5 Tips for Breaking Into Litigation Support

How exactly does one break into litigation support?

I have received e-mails from some and others have completed the Guru welcome survey and this question has been raised. As you may have noticed from the case studies, there is no clear direct path to break into litigation support.  However, if you have made up your mind to pursue a litigation support career, there are some things you can start doing now. I have listed a few items to consider below and I have saved some other tidbits and suggestions for future articles.

1) Timing – Honestly, timing has everything to do with it. Be as ready as you can because when that entry-level position becomes available (and it will) you will want to move quickly.

2) Networking and Educational Events – Find out about local meetings or networking events or conferences and attend them if you can. If you are interested in a career in litigation support, it is a good idea to network with those already in the industry. I was recently proud of one paralegal who attended a b-Discovery event in DC and initiated conversations with litigation support professionals. I am proud of another paralegal who attended both a local Litigation Support Managers meeting and a Women in eDiscovery meeting in DC to network and to learn.

There are b-Discovery events in a number of cities. There are ALSP meetings and there are Women in eDiscovery (WiE) meetings. I know two ladies that joined law firm litigation support teams after attending WiE meetings. If there is a Legal Tech conference near you, try to attend at least the exhibitors section. I know that ILTA has held local litigation support meetings in the past.

Register for any webinars discussing litigation support or electronic discovery. You can begin absorbing knowledge now. Perform a Google search for “litigation support” and then add the word meeting or event or conference or webinar and see what you can find.

3) Database Knowledge – A huge part of the job is working with databases. A basic knowledge of databases in general, regardless of the software, will go a long way. I am referring specifically to knowledge about database tables and fields, database records, data types and delimiters. I would also toss in there database queries, both full text boolean searches and fielded searches (or search by field). Again, perform a Google search for these terms I've mentioned and add the word “beginner”.

4) Tweaked Resume – You only get one chance to put your resume in front of a hiring manager. If you are switching careers, you will need to tweak your resume in a couple of ways. First, I would suggest adding an explanation at the top that explains your career change and why you think your knowledge and skill sets will transition well to litigation support. Second, if you have any experience working with databases including running searches in any kind of database, figure out a way to add that knowledge to your resume.

5) Litigation – If you are coming from outside the legal industry or from the IT side or from a paralegal position in another area of law, you will need to learn about the litigation process. I just ran a Google search for “litigation process” and a bunch of hits came up. You can start perusing the content to familiarize yourself with the terminology and the process.

I will have more suggestions in future articles, but these should get you started in the right direction. Let me know if you have any questions.

 

    I am very passionate about helping legal professionals succeed. I even quit my day job to devote more time to mentoring! I want to encourage you to subscribe and join the LitSuppGuru community. I share humorous, informative, and time-sensitive emails above and beyond what appears on this site.

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    • Philip Hallquist

      Hi Amy:
      Some excellent ideas! If someone has a litigation paralegal background but isn’t working now, is it a good idea to attend the LAW PreDiscovery seminar that is going to be held in about a month in San Francisco? It’s kind of pricey, and I am wondering if it would be worth the money. Please advise. Thanks!

      • Anonymous

        It’s funny you mention that, last week a friend of mine suggested the LAW certification program for a paralegal who wants to get into litigation support. I agree with him that it would be a good learning experience and it would show initiative on your part. Here is a link to the 2 day certification programs. There is one in San Francisco so perhaps this is what you referenced. http://www.lexisnexis.com/university/CurrentCourse.aspx?Productline=140

      • Bonnie-Elizabeth Powers

        What are you interested in doing?  Do you want to be a project manager
        and do consulting work with clients/legal team?  Would you rather do
        data processing?  Do you want to work for a vendor or for a law firm?

        I’d
        agree that it does show initiative (which is very, very important), but
        unless the organization hiring you has LAW and would be expecting you to
        do data processing, I think that there are better ways to spend that
        much money on career investment.  (Not that LAW certification is not
        valuable — I sent one of my team for certification last year, but it is
        an exact fit his current position.)  I’d guess that it’s also more valuable to a vendor position than an in-house law firm one, though that may be changing.

        For someone looking to break into
        lit support on the law firm side with a project manager career path, I would look at ACEDS, OLP, or something that provides a
        wider base of knowledge rather than a certification in one particular
        software.  Amy’s list above is excellent, and the skills that she mentions are more in line
        with what I look for when I hire rather than a software certification.  I
        would add to her list being able to demonstrate strong problem-solving
        and customer service skills.

        • Anonymous

          Very good additions to the list!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Polly, yes there are other databases in the legal field but too many to name. If you have familiarity with using MS Access on the back-end, you are in a good spot.

    • Bowe Kurowski

      Hello Everyone,
            I’m glad people come here to ask these types of questions.  Before I say anything, thanks Amy for putting this space together.  Also, the beautiful thing about Lit Support is that there are MANY tools in the tool chest.  I’ve spent about 12 years in litigation support as an Analyst, as a PM, on the vendor side, on the law firm side, by myself and on a team.  I’ve just recently jumped over to recruiting.  This is my experience so far combining the two.
            I actually was the one that talked to Phil about it, and let explain a little as to WHY I say LAW is a good way to start.  It’s obviously not saying that those other certifications or programs aren’t valuable… quite the contrary.  I just think there’s an order that might be a little more valuable than others.  
            Our industry is built around data.  In order to be able to consult and manage it, you have to understand how it works.  While on the surface you are getting a LAW certificate which seems useless if the firm you are working for/looking at doesn’t have it, there are MANY good by-products that come from this.

