From Data Entry Typist to Litigation Support Guru

My name is Amy Bowser-Rollins and this is my story.  I am sharing my story because I hope that it will encourage others to consider a career in litigation support.  After reading my story, I hope that you will say to yourself “if Amy can do it, I can do it too”.  I am just an average person who landed in the world of litigation support and I truly believe it has been an awesome career.

My story begins in high school.  I was drawn to business classes.  I joined the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).  I knew that I wanted to start my own business, but I wasn't sure exactly what it would be.  I had a part-time job during my last two years of high school.  I was doing data entry on a Selectric II typewriter.  I remember telling my parents that I know what I want to do and I don't need a college degree to do it.  I also remember saying that I would have 4 years of job experience by the time my classmates finished college.

My first full-time job was as an administrative assistant working with a team of 6 scientists.  I remember telling the guy interviewing me that I needed to make a certain salary and he met it.  A little while later, in order to move out of my parents home, I got a 2nd job working part-time as a word processor.  When I could make enough full-time to support myself with one job, I moved to the word processing position full-time.

My next job was at my first law firm.  I stayed with this small firm of 17 attorneys for 6 years and I held 3 positions during that time.  First, as a billing supervisor.  Second, as a word processing supervisor.  Third, as a legal secretary.  It was at this firm that I learned how to be a software trainer and I learned about litigation cases.

A year after I joined the law firm, I got married at the age of 21.  (Note:  I now advise all young people to wait until their 30's to get married <smile>)  A few years later, I had my first child.  I was in the legal secretary position by this time and I was able to “job share” with another legal secretary who was also a mom.  She worked Mon-Wed-Fri and I worked Tues-Thurs.

My next endeavor was to start my own business providing word processing services.  I was 26 years old.  I purchased the equipment and set up shop in my home.  I also had my second child during this time.  I started out typing resumes and business documents for local businesses, and I eventually won a contract with the state of Maryland to maintain a database of Maryland attorneys and to bill them for their annual dues.

When I inherited the contract, they were using membership software that didn't really align with their needs.  I decided to design my own database.  Remember that husband I married?  Well, he was a programmer at his day job.  He helped me get started using a program called dBase III and once I got the hang of creating databases, I moved to a program called Foxbase (now called Visual FoxPro).  I found out that I love to work with databases.  I eventually hired 2 full-time and 2 part-time employees.  We moved the office from my house to a small office space nearby.  The business lasted about 5 years.

My next job was an IT Trainer position at larger law firm.  In this position, I created training manuals and I trained secretaries and attorneys.  I also had my first experiences with Summation (a litigation support database software).

My next job was an IT Trainer position at another law firm.  In this position, I started training attorneys on practice specific software in addition to the core software available to secretaries and attorneys.  During this time-frame, my husband and I separated and I became a single mom supporting two sons.

My next job was my first litigation support position.  It was initially a part-time Help Desk and part-time Litigation Support position.  The firm was looking for someone with Summation experience, but also someone who had experience with databases (check!), experience with software training (check!) and experience with the litigation process (check!).  The firm had been looking for 6 months and they hired me!

I spent the next 8 years at this firm.  During that time the firm grew from 300 attorneys to the 5th largest firm in the U.S.  Within the first year, I began doing litigation support tasks full-time.  I eventually built a team of 12 across 4 offices.  You could say we grew a litigation support team at the same time the world was growing a litigation support industry.  In the beginning it was about scanning documents, then it became about coding documents, and then e-mail joined the business world and it naturally became part of the document collection process in litigation cases.  Electronic discovery was born.  It was during this time-frame that I learned how to support Second Requests.  One of the matters my team supported included the collection of 148 billion e-mails and their 38 billion attachments.

While at this firm, I worked a lot of hours and I worked remotely many evenings and weekends.  I would leave the office, do “the mom thing” and once the kids were in bed, I would get back on my laptop.  I worked over 3,000 hours annually during the last 4 years.  The cool thing is that during that 8 years the litigation support job description went from non-existent to “in high demand”.  My salary increased $60,000 during those 8 years.  I remember struggling to support my sons on a single mom's salary, but eventually I was able to co-sign their teenager car loans and take them on a few nice vacations.  That felt really good!

