplate whether or not the case is interesting, if I like the attorneys involved, and whether it is worth putting time and energy into the project. Finally, I decide if I have the time and resources available for the job, or if someone on my staff is available to do the work. If all of these criteria are met, then we sign the engagement agreement, and move forward.

It is an involved process, but I firmly believe it is important to vet the projects up front to the extent possible. I also make sure that the lawyers understand that I will only tell the truth, whether it helps or hurts their case. If they don't want to hear what I really think, or if they are afraid that I might say something that puts their case in jeopardy, then they need to find a different expert. Gauging the attorneys' reaction to this statement is one of the best ways that I have found to decide if this is a team I want to join.

My model at Harbor Labs is to utilize my technical staff for all of the aspects of the project that they can handle, and to only get involved myself when I am needed. Thus, I am able to work on projects that are much larger than I would be able to handle on my own, given my commitments at the university and at home.

I am happy to accept resumes from anyone interested in joining the technical team at Harbor Labs, or to discuss partnerships with other experts who testify in high tech litigation. Contact me at rubin@HarborLabs.com.