David J. Kearney

July 26, 2011

E-Discovery Certification Holds Promise for Legal Professionals

Filed under: e-Discovery,Litigation Support,Uncategorized — David J. Kearney @ 5:05 pm

E-Discovery Certification Holds Promise for Legal Professionals

David Kearney

Law Technology News

08-03-2011

Electronic data discovery is a mainstream business process that is still in its infancy, so it only makes sense that organizations are attempting to build a standardized body of knowledge that will require consistent standards, processes, best practices, tools, and techniques. Many EDD professionals entered the field from various directions, including technologists, paralegals, and lawyers. Currently, individuals entering the field have little knowledge of the litigation life cycle, technology processes, or the practical experience needed to navigate the budgetary, technological, and legal requirements for a case.

In general, an education credential or program establishes a base-level of knowledge that must be learned and retained for some sort of exam — with the additional hope that the knowledge gained will be applied to better accomplish individual and/or company goals. A formal EDD education program with a certification would distinguish those that know buzzwords from those who have a solid foundation. As with any kind of degree, course curriculum, or certification process, these do not make an expert, but do indicate that an individual is well-rounded, committed, disciplined, has a solid baseline — and has made an investment to improve their abilities. Those with a testing component either during or at the end of the process indicates that a student did more than just sit through a class or casually read a book.

There is no substitute for real-world experience, nor is there a substitute for formally learning a process from beginning to end. There also is no one way to learn about the Electronic Discovery Reference Model, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, local rules, production requirements, litigation holds, etc. But the two components are necessary. (It should also be mentioned that work demands, schedules, or individuals unwilling to share information can be barriers to gaining the full spectrum of knowledge.)

At least anecdotally, there is much demand for formal training. There are a good handful of educational opportunities, such as the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists, Organization of Legal Professionals, and Association of Litigation Support Professionals. The overall certification value is what students and organizations make of it. Potential costs can range from hundreds — to thousands — of dollars to earn a certification.

Among the considerations:

• Are course materials are designed for self-study?

• Is travel is required to attend a class?

• Can classes can be attended via a virtual classroom?

• What are testing procedures and costs?

Typically, the cost associated with EDD certification is much less than a college degree and in line with any prominent technical certification and related coursework, such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and Project Management Institute certifications.

As the EDD education industry continues to evolve, expect that the required prerequisites, classes, course work, testing, and mandatory continuing educational requirements will become much more rigorous, consistent, and respected throughout the industry. An EDD certification — or levels of certification — is probably the greatest steps forward in the EDD industry.

As college provides an overall well-rounded knowledge experience, technical certifications provide targeted baseline software/hardware knowledge. Project management certification provides a standard process to manage projects regardless of discipline, likewise as EDD certification develops, it can examine the stages of litigation — from anticipated litigation through the presentation of evidence providing common terms, processes, technologies, best practices, and lessons learned within the industry. EDD certification may also reduce the amount of imposed sanctions, by helping involved parties adhere to legal requirements. Should a successfully-passed certification exam, attended course certificate, or degree be the sole determining factor of one’s aptitude or success? No. But, such earned accomplishments are two-fold; they should be used to help evaluate if an individual has sufficient general knowledge to meet needed requirements. It also shows that an organization has a high level of standards with regards to educational requirements and baseline knowledge requirements.

EDD certification can help build a stronger industry, with stronger organizations where standards are developed, taught, practiced, and modified as e-discovery changes. All things being equal, perhaps organizations will hire the individual who presents an extra credential — because it demonstrates an effort to fill knowledge gaps, a commitment to the industry, and the discipline to achieve rigid certification requirements.

David Kearney is director of technology services at Cohen & Grigsby, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. E-mail: DKearney@cohenlaw.com

Copyright 2011. ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission from Law Technology News. Further Duplication prohibited.

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