eDiscovery: Law’s Rapidly Growing Field

eDiscovery: Law’s Rapidly Growing Field

Evidence plays a crucial role in reaching a verdict within any legal dispute or civil lawsuit. Prosecutors and defense attorneys rely on both physical and digital evidence to make the case for their client. This is especially in the digital age, when organizations and companies often produce, collect and store vast amounts of digital data that must be mined and analyzed before it can be used in a case. 

For companies and corporations in particular, the sheer volume and complexity of their digital documentation makes eDiscovery a crucial consideration when planning their budget. In fact, a 2019 study from BDO USA found that 58% of surveyed organizations believed that big data was the eDiscovery issue with the biggest impact on their businesses.

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, career prospects of eDiscovery jobs, 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 many 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.

eDiscovery has become the new normal when it comes to collecting and analyzing information during legal and regulatory matters. An entire industry has been built around the process, including eDiscovery software and alternative legal service providers, and is expected to be a $30 billion market by 2025. This growing field offers many new employment opportunities for attorneys and other legal professionals. 

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 must take steps to preserve ESI and avoid the destruction or alteration of evidence.
  • Collecting ESI. All of the relevant information must be gathered and stored in a centralized location.
  • Processing the collected ESI. The ESI must 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 must determine if the ESI is relevant to the dispute, protected by attorney-client privilege, and should be coded for a specific issue. Reviewers are often attorneys or trained legal professionals who utilize specialized software.
  • Analyzing ESI. Throughout the discovery process, the firm or organization handling the eDiscovery process will analyze 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, that must be shared with the other parties, and that is protected by attorney-client privilege or some other mechanism. Relevant and unprotected ESI must be produced for the other parties.

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

The world is not becoming any less litigious, and the expected increase in litigation is one of several reasons why eDiscovery is a growing job sector, according to a press release by PR Newswire on an eDiscover report by Research and Markets.

According to this report, the eDiscovery market is expected to grow from $10.76 billion in 2018 to $17.32 billion by 2023 according to PR Newsire’s accounting of the report. The most growth is expected to take place in relation to eDiscovery software and cloud-based deployment types.

ediscovery market growth

Source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/17-3-billion-ediscovery-market—global-forecast-to-2023–300668568.html

Robert Half’s 2018 Salary Guide for Legal Professionals projected a 28% increase in litigation-related job opportunities in the following two years, and in close proximity to litigation is eDiscovery. In addition to positions for litigators, this includes demand for litigation and eDiscovery support professionals. 

28 percent growth for litigation-related job opportunities

Source: https://www.roberthalf.com/sites/roberthalf.ca/files/documents/2018_salary_guide_CA_legal.pdf

Robert Half’s 2018 Salary Guide for Legal Professionals projected a 28% increase in litigation-related job opportunities in the following two years, and in close proximity to litigation is eDiscovery. In addition to positions for litigators, this includes demand for litigation and eDiscovery support professionals. 

eDiscovery Salaries and Pay Range

According to data from the Cowen Group, average salaries and salary ranges for eDiscovery professionals surveyed are as follows:

Role Average Salary (Annual)
eDiscovery Specialist/Analyst $77,193 
eDiscovery Project Manager $105,200
eDiscovery Manager $140,000
eDiscovery Director $188,208
eDiscovery Attorney $156,956

Salaries will vary depending on a professional’s years of experience and skill set, required duties, and geographic location. Find more information about anticipated salary ranges for specific roles within the eDiscovery industry below.

eDiscovery Specialist/Analyst

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 specialist_analyst

Source: Cowen Group, eDiscovery and Litigation Support Salary Report 

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 project manager

Source: Cowen Group, eDiscovery and Litigation Support Salary Report 

eDiscovery Manager

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 
ediscovery manager

Source: Cowen Group, eDiscovery and Litigation Support Salary Report 

eDiscovery Director

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
ediscovery director

Working in eDiscovery

eDiscovery could offer a path to positions outside of the traditional firm setting. You could work for a legal service provider, corporation, or eDiscovery software provider. The eDiscovery process often requires firms and other organizations to scale up for large projects, which increases the demand for contract attorneys. 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.

Though many eDiscovery projects require a law degree and/or bar membership, you may be able to participate in some projects without either.

If you have previous years of experience as an attorney, paralegal, or secretary, then you may be eligible to make a lateral move into the eDiscovery field. Make sure to research the requirements and regulations for specific positions in your area.

eDiscovery skills can be learned through a variety of ways, but the type of profession you enter depends upon what certifications or professional credits your state or country requires. 

Advancing within the eDiscovery field requires becoming competent in eDiscovery technology and processes, problem-solving skills, organization and project management skills, and maintaining a keen eye for details. 

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 will differ considerably 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 may1:

  • 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

As an eDiscovery professional in any role, you have to be prepared to adapt to the day. If you work within a firm, you must be ready to respond to new legal holds, track and maintain legal holds and data collection, and respond to employee turnover related to active holds. As a paralegal or legal secretary, you must be ready to handle eDiscovery processes among your many other responsibilities.

eDiscovery Training and Certifications

Professionals within the eDiscovery industry will often have widely ranging salaries based not only on their professional experience, but their educational background as well. According to the Cowen Group survey:

Education and Compensation Correlation
An eDiscovery project manager with a BA/BS makes 2% more than one with an AA/AS
with a JD makes 22% more than one with a BA/BS
with a JD makes 3% more than one with a MA/MS
An eDiscovery manager with a BA/BS makes 13% more than one with an AA/AS
with a JD makes 11% more than one with a BA/BS
with a PhD makes 4% more than one with a MA/MS
An eDiscovery director with a BA/BS makes 60% more than one with an AA/AS
with a JD makes 6% less than one with a BA/BS
with a MA/MS makes 11% more than one with a JD

Source: https://www.cowengroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-Salary-Survey-Public-FA2.pdf

As shown by the table above, not all eDiscovery positions require a law degree. Litigation support roles are in demand, and those without law degrees also can obtain the training, skills, and experience necessary to succeed as eDiscovery specialists and managers.

If you wish to pursue a career in the eDiscovery field, with or without a Juris Doctor (JD), there are training opportunities and certifications you can take advantage of.

Relativity Certified Administrator

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.

ACEDS Certified eDiscovery Specialist

This 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 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

You can complete training developed by Michael R. Arkfeld, a recognized attorney and highly experienced eDiscovery professional. The eDiscovery Education Center offers basic and advanced eDiscovery Specialist Certification.

Sources:

1 https://www.thebalancecareers.com/e-discovery-professional-2164302, The Balance Careers, What Is an E-Discovery Professional? (visited July 25, 2019)

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2019-08-29T18:25:45+00:00