The Old Gray Mare - Is She Still What She Used to Be? Ageism and Paralegals

Guest Blogger: Raul Estravit

This popular post first appeared in The Estrin Report in 2013.

EstravitRaulI started my paralegal career back in 1984 by cutting my teeth on the AT&T v. MCI Telecommunications anti-trust case. This is the case that broke up AT&T ("Ma-Bell") and allowed the world to go on and have all of the new telecommunication devices we now enjoy. I was on the "Damages Team" and we were able to prove damages caused by AT&T against all other competitors who were trying to enter the telecommunications market. 

At that time, I was also attending Golden Gate University where I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science and Business Administration.  Once I graduated and the case was over, I was hired by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher (a major law firm) and eventually became the Senior Paralegal of the firm.  I brought Gibson what was then the new frontier of digital technology. The term "Litigation Support" was not a term-of-art at that time.  The firm just did not know what to call me, so we used the term "Technical Paralegal". 

Around 1989-1990, I introduced Gibson to scanning and coding documents. We used the first version of Concordance to keep track of a very large securities case for a very large client. The documents ranged in the hundreds of thousands of documents resulting in a few million pages. 

One of the highlights of my life was when I was invited to have lunch with President Reagan up at his office in Century City (California). This was back in 1993.  While I was at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, I was the paralegal who assisted with the building permits of the Reagan Library and secured the permits for his burial there. He wanted to meet and thank me personally. 

Several years later, I was recruited by Chere Estrin for a case that took me to another law firm.  I landed in the island of Guam where I sharpened my technology skills. I was exposed and embraced the world of  Trial Technology. I learned the popular software program, Trial Director, when it was in its separate component format. There I was, supporting a construction defect case trial on the Island of Guam that lasted 366 days.

Not only did I run the trial but ran the servers, acted as the Help Desk for work stations at all of
the attorney desktops and staff computers.  While in Guam, I managed the network and VPN.
I also managed an ongoing coding project that involved approximately a dozen paralegals in our Los Angeles office. This was a big challenge and a great case.  Our firm won a very substantial
sum of money for our client.

I have had the honor to work on or successfully manage some of the largest litigation matters in our country's history and work alongside of some of the most well-known and respected attorneys.  It has been challenging but I have always learned new methods and have been able to test and prove my own metal in the heat of litigation wars. It has been rewarding on many different levels including job satisfaction, challenges and yes, financially.

I have embraced litigation support tools and applications and am certified in many different applications.  When asked by students what is my single most important key to success (besides skills), I tell them that I leveraged my experience and knowledge.  I had to. The legal world is moving very rapidly and staying ahead of the game is vital to your career. I am now in the process of getting my eDiscovery certification from OLP!   I have found OLP to be one of the best online training organizations for the advancement of your career.

I love this career but it does have the same unlawful circumstances as all others. At a recent position, I found myself in the terrible situation of age discrimination. I was basically led out the door. My supervisor remarked to me on two separate occasions that I may be "too old" for the type of work I was doing.  At the time he said this, I had reached the age of 54. The supervisor was 46.  

A few weeks after the second “you’re too old” remark, I was let go - even though my reviews were excellent.  In California, you can be let go for a reason or for no reason.  You cannot be let go for illegal reasons.  I have yet to be informed why I was dismissed but I don’t think it takes a brainard to figure it out. 

After that potentially career-busting experience came the interviews.  I was pretty discouraged because I was not receiving the type of offers I am accustomed to, even with a pretty extensive work history.   Although the average age of entry-level paralegal is 36-38, unfortunately, it has been my experience  that age does matter.

After being let-go and experiencing several rejections for jobs, I refused to let myself sit around.  I gave myself another opportunity by opening my own shingle called "Encore Litigation and Trial Technology Services".

Not only can I consult and manage databases, oversee processing and transfer of data into usable databases such as Concordance and Relativity but I also consult and instruct with attorneys and paralegals on effective and efficient ways to work with these applications. Thus far, it has been great! In the past four months, I have already successfully completed three trials and consulted with two different law firms on various software and databases.

Going solo as a hired gun can be scary but with a little smart marketing, leveraging of your
background and skill set, remaining competitive in pricing and rates, you just never know where you can end up. Recently, I have been retained by a large court reporting agency for a very large international client. I am their "go to" guy for everything involving trial technology and litigation support. 