My next endeavor was to start a litigation support consulting business.  I had this idea that I could help smaller law firms that weren't ready to hire litigation support staff in-house.  I had a small team of consultants and we helped a couple of firms with their litigation support needs.  During this time, I attended several 30(b)(6) depositions as an electronic discovery expert.

My next job was another Litigation Support Manager position at a large law firm.  I was asked to build a team to support the east coast offices.  I did just that.

My next two jobs were at local e-discovery vendors in the DC area.  It was interesting providing litigation support services to other law firms.  I found out that litigation support professionals are at varying levels of knowledge and expertise.  During this time-frame, I encouraged my boyfriend to switch from IT Network Engineer to Litigation Support.  He watched me for a couple of years working late nights in databases and he was curious.  I told him he could definitely make the switch.  He now works in litigation support at a law firm.

My next job was as a Litigation Support Consultant at an IT consulting firm that provides services to law firm clients only.  During this time-frame, I consulted on my first criminal case for about 15 months.  Most of my litigation support experience up until that point was in White Collar/Antitrust litigation.  I learned about the differences in the discovery process for a criminal case.

I got married again on 08/08/08.

My most recent job was at a boutique law firm with 25 attorneys.  I felt like I'd gone full circle from small firm, to huge firm, to large firm, to small firm again.  I provided litigation support and some IT support.  I worked with some very smart lawyers and the litigation cases were interesting and similar to the work I did at the huge firm for 8 years.

So, as you can see, I didn't need that college degree.  I learned everything on-the-job.  I enjoy working on litigation cases and with litigators.  I enjoy working with databases.  I really enjoy training and mentoring others.  I thrive in the fast pace and stressful scenarios.  I am a stickler for designing efficient workflow processes.

Does any of this sound exciting to you?  I hope so.  Thanks for listening (reading).

 

    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.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are salesy, offensive or off-topic.

    • Philiphallquist

      Your story is very impressive Amy, and in some ways similar to my own. Thanks for sharing!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for reading it, Philip! It was fun to relive some of those memories as I wrote it.

    • Jamietheparalegal

      Amy,

      Thanks for sharing your story.  I hope it inspires all the guru wanna-be’s of the legal world to feel that they CAN learn their way into a job if they are passionate about their chosen career field.  I’m so glad you were able to make a career out of your passions and it allowed you to support your family.  You are a shining example of a self-made success.  It’s great that you now choose to reach out and give back to others.  You are an amazing lady.  Keep up the great guru work!

      Jamie Collins
      Founder, The Paralegal Society

      • Anonymous

        You’re making me blush, Jamie! Thanks for the comment. I feel so lucky to have found such a rewarding and thriving career.

    • Karenrgeorgefrp

      Amy, I was almost breathless while I was reading your professional (and some personal) life story.  How cool and interesting.  Kudos to you for being such a go getter.  I wish I had done something like you did!!!  Thank you for inviting me to your blog.  I look forward to future reads.

      • Anonymous

        Awww, thanks for the kind words, Karen. It’s difficult to see yourself from the outside looking in so the feedback has been so meaningful to me.

    • Reth Sorn

      I stumbled onto this site from your hilarious youtube video “Sh*t Litigation support people say”. Your story is very inspirational and I know what you mean, I hate excel files too lol. I’m looking to get into a law firm, in a litigation support role, and reading your story have given me new found energy to start applying. I have over 7 years as a vendor, managing a scanning and digital conversion department processing smaller eDiscovery projects on many occasions. However, I’ve been hesitant since I know there is a legal language that I don’t totally possess yet as a vendor and with my highest degree obtained is an associate. Your story inspires me to take that next step. Thank you for sharing your inspirational story.

      Sincerely,

      Reth Sorn

      • Hey Reth – That’s awesome that you are now re-inspired. Thanks for the feedback. The case studies are also inspiring and very popular. Take care.

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