E-Discovery 101
January 21, 2009 1:57 AM   Subscribe

I currently work as a patent prosecution paralegal, but I'm increasingly intrigued by the field of E-Discovery. If you work in E-Discovery, how did you come upon it? What kind of background and training does it require? What do you like most and least about your occupation? Assuming that there's a staff hierarchy, what types of tasks are typically assigned to those on the lower and upper ends? What blogs, books, websites, etc. would you recommend for further exploration of the field? Thanks in advance:)
posted by invisible ink to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't work for a law firm, but I have been handed the 220,000 emails to sift through for a case. My feeling is if you can develop skills in automated searching, this would be beneficial. Stuff like advanced regular expressions would be where I would start, as from what I have seen, much is either still manual, or fairly unsophisticated.
I know the lawyers ears' perked up when I told them I could exclude hits where certain keywords occurred, for example, eliminating messages from certain people or time periods.
I have heard there are specialist e-discovery firms, but I think most law firms (in Australia, anyway) are still handing it to the juniors to wade through.
I found that being a good-ish Googler, that is, knowing how to refine searches, how to try different angles in a search put me ahead of others who might have had more legal training, but didn't know what was possible.
My biggest hurdle was trying to get the lawyers to open up about the types of info that would be relevant, and that required them to reveal the types of defenses they were considering.
Also, some of the search results revealed new lines of attack, err, defense.
Having some knowledge of what could typically be useful (in my case, stuff about trade practices law and what counted as misleading etc.) helped.
My boss was a young hot shot lawyer for a top firm before he moved into corporate commercials, and he is more technical than most I have dealt with - but he still couldn't change his screen resolution. If you are able to combine your legal ability with technical ability you could do very well.
That said, I find that lawyers as a breed don't value tech skills very highly. I think because many of the skills they need to be successful are inter-personal or based on detail they tend to dismiss the techies (not that I am one) as a commodity.
posted by bystander at 3:34 AM on January 21, 2009

I think that part of the problem with this idea is that many lawfirms don't and can't rely on automated retrieval techniques. I think they're duty bound to look at all of the discovery. Every page. Every message. I guess that using automated techniques can filter up potentially relevant stuff, but that doesn't subtract from the workload of having a pair of eyeballs actually cross every word... [NOTE: I could be totally wrong about this. I know a few things about text retrieval, and I've had some friends who've spent time in the document review dungeon basement at their lawfirms.]
posted by zpousman at 8:17 AM on January 21, 2009

I don't work in e-discovery, but I used to work for a company that had e-discovery products. From what I understand, the field is still very much under development - the legal profession is still learning about it and developing techniques and rules. It is definitely a hot area that's generated a lot of interest, the American Bar Association's annual TECHSHOW always seems has a track of seminars and workshops on that topic.

For some solid background reading, the ABA's Litigation Section has a good page of articles and other materials. Also, the EDD Update blog is a good source for news and information on the field.
posted by dicaxpuella at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2009

(you have MeMail!)
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:24 AM on January 21, 2009

I accidentally stumbled upon it myself and quite honestly can't wait to get out. - but that's just me.

My firm spends a lot of money on various EDD software which I have been trained in. Currently we use Summation. Does your firm use anything like that (or Concordance?). If so, and you haven't already, spending any amount of time in such programs sifting around various records is going to be most helpful. Find the needle in the haystack of over 2 million pages of documents is not as easy as refining a Google search as many programs (or at least Summation) use varying search characters and nomenclature. Nor is it as easy as refining a search in your Outlook mail box.

I also use the Lexis owned program called LAW (cute huh?), which is very basic in the world of E-discovery, but a building block at least. They too have a Yahoo Group.

Most software containing E-discovery should have an OCR base (optical character recognition) and THAT is what is going to help you refine your search (again, Summation kind of sucks at coordinating the OCR base with the coded CoreDatabase).

I could go on. But mostly importantly, if your firm has any of this software, become familiar with it. The Summation Yahoo group that I am in is only for those who are trained in the program (which my firm paid for me to attend a three day session). Look around at LexisNexis (not just Courtlinks etc) because they recently bought up a lot of EDD software and other programming. See the Yahoo groups for those programs.

However, if your firm lacks this technology, I'd become buddies with your IT Admin as s/he is more equipped to offer you advice.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 10:31 AM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, for your insightful responses! You've given me a lot to think about (and google:-), and I now have a clearer picture of how to go about exploring the field.
posted by invisible ink at 7:44 PM on January 21, 2009

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