Ageism is definitely out there - even in firms where people ought to know how to adhere to the law. The struggle against it remains.  You won't win this battle by yourself, it takes a community. However, I have found that life can be good on the other side. You just have to believe in yourself and try. 

Raul Estravit

Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP ) is offering a new online certificate program in Legal Project Management.  If you are a seasoned vet or are seeking to enter this hot field, you can benefit from this online, interactive program taught and designed by top experts.  For more info:

Law firms change from lay-offs to compensation and training

FiredToday's market: protect yourself - get the training you need to keep your job and get top salary

At least people have stopped crouching behind their desks in an effort to hide from the Pink Slip Lady. That's according to a recent survey from ALM Intelligence, "Turf Wars: Defining New Roles and Competing for New Territories."

The recent report provides an overview of current staffing issues affecting AmLaw 200 law firms, the largest law firms in the U.S. The report is based on a survey of partners, associates, paralegals, support staff and law firm administrators.

The survey found that the top three factors currently working against overall law firm morale are: too much “deadweight” in the firm (34 percent); compensation too low compared to other firms (31 percent); and too much work for current staffing levels (31 percent).

“This is a dramatic change from our 2011 survey, when the top three factors cited as having a negative impact on morale were layoffs, bonus cuts and low compensation,” said Kevin Iredell, vice president of ALM Legal Intelligence.

The survey found that, in the coming year, 62 percent of firms are likely to be hiring new attorneys. However, 49 percent plan to reduce support staff, continuing a trend in recent years as firms strive to better leverage technology for greater operational efficiencies.  

The survey cites getting rid of deadweight; compensation too low and too much work for staff efficiencies.  Why 49% of the firms want to get rid of paralegals when there is too much work is a bit much.  However, perhaps  instead of getting rid of deadweight, these firms willl be smart enough to exchange deadweight for more productive support staff.

Let's clear some of this up.  What's going on is the traditional paralegal is going away and is being replaced by paralegals who are proficient in technology and are cross-trained in other areas.  Hybrids, some call them.  Someone say, who is a Paralegal/Litigation Support Manager or Paralegal/Records Manager.  Duties the paralegal perform now are being replaced by more sophisticated assignments that require more training outside of paralegal schools.  If you don't want to be replaced by someone who knows what you don't, you'd be smarter to get training now before trouble enters your career.

Other survey findings included the following:

  • In the next three years, significantly more respondents foresee legal process outsourcing growing at their firms (19 percent) than what was reported in 2011 (10 percent).  [This is due to technology.]
  • In the past year, nearly half of responding firms (47 percent) have promoted associates to Of Counsel, rather than to an equity partner position. [Stop with splitting the profits already.]
  • Law firms’ biggest challenges when it comes to staffing requirements are hiring (27 percent) and retaining key talent (26 percent).  [Treat everyone right, pay them decent salaries and remember that staff/paralegals are smarter than the average worker.  They'll stay.]
  • The top three qualities law firms look for when hiring new associates is practice expertise (29 percent), followed by Ivy League or top law school graduation (26 percent) and GPA (16 percent).  For more information, go to

How do these statistics relate to paralegals?  You will need to have top education, primo expertise and plenty of motivation on a regular basis to move your career forward. It's the way of things now, folks.......Ride the horse in the direction it's going.






UNITIZATION: The Process of Separating Logical Boundaries from Physical Boundaries

IStock_000013570059Small Bob Sweat, a talented writer and eDiscovery expert is back today with another guest blog.  Bob, as most of you know, hails from the Great State of Texas where everything there is bigger - even the cases.

In the previous issue, I wrote about scanning as most cases still include a paper component; lots of it in some cases. As these two subjects (scanning and unitization) intertwine so closely it would be a good idea to tuck these guidelines on unitization away for future use with last issue’s article on scanning.

