Paralegal: The Only Legal Job Creating Its Own Positions & Making Lots of Mula

J0401003 The paralegal profession was created out of whole cloth.  Sometime about 30 years ago, someone (I don't know who) had an idea to title a person who was moving out of the legal secretary position but not quite into the associate position, a paralegal.  On top of that, whoever this person was, figured out that the paralegal could get paid more dollars and -wait! wait! don't tell me! - could also get billed out handsomely to the client but not so handsomely as to scare the client away.

Fast forward to the present, and the paralegal does it again.  Only this time, it's called......(drum roll, please) - an eDiscovery Paralegal.  Hot, hot, hot, folks.  The field cannot get enough people for these positions.  Literally.  It's very hard to find a person who doesn't need to be lawyer but does need a thorough understanding of the law and who doesn't need to be a computer programmer but does need to be techie savvy. Kind of a techie/quasi-lawyer hybrid.

Is there such a person?  There sure is if you are a paralegal well-versed in eDiscovery and technology.  Here is a sample of a job posting for just such a person:

"eDiscovery professional with a Paralegal background.  Lead eDiscovery efforts within the company’s Corporate Legal Department.  Support document retention and electronic discovery (eDiscovery) in multiple locations throughout the world. Manage the tracking and storage of voluminous corporate documents worldwide.

Develop and implement processes related to document retention. Interface with in-house and outside counsel to manage electronic discovery (eDiscovery) collections and productions as part of the litigation discovery process.  Collect electronically stored information for production in litigation matters.

Knowledge of: EDRM, the Sedona Principles, ESI, Sanctions, Triggering Events, latest technology, the discovery process, New Federal Rules, collection procedures, processing & review procedures. Must be able to work well with legal service providers.  Must be familiar with: Documentum, Symantec Enterprise Vault, EnCase, ARMA, Information Risk Management; IPRO, 
Relativity, iConect, Concordance, Summation, FYI and other programs."

Salaries are excellent ranging anywhere from $60,000 to over $100,000 depending upon several factors (plus overtime in many instances.)  You can work for a law firm, in-house legal department or a vendor.  The position has upward mobility opportunities.  You are not locked in as a paralegal with only a junior or senior level designation for the rest of your career.  You don't hit a hard salary ceiling because you'll never make partner.  You actually get off a sticky floor.

In fact, if you are a paralegal and have the skills and given that eDiscovery is a) here to stay b) exploding as each minute ticks; and, c) crying out for someone with your background, why wouldn't an enterprising paralegal jump for an opportunity like this?

Probably because the eDiscovery field is so new that there are no real standarized job descriptions, titles or, for that matter, formalized training.  Aha! I say.  That's changing.  And, yes, I'm bringing to your attention The Organization of Legal Professionals (www.theolp.org) because this non-profit is offering a new, online, interactive 8 week course that is going to give you the right formal training to put to use and skills to create a position within your firm or other entity.

That's what paralegals do. The history of Paralegals is consistent: get the training and then figure out that they can create positions because........law firms need them and law firms will buy what they need. The paralegal position is the only job within the legal field that is flexible enough to allow creativity to develop positions directly in line with current trends.  Think about it: legal background, technology, team player, non-attorney, essential to the overall operation and profit of a law firm.  You simply take your background and roll it into the ever-changing needs of a firm, giving yourself a new title and moving up an otherwise invisible career ladder.

Paralegals did this with case managers; litigation support positions (most lit support managers came up through paralegal); the paralegal administrator; trial specialist and other positions.  And now, the eDiscovery Paralegal.

Take the Advanced eDiscovery (Next Level) course with The OLP.  It starts on Tuesday.  It meets twice a week for 8 weeks, is taught by very seasoned pros and gives you a solid understanding of eDiscovery past the basics.  Paralegals have done it before and will do it again:  taking skills, knowledge and know-how and meeting the needs of the firm and the client in previously undefined but necessary jobs. It's power - sure as shootin', it's power. 

 


 


 



"Making Forensics Elementary at Your Firm"

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

[snip]

"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.

[snip]

"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.

[snip]

"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."


"E-Lawyering Requires Rethinking Technology and Law"

Great article about the new federal discovery rules, describing these changes in an understandable, even humorous way:

"This changes everything."

"Those three words, wafting on the familiar, buoyant tones of the actor saying them, have staying power. No survivor of the dot-com boom of the 1990s could forget William Shatner's ubiquitous ads on behalf of a certain online travel company.

"Indeed, online booking did change the travel industry. When was the last time anyone had a paper ticket, or called a human travel agent just to check flight times? Buyers and sellers of books, music and news all have seen the same cataclysm in their business models -- a subtle but certain shift from dialing a phone number or visiting a store to signing in, logging on and clicking a mouse.

"And, in fact, e-commerce lawyers are included in this migration to technology. Just as e-commerce has disrupted the travel, music, book and news retailing industries, the influence of technology on business and the law has also wrought havoc on our legal system. [Emphasis added.] Certainly, the law has always had to adapt specific rules for new technology.

"Today, the pervasive role that technology has assumed in business and legal practice, as more and more of our daily lives are lived online, provides a more fundamental challenge to how attorneys practice business law. In an age when 'paper file' has become an anachronism and an oxymoron, business law and the way it is practiced have required more than just tinkering with particular rules."

Author Stanley P. Jaskiewicz, a business lawyer, helps clients solve e-commerce, corporate, contract and technology-law problems, and is a member of the Board of Editors of Internet Law & Strategy \'s sibling newsletter, E-Commerce Law & Strategy.