      1.  The basic value of Litigation Support is knowing and understanding the variables…and preventing things from going wrong.  It all begins from knowing how data behaves and how it gets into the database.  So I am a firm believer, you need to understand the processing side.  You can “know” about it by reading, but it’s different when you’re handling it personally.  It’s like reading about Germany, and going to Germany.  You learn things like:
      How to handle Non searchable PDF’s
      Within/Across Deduplication – and how the order of processing affects how much each custodian filters out.
      Compression sizes
      Encryption issues
      Tiffing, single, multi, color, Group IV issues
      Timelines of how long it actually takes to make things happen.
      What metadata fields are available
      How do you handle Macro’s in Word or Excel
      How do you handle time zones
      delimiters
      troubleshooting why load files don’t work
      converting load files to different formats
      Hashing of loose files, but also what fields do you use to hash individual emails?
      Error reports
      Corrupted files… and the like.

      2.  It’s very difficult to move into the PM spot without understanding these variables, pitfalls, and nuances.  Most of the PM spots require having some knowledge and understanding of this.  It’s like trying to be a partner without being the associate first.  You’ve got to get into the crap and live in it for a little bit in order to really understand.  Once you get that under your belt, the PM world is much
      more attainable.

      3.  The course cost $1000, but I would say that the skill set adds an extra $5000 easily when looking for a new job, and it has an immediate return on investment.

      4.  It’s easy to get compared to something like Relativity, that costs maybe a little more but requires you to have worked in a Relativity environment for 3 months before you can even get the cert.

      5.  It’s quick.  It doesn’t take 6 months like a PMP, or a quarter with OLP, or 4 weeks with Georgetown.  All of those are fantastic programs and definitely worth the money, but they don’t have as immediate an impact as LAW in my opinion.

      6.  I have yet to have an employer ask me if someone is OLP or CEDS certified, although I know if someone is, it can be extra kudos.  They want to know if they can hit the ground running, and if they know Law, eCapture or Relativity.
      Sorry Amy… this is like a blog inside a blog! 🙂

      Bowe Kurowski

      • Anonymous

        LOL, thanks Bowe for explaining your thought process.

    • Anonymous

      I received an e-mail with another opinion related to this comment thread and I am inserting it here.

      I think one needs to be introduced to some of the processing terms and work flows before being exposed to the LAW certification course.  The course was definitely good training and worth the money.  However, I wouldn’t suggest a newbie take the course without first obtaining a certain knowledge base of Litigation Support processes.

      Before I became LAW certified I learned the front end and back end of Summation, but any database would work.  Knowing what certain Litigation Support terms are (load file, OCR, txt file, metadata, bates numbering, endorsing, etc.) and how the data is used in a database is very important.

      I did not take the LAW class and become certified until I had been in Litigation Support for a couple years.  I believe if I had taken the LAW certification class before entering the Litigation Support field that the majority of the information would have went right over my head.  Waiting until I had a knowledge base and a command of Litigation Support terms made the course much more relevant.

    • Amy, this is an all-around great post. The informational ideas you provide, as well as the additional suggestions (so many!) in the comments, are all great for a newbie like me. Well… perhaps I’m even a pre-newbie?

      One thing I concern myself about overall, and which also appeared in this comment discussion,  is the oscillation between preferences within a field. I know that’s the case for paralegals: ABA-certified or not ABA-certified? NALA or NFPA? The list goes on. But do lit support and e-discovery have similar contradictions in suggested education?

      I’m not near a program like LAW or OLP yet, but I’d like to start considering the options now. Is there ever a risk you won’t get a return on your investment? Sounds like the weight of your certifications can be very subjective.

      • LitSuppGuru

        Hey Vanessa – You are very astute. Yes, there are differences of opinions. One of the reasons I believe there are differences is that people have come into this field from a number of avenues. A person’s perspective may be based on what they knew before they entered Lit Support or their perspective could be based on the quality of the training they received during their litigation support career.

        Another variable is the way that people learn best, their learning style, if you will. Some may be comfortable with a particular learning environment while others didn’t connect with as well. While one person believes that all that technical stuff is fairly easy to learn, others can get easily overwhelmed by the technical stuff and need more of a slower pace.

        I will say that there is no right or wrong avenue and you should trust your instincts about how your learning style, patience level and whether you are able to focus on the learning aspect at that particular point in your journey.

        Thanks for the comment.

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    • Hey Nicole – If you’re just starting your transition to lit support, I would suggest the Concordance class. I have a podcast episode about the LAW Certification and my guest, Ollie, suggests waiting to get certified in LAW. Sanction is only for those that want to do trial tech work. CaseMap is a secondary tool. Learning a database program like Concordance will be beneficial. Keep in touch!

    • Carolina Bryant

      Hi Amy, I have both an in house as well as corporate background in the paralegal field. Currently, I am a Conflict Analyst but will really like to get into litigation support area but don’t know how. I have experience with both summation, relativity and concordance but not on the advanced level. What type of things should I look for when looking for a litigation support position?

      • Hey Carolina – If you already have end-user experience with those tools, that’s a good start. Would you consider yourself a power-user? If you still have access to those tools right now, could you spend some time learning features you didn’t know already? Basically, someone is going to have to give you a chance for that first litigation support position. The hiring manager will ask you questions about the tools and see how in depth your knowledge is. In terms of what to look for, I would focus in on how many years experience they want. If they only want 1-2 years experience, they are interested in hiring newbies.