eDiscovery: A Growing Field in Law and Job Outlook
Evidence plays a crucial role in reaching a verdict within legal disputes or civil lawsuits. Prosecutors and defense attorneys commonly use both physical and digital evidence to make the case for their client.
If you are interested in law and believe you have a strong work ethic and sharp attention to detail, a career in eDiscovery might be right for you. Read on to learn more about what eDiscovery is and tips on how to become an eDiscovery professional.
What is eDiscovery?
Electronic discovery (eDiscovery) is the process through which parties involved in a legal dispute collect, review and exchange electronically stored information, or ESI. It is used in different types of disputes, including criminal cases, civil cases, regulatory investigations and audits. The process is often discussed in relation to civil cases, but firms, companies and government agencies may use eDiscovery as a response to any situation in which it is important to gather certain information and data from the organization’s ESI. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electronic materials obtained by the parties during the litigation or investigation, such as emails, data, documents and accounting databases and websites are all part of eDiscovery.
eDiscovery is common when it comes to collecting and analyzing information during legal and regulatory matters. An industry has been built around the process, including eDiscovery software and alternative legal service providers such as Everlaw.
Electronic Discovery Reference Model
There are several broad stages to the eDiscovery process. Law firms, vendors and other organizations handling eDiscovery may use the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), which involves:
- Identifying sources of potentially relevant ESI. ESI encompasses organization-specific electronic files, emails, Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, social media posts and data, instant and private messaging, smartphone app messages and data and more. This step includes identifying where and how that information is stored and how it may be accessed.
- Preserving potentially relevant ESI. An organization taking steps to preserve ESI and avoid the destruction or alteration of evidence.
- Collecting ESI. All of the relevant information is gathered and stored in a centralized location.
- Processing the collected ESI. The ESI is processed into a format attorneys or other legal professionals can review. Collecting and processing ESI is typically done through specialized software.
- Reviewing ESI. Document reviewers or coders determine if the ESI is relevant to the dispute, protected by attorney-client privilege, and should be coded for a specific issue.
- Analyzing ESI. Throughout the discovery process, the firm or organization handling the eDiscovery process analyzes the ESI to discover its content, context, relevant parties and patterns.
- Producing relevant ESI. The broad purpose of eDiscovery is to identify ESI that is relevant to a dispute, share it with the other parties and protect it by attorney-client privilege or some other mechanism.
- Presenting ESI. An organization prepares for how ESI can and will be presented at depositions, court hearings, administrative hearings and/or trials.
eDiscovery Job Outlook
An increase in litigation is one of several reasons why eDiscovery is a growing job sector from 2020 to 2025, according to an eDiscover report by Research and Markets.
According to Bloomberg Law, eDiscovery roles are typically a “safety” net for lawyers to stay connected to legal practice while they wait for a more suitable role. According to Jared Coseglia, founder and CEO of Tru Staffing, an e-Discovery, cybersecurity and privacy staffing firm, e-Discovery is “a very stable, lucrative, competitive space where being a lawyer is advantageous.”
Jobs in eDiscovery
There are a number of roles in eDiscovery. Below, find some common roles and responsibilities for individuals in the field.
eDiscovery specialists and analysts support litigation teams and can be responsible for a wide range of technical and litigation support tasks. These titles are often used interchangeably, though some firms or vendors differentiate between specialists and analysts.
eDiscovery specialists or analysts may assist in:
- Handling legal holds; preservation
- Identifying relevant ESI
- Identifying and coordinating with ESI custodians
- Partnering with IT teams to retrieve and centralize ESI
- Organize and transfer ESI to relevant stakeholders
- Technical troubleshooting
- Administrative tasks associated with eDiscovery software
eDiscovery Project Manager
eDiscovery project managers are responsible for handling eDiscovery projects and ensuring high-quality, timely deliverables. They supervise eDiscovery specialists/analysts and document reviewers on a daily basis. They are responsible for coordinating the phases of eDiscovery, including preservation, centralization of relevant ESI, review and coding of ESI and preparation of unprotected relevant ESI for discovery.
