Paralegals have long been a part of law offices and legal teams, fulfilling roles like conducting research, client interviews, drafting documents, and handling other administrative tasks. But more and more, paralegals find themselves charged with handling all things related to eDiscovery as well.
Attorneys are interested in getting to the facts of a case so they can build a strategy. But obtaining and organizing that data falls to litigation support personnel, many of whom are paralegals. When working with electronic data, a paralegal’s role becomes part case project manager and part IT liaison. Some of the things expected of an eDiscovery paralegal may include:
Acting as Case Manager by organizing a database for all Electronically Stored Information (ESI)
Managing the collection process with a client and talking with their IT to figure out the best way to obtain the needed ESI
Once the ESI has been obtained, resolving any issues with the data, such as corrupted files or missing metadata
Creating search templates using the search terms and parameters set forth by the parties in the case
Redacting privileged data
Conducting Quality Control on production sets to ensure the discovery parameters were met
Becoming an eDiscovery specialist can really set you apart from other paralegals and lead you to expanded career opportunities, but eDiscovery carries a unique set of challenges that often isn’t a traditional part of a paralegal’s training.
Kelly Twigger, Attorney and eDiscovery thought leader, stated in a past Above the Law article, that “lawyers [assume] that picking up the complexities of ESI and handling data is something their paralegals can just do. I’m here to tell you that it’s not.” She continues, “If you are expecting your paralegal to have the skill set necessary to manage ESI, including setting up and managing your databases, without some serious training, you are putting yourself and your clients at risk.”
Training is definitely one thing paralegals can do to up their eDiscovery game. As Jared Coseglia, CEO of TRU Staffing said in an article published by LegalTech news, “the plug-and-play technical accountability of an eDiscovery professional is largely measured by the software certification status that individual achieves and maintains.” But certification isn’t often the first step. To pass industry certifications, you have to have more than a basic knowledge of eDiscovery. In the same LegalTech News article, Krista Schmidt, manager of professional services at Ipro said, “A person needs to be well-rounded and understand many things to pass the certifications. You can’t just know review or processing.”
So what can you do to get started? Here are 5 ways paralegals can sharpen their eDiscovery skills!
Fully understand the case
A lot of things paralegals need are in the case materials themselves. There you can identify key custodians and sources of ESI for collection, search terms, and privilege determinations. You’ll also need to become familiar with contacts in your client’s organization (like the client’s IT department) to best figure out how to collect the data requested in discovery.
Find out what software is available at your organization
Sometimes, attorneys might not be aware of the tools available for managing eDiscovery. Once you know what software options your organization has, you can find out if there are any internal resources, perhaps located on an intranet. There may even be others within the organization who have gained training and/or certification on the software to provide guidance.
It sounds obvious, but there is actually a lot of great information on the web from other practitioners and thought leaders. Articles, white-papers, infographics, even YouTube videos may be available from reputable sources to help paralegals come up to speed on processes and tactics that can help make your life in eDiscovery a little easier.
Check with your eDiscovery Software Vendor
If you own your eDiscovery software, the vendor most likely has a resources center available for users. They may have tutorials or even a help desk where you could get expert advice on common eDiscovery challenges or how to create the best workflow for the case at hand.
Training and Certification
Finally, if you want to build your career in eDiscovery, getting training and certification is an excellent way to show your expertise. Most software vendors offer certification for their products. It may even be worthwhile to attain training on multiple software offerings if your team uses more than one vendor. There are also general eDiscovery certifications (the Certified eDiscovery Specialist (CEDS) is one of the most common).