Job security in ediscovery depends on keeping up with legal and technological changes

Is your job secure? More to the point, are you actively positioning yourself to succeed in your job or even advance? Managers, are you helping your employees remain relevant and up to date? If you work in ediscovery, you already know that the field is changing daily. If you don’t keep up, you could quickly fall behind and find yourself obsolete, or, worse, become a liability. On the other hand, if you work proactively to stay ahead of legal and technological developments, you might do better than keep your job — you might find yourself promoted in recognition of your skills. But you can’t get there using the discovery methods you learned 20 years ago. After all, ediscovery is about more than just the discovery of electronically stored information. It’s about how data works, when and why it is generated, where it can be found and how it can be accessed, preserved, searched and produced.

The Right Stuff: Technological Advances

It can be hard to recognize how quickly technology changes because we so rapidly become dependent on it. Just a decade ago, social media was brand new: YouTube, Facebook and Twitter were fledgling platforms, not the rich data sources they are today. In that same period, cell phones have grown from an optional accessory to a staple of daily life. iPhones and Android systems launched in just 2007 and 2008, respectively, but today it’s hard to imagine life — or ediscovery — without them. And then there’s the cloud. Today’s cloud-based ediscovery tools have, for all their advantages, proved somewhat of a mixed blessing. Yes, cloud storage is cheap, and you can run cloud-based software-as-a-service applications from anywhere with an internet connection, on any platform, without needing expensive infrastructure or maintenance staff or downtime. So, where’s the downside? In the last 20 years, the per-gigabyte cost of storage has dropped from around $1,000 to just 10¢, leading companies to store everything by default and inflating the costs of ediscovery unnecessarily. Additionally, with cloud-based services, more opportunities exist for hackers to infiltrate systems and access sensitive information. Understanding the weaknesses of your technology, and staying ahead of them, is just part of an ediscovery professional’s job. Today, there are more ediscovery tools than ever, offering greater capabilities and increased user-friendliness. Microsoft, with its Office 365 release, now provides basic ediscovery capabilities. Data preservation, litigation holds, collection, processing and review can all be conducted in house without needing to be farmed out to data specialists. That means, of course, that you must become your own data specialist.  

Support That Great Technology With the Right Processes

Having the right technology and tools is only half the battle — tools are only as good as the people using them. We need look no further back than this year for proof that human error can wreak havoc on business. For one, Equifax compromised the personal data of nearly 150 million Americans through its sloppy data practices. The number of errors Equifax made, in both judgment and practice, are legion. Equifax was advised by a consulting researcher that it was possible to access, from a public website, “the personal data of every American, including social security numbers, full names, birthdates, and city and state of residence,” yet Equifax failed to take this site down promptly. It also chose not to encrypt data on its sites, failed to patch known security vulnerabilities, failed to update its servers hosting sensitive personal information and, in one office, used “Admin” as both a login and password. Closer to home for ediscovery professionals, Wells Fargo accidentally disclosed the personal financial information for at least 50,000 of its clients in discovery. How? The reviewing lawyer failed to learn how Wells Fargo’s ediscovery software worked and therefore reviewed only the first thousand documents rather than the entire 1.4 GB set of disclosed data. Communicating with your team, in-house counsel and any external vendors and law firms is critical to avoiding costly and embarrassing errors, as is understanding your technology and the data that your business generates.

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What ediscovery solutions do you need? Consider the following functions:

  • Managing cases and projects
  • Preserving files and information
  • Issuing and tracking litigation holds
  • Collecting files and metadata
  • Tracking and indexing documents
  • Processing files and analyzing data
  • Reviewing documents
  • Producing discoverable information and metadata
  • Preparing reports and presentations for court

Set Yourself Apart on the Job With These Best Practices

So, you’re convinced of the value of staying ahead of technological and process developments. What now? How do you actually improve your job performance in an ever-changing field? Take a moment to reflect on how you learn best and what will motivate you to stay engaged over the long term. Then consider these options:

Attend specialized conferences.

Attend specialized conferences.

With a small investment in time and money, you can rub shoulders with ediscovery and technology experts and hear from the best about what’s coming down the pike. Check out PREX, ILTACON, Legaltech and the ACC Legal Operations conference.

Go back to school.

Go back to school.

Recognizing the growing complexity of ediscovery, law schools are starting to step up to the plate and offer specialized courses, both online and in person. Check out Georgetown Law’s eDiscovery Training Academy and the online learning program being developed by Duke Law in collaboration with the Electronic Discovery Institute (EDI).

Monitor developments.

Monitor developments.

Review legal technology press releases and check out new products as they become available. At first, you may have some catching up to do, but before long, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Ask questions.

Ask questions.

Talk to your IT department, the customer support professionals associated with your current software and your company’s resident technology and ediscovery gurus. Don’t be afraid of not knowing the answers. When new products are released every day, everyone is a beginner. Plus, you’ll learn faster, and your questions will get better, with experience.

Devote time each week to professional reading.

Devote time each week to professional reading.

Set up alerts for legal technology and ediscovery news or subscribe to reputable newsletters or blogs.
Your job won’t stay the same — you can’t afford to either.