The purpose of unitization (logical document determination or LDD) is to locate and identify where each logical, self-standing document starts and ends.  Self-standing documents include letters, memos, reports, books, photographs, drawings, graphs, charts, or other compilations.  A self-standing individual document is determined by looking at its format and bibliographic information.  Bibliographic information refers to items that reside outside of the text (main body) of a document and include one or more of the following:

 Author:                    Person and /or Organization that produced or approved the document

Recipient:                Person and /or Organization that received the document

Copyee:                   Person and /or Organization that received a copy of the document

Title:                         Heading, subject or RE line of the document

Date:                        Date the document was originally produced  

In a typical paper collection, documents are found stapled, clipped or otherwise bound together.  For example, a fax cover, a letter and a report may be stapled together, but each is clearly an individual document considering each one has its own unique format and associated bibliographic data. The same principles apply to a group of images that have not been split into unique documents. It is important to get the logical documents determined for later use in databases, depositions, and trial.

Each paper or imaged collection is reviewed to find the beginning point and the ending point of each individual document.  A letter begins with the salutation and ends with the signature.  A report begins at the title page and includes all pages following thereafter in consecutive order including indexes, until the end of the report or last page included is located.

 Physical Attachments:

Physical attachments to a document should be considered a separate document from the parent (lead) document, if the document can stand on its own.  For example, a fax cover, stapled with a letter and report.  Each document can stand on its own, i.e., has its own bibliographic data that may be different from the attachment. You end up with three distinct logical documents for later coding purposes.

For example, you have a stapled group consisting of a fax cover, followed by a letter, followed by a report.  If you code them together, you may only get the information from the first document. If you code the information from all three, it can become confusing and laborious at search time.  If you use a vendor, they will code only the information from the first document as they cannot code information from all three for the price of one.  In the above case, if the fax is from Dick to Jane, the letter from Jack to Jill, and the report is about falling down the hill, then the information from the second and third document is lost and will not be found in a search.

 EXCEPTIONS:     Attachments to a contract are usually not separated (especially exhibits) and you should include appendices. In the case of Exhibits – these are typically kept together though they may include more than one document.  Data capture is typically performed on only the first document.  Addendums can be coded separate or together depending on the needs of the legal team.

Multiple Documents on One Page:

Some pages may have more than one document to a page. (For example: a photocopy of three different checks appears on one page.  Each check is considered a document, unless otherwise specified).  Each check may have the same author, but likely has different dates and payees (recipients).

Multiple Documents as One Document:

If a document has page numbers running consecutively, it is an excellent indication that all of the pages are part of the same document, even if the document contains other imbedded documents that would otherwise stand alone based on bibliographic information. This is particularly true with faxes where the fax line clearly shows the number of pages. Be careful as not all the pages may be there.

Duplicate Documents:

Duplicate documents are separate documents even if they follow each other in a group of pages.  (Documents that look alike may have minor differences in information that will affect the review or coding process).  In today’s world, exact copies of electronic duplicates may be deleted by matching their Hash Values.  Paper documents on the other hand can only be noted as potential duplicates from coded information or software programs that look at the document format fingerprint.  In the software case, you will get a percentage of confidence that a document is duplicative of another and have to hand compare.  Many times these end up being near duplicates.  None-the-less it is a technique that can help the reviewer determine whether scanned images are a match.

Distribution Lists:

Distribution lists should not be separated from the document they distribute.

Table of Contents:

A table of contents, when combined with the sections that follow make up one document.  The trailing sections or documents that follow the table should be examined as to whether the documents/sections that follow the table are actually part of the table of contents.  If the pages are consecutively numbered, that is an excellent indication it is one document.  If the pages are not consecutively numbered, the contents of the trailing documents must be examined to see if they logically match the subjects or topics listed in the table, and if so, consider it one document.


An appendix or an index is not a table of contents. In most cases, a list of documents to follow is not enough of an indicator to group all the documents on the list as one document.

 A Word of Caution:         Care must be taken when reviewing reports, patents and other documents where the pages are typically text followed by drawings, pictures, or graphic representations then back to text.  These documents are not typically split up just because the format changes.  Pagination is a good way to determine the beginning and ending of these types of documents.

About our guest blogger:
Author of numerous articles, Bob remains a popular speaker and presenter of CLE webinars and seminars. He works currently as a Project Manager and Partner at Open Door Solutions, LLP, Dallas, Texas.  He is best known for his down to earth explanations and approaches to complex matters.  Bob holds a place on the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) Advisory Council.

