E-discovery is a rapidly developing field involving attorneys, paralegals, technical support staff, litigation support professionals, consultants, vendors, software developers and the judiciary. But are these participants knowledgeable enough about e-discovery to be considered competent?
The Los Angeles-based Organization of Legal Professionals wants to make sure. The recently formed nonprofit seeks to be the leader in educating the legal community about e-discovery.
“There is such a need and no real courses people can take, no real solid training in e-discovery,” says Chere Estrin, editor-in-chief of two legal publications and chairwoman of the OLP board. “Most of the attorneys practicing have not learned about e-discovery in law school.
“What’s happening is that law firms are taking people from litigation support—[even though] they don’t know anything about the e-discovery process—and throwing them into the system.”
Among the OLP’s ambitions is to provide a certification exam to test for core competencies, and courses dealing with ethics, data collection, review processes and changes to the federal rules that have been brought about by e-discovery.
“E-discovery is the way we do business these days,” says Estrin. “We used to say we were looking for the ‘hot doc’ or the smoking gun. If we’re not going to go through everything, how are we going to find it?”
Estrin says lawyers need to get up to speed on e-discovery and study it as if it were a brand-new area of law, even if they’re not directly involved in the process. “They may be overseeing but they still have to know what they’re overseeing,” Estrin says. “How are you going to know if the paralegal is doing good work?”
The 2009 Socha-Gelbmann Electronic Discovery Survey says, “In a crowded, noisy market, too many providers are making unsubstantiated claims and creating consumer confusion, while consumers lack effective means to compare technologies and methods.”
And lawyers who specialize in e-discovery say there is a knowledge gap in the profession.
“There is a compelling need for lawyers and other legal workers to be as expert as possible in electronic information issues,” says Robert Brownstone, an e-discovery specialist at the Mountain View, Calif., office of Fenwick & West. “There is a huge gap between those who know all the nuts and bolts and those who don’t know anything. For lawyers, the level of understanding is very mixed.”