Case Study – Mike McDonald

Name:  Mike McDonald

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

What kind of work were you doing before litigation support found you?

I transferred into litigation support from my role as a paralegal. My college degree is in audio production. Prior to entering the legal industry I worked as an audio engineer and had the obligatory stints as waiter and coffee barista. Both the engineering and service industry jobs played an essential role in developing technical and, most importantly, customer service and communication skills.

How did you get the opportunity to join the litigation support community?

Vorys had the excellent foresight to hire a Litigation Technology person far prior to the e-discovery boom. Julie Brown has been with our firm over a decade. She would come to our office and give presentations on e-discovery and various review tools which I attended as a paralegal. I was intrigued both by the opportunity for growth and by Julie’s enthusiasm for all things Lit Tech. She made it look fun and exciting so I sent her an email and asked if I could hop on board if there was ever a position needed in our Cleveland office. I interviewed, got the thumbs-up, trained and worked very hard to learn all the issues, tools and processes. I have been here ever since!

When did you realize that this career would be a good fit for you?

I was in legal support for 10 years prior to moving over into Lit Tech. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to work many positions over those years. I’m the type of person that likes to go into work and be challenged. In previous positions, I’d somewhat master the position, go on autopilot and then look for other challenges in other positions. Litigation support is always challenging on many different levels so it is great fit for me. I haven’t been on autopilot since having the opportunity to work in Lit Tech and I love it. Every day is learning something new, either through insight or from one of my Lit Tech and/or IT team members, who I could not live without.

Do you prefer to be out in front and working with the clients or behind the scenes working with the technologies?

Thankfully, I’m happy either way. Supporting trials a few times a year often makes it both at once! On the e-discovery side of things it is very enjoyable communicating with legal teams and clients about particular issues or the ways things might get done in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. However, it’s equally satisfying working through technical issues, cranking out a production on a tight deadline, evaluating e-discovery intake and evaluating new tools to make attorneys’ and paralegals’ lives easier. As long as there is a challenge, I’m happy no matter what the actual task.

Is there an area of litigation support that had a steep learning curve for you?

The technological side of things. In past legal support roles I used a computer but obviously never to the extent that is required in supporting e-discovery cases. It was used for email, some Microsoft Office applications, and Summation for document reviews. So, when I initially got interested in joining Lit Tech, I signed up for 2 IT classes every term at local community colleges to get a good foundation. Classes like Database Design and Networking were exceptionally helpful. In my downtime, I’m always researching and reading IT books as the technological world is constantly changing and I want my skill set to continue to improve.

What do you consider to be one of the coolest things about working in litigation support?

I’m a real sucker for a tight deadline or even a mission impossible project. Harkening to the waiting tables days, these projects have the same feel as a massive dinner rush. For a musical comparison, it can be like one of the best musical performance you’ve ever seen. The coolest part of the job for me is being put in these types of situations. When something comes down the pike and we have to figure out how to communicate to the legal team and client, figure out the best way to digest, produce and document the procedures, it’s a great feeling. Of course, I’m also glad this doesn’t happen 24/7 as downtime is pretty essential after these situations to recharge the batteries.

Which types of employers have you had while working in litigation support?

  • Law Firm

Litigation Support is a well-paying career. How much has your salary increased since joining the litigation support community?

$10,000 – $20,000

How many years have you been working in Litigation Support?

4 years in Litigation Technologies | 6 years if you include my paralegal years where I utilized Summation on a regular basis | 14 years in the legal support field

Care to share any words of encouragement or advice?

Embrace the challenging situations, that’s where the potential for growth is. If you don’t have a challenging situation, challenge yourself to either find or create one.

 

    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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    • Catherine Hawes

      It was really great reading your story. I am fairly new to the litigation support arena as I transitioned from 23 years as a paralegal. I also find myself getting bored easily which is part of the reason I switched to litigation support, for the challenge. I was wondering whether or not taking some technical courses at the local community college might help and you addressed that question. I think learning more about database structures and networking would be helpful. I’m looking forward to the daily challenges and excitement this career promises to bring.

      • LitSuppGuru

        Thanks for the comment, Catherine, and congrats on your transition to litigation support. I agree that Mike provided some good takeaways.

        • Mike McDonald

          I’m glad the opportunity to share my experiences helped!  For sure these classes helped.  Besides developing day to day skills, knowing more about the IT side really helped me communicate with the firm’s IT department and our clients’ IT departments. The folks I know who are proficient in SQL and scripting are the most valuable members of any team on a technical level. Head in that direction if the technical bug grabs you once the basics are mastered. That’s where I’m headed! Good luck!

          • LitSuppGuru

            Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Mike.