Bob holds a Paralegal Certificate in Civil Litigation with Computer Emphasis, a major in Business and minor in Economics, several certificates from studies at Purdue University and has worked both as a paralegal and paralegal placement manager.  Bob has 20 plus years experience working with local and national firms on complex litigations and document management matters, especially as they relate to discovery, review and production. Email your questions or call: (214) 643-0000.

Legal Tech West Coast: A Wealth of Information

Dollars Risk & Responsibility vs. Cost Control:
Managing eDiscovery’s Great Balancing Act
A Session Presented by Bill Speros 
LegalTech West Coast 2011

Guest Blogger:  Raul Estravit

Legal Tech West Coast – what a wealth of information! On Wednesday, May 18, I attended the session given by Bill Speros, lead counsel handling all of the e-discovery and litigation processing matters related to the Madoff case. Certainly a case that gives him great credibility.  Speros concentrated on risks and responsibilities in the management of the ediscovery process such as what to look for in keeping costs down and the allocation of responsibilities to all parties concerned. 

He covered solutions on predictability vs. consistency; the merging of responsibility with authority; management of ESI attributes; and providing visibility into asymmetric knowledge and skills.

It is difficult for law firms to determine or even guess the exact cost of discovery with regard to predictability versus consistency.  A set of data often thought to be manageable, often grows into a huge endeavor when ediscovery and labor costs escalate during the culling process.  This is a critical point where the framing of the issues and negotiations between the opposing parties can help make culling options easier and less costly to manage.

Speros referred to the “what if costs”: those costs based upon fear or extortion factors generated by an aggressive opposing side.  These factors add costs that are surprisingly reported to be about 40% -60% of the total costs of an ediscovery project. This statistic has raised concerns that expanded discovery could force settlements based upon costs rather than law. Often, cases have been settled as soon as one of the parties figures out it would be far more economical to pay rather than play.   

Management of ESI Attributes
Law firms frequently give responsibility for managing a case to pivotal core people in the ESI phase such as a seasoned paralegal, staff attorney or onsite project manager.  These professionals have hands-on experience running large document intensive ESI and database driven projects.

Provide Visibility in Asymmetric Knowledge and Skills
Personnel staffing ESI projects should be given clear lines of responsibility and be part of ESI planning and strategic management.  They should be given a voice in meetings.  Analysis of projects reveals teams that are successful are those that have been included in the execution of the project.

Knowing the source of the data can give you a certain idea as to the amount of data a particular custodian may have but it is not a definitive way of knowing the total amount that could be mined.

Starting off eDiscovery with a date range and a set of key words will certainly limit the amount of data at the “first bite of the apple” or at the source.   However, if you do not get exactly what you are seeking and need to go back to the third party e-discovery vendor to re-run the data search with a more modified set of terms and date ranges, you’ll most definitely rack up costs. Clearly, here is a situation to be avoided.

I was amused at the frankness from Speros.  One way to keep costs down, he said,  is to try and squeeze third-party vendors.  In this new economy, this technique could now become the norm. These days, vendors are struggling to keep a constant work flow.  Therefore, they are willing to negotiate price more than ever when you go back for a second bite at the apple.

The value of the content must be weighed against costs.  Is the data current or archived?  When data is archived, the data is sprawled and spread out over various formats. Piecing it all together could cost quite a bit of time and technology.  Even if the data is on a hard drive, it could have sections deleted and need more forensic handling. Forensic data can look like “confetti” which in turn becomes more costly to produce.   

How do you produce ESI data without the proprietary database or application? Exporting from certain types of applications make it virtually impossible to use without the application itself.  In this scenario, the data is incomprehensible.

In certain cases, courts have placed the burden of purchasing the application on the requesting party.  If they want the data that badly, they should be ready to pay for it.

Does the data you are seeking go so far back that it was once owned by a different corporation?  Many corporations and companies are bought and sold over time. One would think past records are kept but actually, that is not always the case.  If the data goes far beyond the time the present corporation has been running  operations, you may be out of luck. There is no real obligation to keep records from the last business that operated the company.  However, if the data is accessible, you have to produce it unless it is just too expensive.

Quite often, lawyers ask the court for relief from the cost of producing documents electronically.  Just as often, they come to court without a specific example of costs, driving judges crazy. No lawyer enjoys being singled out for wasting judges’ time when the judge sends them back to figure out the costs.

