I didn’t get a chance to cover this topic before the holiday, but certainly want to do so now. As I mentioned in this post, “people who need people…are the luckiest people…in the world”. But the law firms who need paralegals to step up to fill eDiscovery roles in a tight job market may be missing a huge opportunity to provide, or at least pay for, the eDiscovery training they need to excel in those roles.
As discussed in Legaltech® News (‘Huge Missed Opportunity’: Firms Aren’t Proactively Fostering Paralegals’ E-Discovery Skills, written by Rhys Dipshan), some firms are training up their internal staff to fill eDiscovery talent gaps created by a tight job market. And that means tapping paralegals to help support eDiscovery projects, or even to become the next generation of eDiscovery professionals themselves.
Of course, bringing paralegals into the eDiscovery fold isn’t entirely new, though it has recently accelerated in light of a limited talent pool and a growing deluge of client discovery work. Yet even with more firms seeing e-discovery potential in their paralegals, it’s still far from a widespread practice—or something that many firms proactively support, whether through encouraging, or paying for, eDiscovery training.
Mary Mack, executive director and chief legal technologist at EDRM, called the current situation a “huge missed opportunity.”
She explained, “It’s harder, I believe, to train people on legal functional requirements … but paralegals are very deep in legal process, they understand what discovery is, they understand what privilege is, they understand evidence and authenticity and exhibits and all of that. And so all they need to do is train them on the technical.”
Sheila Grela, a paralegal at San Diego-based Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, (not to mention the host of the San Diego Paralegal Association (SDPA) Virtual Lunch with Leaders educational events, and the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (CAPA) paralegal of the year(!), received her eDiscovery certification through paralegal Association National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and now sees fellow paralegals across the legal industry taking on more eDiscovery tasks.
“I talked to another colleague of mine who’s a paralegal and she’s in-house, and we both agreed that one of the biggest things is that because there is a shortage of ESI personnel, firms are working with the paralegals to have them help with things that they may never have previously done. We’re talking about the collection process … [paralegals are] doing data mapping with the clients, they’re going over and talking about where the data that is being requested might be.”
She added that paralegals are also helping out with “the fact-based evaluation and the management of vendors to prevent risk,” among other tasks.
Similarly, Mary noted she’s heard of paralegals being involved in search term construction, preparing data for reviewers, the management of a review team, quality control, writing transmittal documents and managing eDiscovery budgets, among other responsibilities. “They really do run the gamut there,” she said.
Rhys was nice enough to interview me for the article as well and I provided some of my own observations, including that (in my experience) we’ve always seen some overlap between paralegals and eDiscovery work, that many eDiscovery professionals started out as paralegals and that getting the firm to pay for eDiscovery training for them has been a struggle over the years. My quotes and additional quotes from Mary and Sheila (including their observations regarding eDiscovery training of paralegals) can be found in the article here.
Just a reminder that the second annual eDiscovery Today 2022 State of the Industry Report Survey (sponsored by EDRM) is currently underway! Please consider taking the survey here – doing so will get you a free copy of the report when it is published in January! Plus, I’ll stop bugging you all about it! 😉
So, what do you think? Do you agree that getting law firms to pay for eDiscovery training for paralegals has been a struggle? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.