Craig Ball of New Orleans and Austin is a Texas trial lawyer, computer forensic examiner, law professor and noted authority on electronic evidence. He limits his practice to serving as a court-appointed special master and consultant in computer forensics and electronic discovery and has served as the Special Master or testifying expert in computer forensics and electronic discovery in some of the most challenging and celebrated cases in the U.S. A founder of the Georgetown University Law Center E-Discovery Training Academy, Craig serves on the Academy’s faculty and teaches Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence at the University of Texas School of Law and at Tulane University School of Law. For nine years, Craig penned the award-winning Ball in Your Court column on electronic discovery for American Lawyer Media and now writes for several national news outlets. For his articles on electronic discovery and computer forensics, please visit www.craigball.com or his blog, www.ballinyourcourt.com.
Linda S. Sherman said:
I am a paralegal with over 20 years of litigation experience. I am still interested in advancing my career. In litigation, e discovery seems to be the place to gain expertise. Vendors, such as Relativity, offer their certifications. These tend to be defense trial lawyer tools. I am most interested in advancing my career as a plaintiff oriented e discovery specialist.
What significant training or certifications would you suggest that a non lawyer, with practical experience, interested in litigation practice, pursue today?
Is the plaintiff’s bar embracing E discovery? Would it be better for me to add value to my career in litigation by focusing on the defense bar’s use of e discovery and vendor tools instead of plaintiff orientation? Are vendor certifications or others offered in e discovery really of value? If so, which type would you suggest?
This is a rapidly changing arena. I value your depth of knowledge and experience. Thank you for your suggestions and response.
Lots of questions in there!
The plaintiffs’ bar has been slow to competently embrace e-discovery. Possibly out of fear of prompting e-discovery in response, or simply because counsel don’t know how much they are missing. A lost opportunity for many underserved plaintiffs.
I work about evenly for plaintiffs and defense lawyers; so, I’m convinced there isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a division along those lines. The more pertinent dichotomy is requesting party/producing party, which is not the same as plaintiff/defendant. Everyone in discovery is a requesting party AND a producing party. Plaintiffs have plenty they must identify, preserve, collect, process, review and produce, though the plaintiffs’ bar has been slow to awaken to the duty. Certainly, there’s no co-equivalent duty to preserve and produce all of the same things in the same volumes; but, if plaintiffs have fewer sources and smaller volumes, they also have few resources and (typically) less experience to competently address what they have. In short, even if you want to serve plaintiffs, you need to understand defendants’ systems and methodologies as well as–no–better than the defendant’s ESI experts.
It’s increasingly a competitive job market for e-discovery consultants; so, don’t turn down opportunities from either side. All experience is valuable and evey case instructive.
Understanding ESI and IT systems and applications is far more important than having a JD. Your paralegal experience should suffice, if you have extensive recent experience in e-discovery at scale. A certificaion is a reasonable way to show you know something about the discipline and have invested some time in seeking to acquire skills and demonstrate same. There are no e-discovery certifications that equip one to claim deep expertise; but, they serve to differentiate certificate holders from non-certificate holders; something being better than nothing. If you use specific tools in your work, a tool-specific cert is a good way to suggest proficiency in the tool, but rarely more.
For me, acquiring training and experience in computer forensics was of signal import in gaining credibility and depth. Too, it opened up a related avenue for appointment and engagement that I’d likely not gained had I focused only on e-discovery. If you have the time and budget, I’m a biased proponent of the Georgetown Law School E-discovery Training Academy offered each June in D.C. (not the Institute, the Academy). The ACEDS certification has become well-recognized in e-discovery circles; yet, I don’t have the experience to say whether it is a big asset to job-seekers. It may be. It sure can’t hurt.
Linda S. Sherman said:
Thank you, Craig, for your prompt reply. I found it helpful. I have some homework to do.
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