I am a big fan of one of the topics covered by Speros. We call it weekly meetings but he calls it “trial-logue”, a great phrase for constant communication between the team members. I really cannot count how many times the lack of communication created a monster of an issue that could have easily been resolved by a phone call.  Hopefully, this phrase will become widely used in the language of legal technology.

Speros concluded by reminding us that a cohesive team is one that is utilizing the talent of each member for the successful operation of a well-run and less costly ediscovery project.  These are some of the finer points that lead us in the right direction and allow for the timely production of data without sacrificing quality.  That is the art of Litigation Technology and well run ediscovery projects.

10 Unknown Google Tips

31653ckv7e9sfy7[1] Someone sent me the following list of neat Google tricks.  I wish I could give credit to the writer, so forgive me about that. If anyone knows, let me know. However, here are new ways to use Google that we all can use:

1.         Definitions
Pull up the definition of the word by typing define followed by the word you want the definition for. For example, typing: define bravura would display the definition of that word.

2.         Local search
Visit Google Local enter the area you want to search and the keyword of the place you want to find. For example, typing: restaurant at the above link would display local restaurants.

3.         Phone number lookup
Enter a full phone number with area code to display the name and address associated with that phone number.

4.         Find weather and movies
Type "weather" or "movies" followed by a zip code or city and state to display current weather conditions or movie theaters in your area. For example, typing weather 84101 gives you the current weather conditions for Salt Lake City, UT and the next four days. Typing movies 84101 would give you a link for show times for movies in that area.

5.         Track airline flight
Enter the airline and flight number to display the status of an airline flight and it's arrival time. For example, type: delta 123 to display this flight information if available.

6.         Track packages
Enter a UPS, FedEx or USPS tracking number to get a direct link to track your packages.

7.          Pages linked to you
See what other web pages are linking to your website or blog by typing link: followed by your URL. For example, typing link: displays all pages linking to Computer Hope.

8.         Find PDF results only
Add filetype: to your search to display results that only match a certain file type. For example, if you wanted to display PDF results only type: "dell xps" filetype:pdf -- this is a great way to find online manuals.

9.         Calculator
Use the Google Search engine as a calculator by typing a math problem in the search. For example, typing: 100 + 200 would display results as 300.

10.        Stocks
Quickly get to a stock quote price, chart, and related links by typing the stock symbol in Google. For example, typing: msft will display the stock information for Microsoft.


eDiscovery for Techies & Geeks Starts Aug. 31st

J0400219 eDiscovery for Techies & Geeks starts on August 31, 2010. Interact with other students & instructor. Learn from seasoned pros. 3 courses offered including: Lit Support 101A; Advanced LitSupport; Project Management for Litigation Support Professionals. Contact Thanks!

"10 dumb things users do that can mess up their computers"

Check out these very helpful reminders from the information technology gurus at TechRepublic:

"We all do dumb things now and then, and computer users are no exception. Inadvertently pressing the wrong key combination or innocently clicking OK in the wrong dialog box can change important settings that alter a computer's behavior or even crash the system.

"Nervous newbies are often fearful that one wrong move might break the computer forever. Luckily, short of taking a sledge hammer to the box, the consequences aren't usually quite that dire. Even so, users often do create problems for their computers and for your network. Here's a description of common missteps you can share with your users to help them steer clear of preventable problems.

#1: Plug into the wall without surge protection

"Here's one that actually can physically destroy your computer equipment, as well as the data it holds. You may think your systems are in danger only during an electrical storm, but anything that interrupts the electrical circuit and then starts the current back again can fry your components. Something as simple as someone turning on an appliance that's plugged into the same circuit (especially a high voltage one such as a hair dryer, electric heater, or air conditioner) can cause a surge, or a surge may be caused by a tree limb touching a power line. If you have a power outage, you may experience a surge when the electricity comes back on.


#6: Open all attachments

"Some folks just can't help themselves: Getting an e-mail message with an attachment is like getting an unexpected gift. You just have to peek inside to see what it is. But just as that package left on your doorstep could contain a bomb, that file attached to your mail message could contain code that will delete your documents or system folder or send viruses to everyone in your address book."

