In our digital age, e-discovery (electronic discovery or eDiscovery) is an increasingly important process in the legal world.
It is a $2 billion dollar industry, says attorney Sally Kane in her About.com article “E-Discovery Professional.” Furthermore, The Cowen Group’s 7th Annual Litigation Support Salary Report ,released early this year, shared that e-discovery related careers and salaries were on the rise: 70% of surveyed law firms were planning on hiring e-discovery talent in 2013 (compared to 53% in 2012) and they anticipated raising salaries for such professionals by 5-7% (compared to 3-4% in previous years).
What is E-Discovery?
In litigation procedures, discovery involves the required sharing of relevant information/records between the implicated parties. E-discovery, then, is sharing relevant records that are in digital form such as e-mail, audio and video files, Word documents, spreadsheets, etc, that are stored on computer hard drives, network drives, cameras, thumb drives, CDs, personal mobile devices and other media.
“In 2006 amendments to the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure codified the requirement to provide electronic information and records, referred to as electronically stored information (ESI). These changes brought about the term eDiscovery…” states AIIM (in its online article “What is e-Discovery?).”
Legal professionals who perform e-discovery must identify and collect, as well as preserve and present all ESI that is relevant to a particular case. When you consider that a single hard drive can contain millions of pages, and that typically, relevant information is spread out in an unorganized fashion, sometimes between multiple devices, e-discovery is a time consuming and thus expensive process. That is why more and more law firms are relying on talent specifically proficient in this tech and legal-savvy skill.
Who Performs E-Discovery?
While some firms outsource, there is a growing trend to perform e-Discovery in-house. Many players can play a role in e-discovery including lawyers, paralegals, litigation support specialists, IT professionals, computer forensics specialists and records management professionals. There is also now a tendency for some firms to expressly hire e-Discovery specialists.
The ideal e-discovery professional possesses a combination of legal knowledge and technical skill. Since the field is relatively new, some training happens on-the-job, while those who are hired specifically as e-specialists may be expected to have an IT-related Bachelor’s degree and/or specialized e-discovery training or experience.
What’s interesting is several university programs, such as criminal justice or paralegal degrees, are incorporating e-Discovery courses. A number of colleges, universities, professional associations and companies also offer e-Discovery courses and certificates geared for university grads and professionals, such as attorneys, paralegals, systems analysts, litigation support personnel and computer forensics specialists.
If you are applying to work at law firm that practices litigation, whether for a support or practitioner position, having e-Discovery skills and training will make you much more competitive.