eDiscovery project managers are often responsible for:
- Communication between the firm or vendor and outside counsel
- Tracking and maintaining a budget
- Operational and technical support for eDiscovery software
eDiscovery managers are responsible for the daily operations of their litigation support and eDiscovery teams. They must be well-versed in industry standards and best practices to provide education, opportunities and the right tools for the organization’s staff or firm’s attorneys.
eDiscovery managers are generally responsible for:
- Choosing the organization’s eDiscovery solutions
- Development and implementation of processes
- Staffing and billing
- High-level oversight of eDiscovery projects
An eDiscovery director is responsible for overseeing a firm or organization’s eDiscovery and litigation support services. Directors typically oversee a larger team than eDiscovery managers, have responsibilities in relation to several departments or teams within a firm or organization, and are held accountable for the financial performance of their team.
In addition to team oversight, eDiscovery directors are responsible for:
- Maintaining a budget
- Establishing ROI on eDiscovery solutions
- Strategic planning and execution
- Staffing and talent management
- Allocation of work
- Risk management
- Business development
Working in eDiscovery
eDiscovery may offer a path to positions outside of the traditional firm setting. You could work for a legal service provider, corporation, or eDiscovery software provider. You could work on a project-by-project basis or pursue full-time positions for those at the managerial level within a firm or organization.
If you have previous years of experience as a lawyer, paralegal or secretary, then you may be eligible to make a lateral move into the eDiscovery field. According to the BLS, paralegals equipped with better computer and database management skills tend to have higher job prospects due to the rise of electronic discovery. Make sure to research the requirements and regulations for specific positions in your area.
If you’re interested in advancing within the eDiscovery field, you may want to consider your competency in eDiscovery technology and processes, problem-solving skills, organization and project management skills, as well as maintaining an eye for details.
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eDiscovery: Day in the Life
There is no such thing as a typical day for an eDiscovery professional. Much of your day will depend on the type of organization you are a part of and your specific role within the discovery process. The day of an experienced litigation paralegal for a firm with many on-going cases may differ from an eDiscovery manager who works for a vendor and focuses on one or a few projects at a time.
As an eDiscovery specialist, analyst, or manager at a firm, you may:
- Handle active legal holds, including applying preservation tools, actively collecting data and communicating with litigation managers
- Communicate with internal and external stakeholders to narrow ESI collection requirements and document any data reductions taken
- Meet with ESI custodians
- Communicate with the firm’s IT team in regard to ESI collection and any technology issues that arise
- Transferring data to internal and external stakeholders
- Establishing and auditing document review protocols
- Auditing and maintaining compliance with regulations, such as GDPR
eDiscovery Training and Certifications
eDiscovery skills can be learned through a variety of ways.. If you are interested in a career in the ediscovery field, the certifications below might be helpful for you:
Relativity Certified Administrator (RCA)
The RCA certification is often considered a baseline requirement for eDiscovery professionals. This certification is to establish that a professional is competent in Relativity’s software capabilities. Relativity also offers several other certifications, including RelativityOne Certified Pro, Infrastructure Specialist, Analytics Specialist, Assisted Review Specialist, Certified User, Processing Specialist and Project Management Specialist.
Certified E-Discovery Specialist (CEDS) Certification
This CEDS certification covers a diverse range of skills and knowledge related to eDiscovery, including information management, project planning, legal holds, collection planning and implementation, data processing and culling, document review, legal framework and obligation, intentional discovery, ethics, technology and budgeting. To become certified, you must document 40 CEDS credits and two professional references.
Global Information Assurance (GIAC) Certification
GIAC offers 30 specialized information security certifications. Professionals can utilize product-specific certification options as well as those on a broader topic. These certifications may be helpful for eDiscovery professionals who work closely with an organization’s IT and cybersecurity staff.
CloudNine LAW Pre-Discovery
CloudNine offers LAW 101, 201, and 301 training classes. You can become a Certified Administrator through LAW 301.
eDiscovery Education Center
The eDiscovery Education Center offers basic and advanced eDiscovery Specialist Certification.You can complete training developed by Michael R. Arkfeld, a recognized attorney and highly experienced eDiscovery professional.
Last updated: April 2020