"Making Forensics Elementary at Your Firm"

Here's another career choice -- computer-forensics examinaton -- in which a paralegal background can be most helpful:


"Attorney and e-discovery expert Tom O'Connor, with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Legal Electronic Document Institute, says that judges in the cases he consults on are ordering e-discovery and computer-forensics investigation much more frequently than ever before. O'Connor is seeing the effect of this change on all kinds of cases.


"For civil domestic cases such as divorce proceedings, there's an enormous amount of forensics investigation occurring. O'Connor says that PCs are being examined to prove or refute claims by one spouse that the other has been engaging in extramarital affairs or hiding financial assets. Forensics experts are trained to search for e-mail exchanges in which the parties are setting dates and carrying on other communications. They can also:

  • Uncover questionable online purchases;
  • Track credit-card transactions; and
  • Detect whether credit cards unknown to one spouse are being used to make illicit purchases.

"Stephanie Simons Neal, litigation-support [PDF] project manager in the New York office of Weil Gotshal & Manges, attests to the burgeoning need for forensics expertise at her firm. Simons Neal's caseload consists of a number of patent cases, along with other corporate-litigation matters.

"'We've definitely noticed an increase in request for forensics, as well as requests for review and production of documents in native form as opposed to paper,' she says, adding that while the requests continue to come in, the expertise to meet those requests is lacking and there is a growing 'disconnect' between what cases actually require and what the law firms are equipped to provide.


"Trial attorney and certified computer forensic examiner Craig Ball of Austin, TX, has seen a marked increase in the use of forensically qualified imaging to preserve data prior to litigation rather than in reaction to it."

NOTE: This article also says: "Computer forensics is still a young science that's being shaped by the electronic-discovery rules as they continue to evolve and change. This expanding industry simultaneously presents huge opportunities and great responsibility."

"Can Data Have a Life After a Death?"

Of course! Just be sure to utilize some basic, but smart, computer management skills:

"Everyone who has worked with a computer, even before the arrival of the Internet, knows the sickening feeling of loss. Without warning, hours of your work suddenly vanish from the screen. You hope (and pray) that perhaps it's been saved in a backup or temp file -- but often it's not. As your internal soundtrack turns up the volume on Don Henley and Glenn Frey, you realize that your carefully crafted project is 'already gone' -- and that it's not the time for a victory song. Instead, you will have to painstakingly recreate the work you had already done -- but didn't get a chance to (or even forgot to) save before the crash signaled by the apparently ubiquitous 'blue screen of death.'

"Fortunately, this problem is an easy one to fix -- before the fact. Periodic automatic save features can be turned on in many programs, such as Word, and 'Control S' has become an automatic part of typing for many people. On a systemwide basis, network administrators can generate minute-by-minute backups -- many thanks to David, Steve and the Help Desk at my firm, because their efforts have often saved me during computer or system crashes and blackouts."

Author Stanley P. Jaskiewicz, a business lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm of Spector Gadon & Rosen P.C., helps clients solve e-commerce, corporate contract and technology-law problems, and is a member of e-Commerce Law & Strategy's Board of Editors. Jaskiewicz thanks his legal assistant, Frank Manzano, for his research support for this article.

"MoFo IT Gets Its Green On"

Kudos to Morrison & Foerster for adopting a strong 'green' culture! Find four good ideas in this Legal Technology article:

"With 1,070 lawyers in 18 offices throughout the world, Morrison & Foerster has a culture that promotes excellence, diversity, teamwork and social responsibility. Last year, we were selected as one of Fortune magazine's '2006 Best Companies to Work For,' and the firm has won numerous other accolades that reflect our commitment to these goals.

"Among these priorities is our commitment to create a work environment that is healthy and environmentally responsible. Our IT department has initiated a number of programs designed not only to help to minimize our impact on the environment, but also generate real savings. Here are a few of our recent programs:

1. CRT to LCD

"Our first project was designed to save desktop space, as well as eyes and power. Over the last four years, we have significantly reduced our power consumption in our offices and data centers by replacing all cathode ray tube monitors with liquid crystal display units. LCD monitors consume less power and have a longer life than CRT monitors. As a result, we have saved roughly 619 megawatts of power per year -- enough to power 58 average American homes for one full year."

Author Anthony Hoke is global technology purchasing/asset manager at Morrison & Foerster, based in Los Angeles.