Name: Bonnie-Elizabeth Powers
Location: Washington, DC
What kind of work were you doing before litigation support found you?
I was a legal assistant and about halfway through the process of applying to law school.
How did you get the opportunity to join the litigation support community?
Like most people who've been in more than 10 years, completely by accident. Someone I'd worked for in the past had a friend on the vendor side who was looking for a project manager with law firm experience. I thought it sounded interesting, so I put my law school applications on hold and gave it a shot. I think the law school applications are still in a box in my house somewhere.
When did you realize that this career would be a good fit for you?
Probably before I quit my paralegal job. I lobbied to use document review databases and a transcript management tool for a few projects before I resigned because I could see how much more efficient it was than digging around in the paper copies in the case room.
Do you prefer to be out in front and working with the clients or behind the scenes working with the technologies?
I prefer to split my time evenly between the two. I like to keep my hands in the technology and really see what it can do because I feel like this makes me more effective when I do the “front-end” work. I enjoy talking strategies with the attorney leading the discovery effort, though. I think it's fascinating to see how our efforts support the overall matter plan and finding out what is important to the legal team and the client.
Is there an area of litigation support that had a steep learning curve for you?
One of the good things about getting involved in the “early days” is that the industry was not changing as fast as it is now, so the learning curve was a bit more gradual than it is for people entering the industry now. I'd say that I had a hard time learning the business and strategy side of the equation initially. There were times that a particular solution or technology seemed like the ideal fit but didn't mesh with the overall case strategy or budget. Once I learned to step back and ask, “What's our ultimate goal here?”, it changed the conversation to one of options, costs, and risk rather than a single-option proposal.
What do you consider to be one of the coolest things about working in litigation support?
There is no way I could pick just one thing. I really love my job. I probably sound like a complete geek saying this, but I just think that this is fascinating stuff. I enjoy the constant problem-solving and bringing order to the madness. I've also been doing this long enough that I'm starting to be able to use the “Back in the old days, we had to [insert your own uphill 12 miles in the snow barefooted story here].” I think it's really amazing how much we are able to do now with a solid process and the right combination of people and technology. Finally, there are a lot of truly brilliant and funny people working in the litigation support industry. I love having opportunities to compare notes with my peers because I always learn something new.
Which types of employers have you had while working in litigation support?
- Law Firm
- Service Provider
Litigation Support is a well-paying career. How much has your salary increased since joining the litigation support community?
Greater than $70,000
How many years have you been working in Litigation Support?
Care to share any words of encouragement or advice?
This is an amazing career path, and there is a lot of growth potential for people who excel. It is challenging, interesting, and constantly changing. You get to use your brain a lot, mostly because you need to understand the legal process, the technology tools, and the people with whom you're working. The advice I give a lot is to invest in your own professional growth. There are tons of blogs, webinars, seminars, professional organizations, networking events, etc. — take advantage of them! This industry will not stand still, and you have to keep up to stay relevant. Oh, and be prepared for no one outside of the industry to understand what you do. I've been doing this for over 10 years, and all my mom knows is that I am gainfully employed, and my job has something to do with lawyers and technology.