- What is Litigation Support? Database Administrator
- What is Litigation Support? Project Management
- What is Litigation Support? Legal Technology Expert
- What is Litigation Support? Help Desk / IT Support
- What is Litigation Support? Vendor Management
- What is Litigation Support? Marketer and Speaker
- What is Litigation Support? Trainer
- What is Litigation Support? Trial Presentation
A career in litigation support encompasses multiple careers. This series of articles will describe how each plays a part in litigation support.
Overall, litigation support can be described as:
We assist litigators.
We speak and translate geek.
We work with litigation discovery, primarily in electronic format.
One of the careers within litigation support is a Legal Technology Expert. I would classify this role as the foundation for a Litigation Support Professional skillset. The knowledgebase for this foundation is expansive and complex. Although I can't cover every aspect of this role right now, I will break down the categories of knowledge required.
1) Litigation Discovery Process
A litigation support professional must have an understanding of the litigation discovery process. Since I covered this in a previous article, I will simply provide a link to it here. I will add that the trick is knowing when to apply the legal technology within the discovery process.
2) Software and Hardware Tools
There are many software applications used in litigation support, some classic and some new. A litigation support professional will use Excel, Text Editors, Database Applications, Processing Tools, Conversion Tools and Hosted Solutions. Even if there is no experience with a particular tool, there is knowledge gained through research, demonstrations and hands-on practice. The key is to have an awareness of the tools and when to use them. In addition to software, there are hardware tools. Many of these are discussed in the article series entitled Tools of the Trade.
There must be a thorough understanding of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM). Here is an article I wrote about it.
4) Technical Requirements
This is a complex category to quantify. There are basic technical criteria when dealing with technology in general that becomes second nature and it is put to use when learning new technologies or when discussing the capabilities of a particular technology. You learn to know what makes sense and what doesn't. One example would be database field data types or data delimiters. A second example would be knowing various file formats and their limitations. Another example would be understanding the expected durations or timelines for each of the technologies.
5) eDiscovery Guidelines
There are some official guidelines with regard to working with electronic discovery that have either been put into place or just commonly accepted in the industry. There are federal court rules in place, but very few rules at the lower court levels. Then there are the unofficial guidelines that are followed by some and not by others. Basically, a litigation support professional needs to have an understanding of what all of the various guidelines are and when they should be adhered to or when they can be considered subjective depending on the situation.
6) eDiscovery Processing
There is a fairly standard process these days for “processing” electronic discovery. From the point the data is collected, to the point where the data is made available for attorney review, there are a number of stages and options for each of those stages. Exceptions to this might be if there is proprietary data or unusual data which will cause strategy discussions to occur between technical folk and the attorneys. There are specific guidelines in “processing” electronic discovery and chain of custody is important. Quality checking and exceptions handling are key.
A litigation support professional must understand the in's and out's of scanning hardcopy documents to include unitization and the coding of documents to include objective and subjective coding. Here is an article I wrote about hardcopy unitization.
8) Best Practices
As you can imagine, there are best practices when dealing with all of these categories. They are taught and learned over time. Researching and staying up to date with these categories of knowledge and what has worked for others in the industry is crucial.
Another aspect to being a legal technology expert is the consulting that comes with the job. The knowledge gained in the categories mentioned above will need to be shared with the legal team in an accurate way. You'll need to learn how to communicate with attorneys by remembering what a litigator does for a living and that we are here to assist them. I believe the best way, in the beginning, to learn how to consult is to shadow a senior team member. Here is an article I wrote about shadowing and another article I wrote about how to be successful working with law firm partners.
I believe the categories listed above gives a newbie a good overview of the legal technology role within litigation support. It can definitely seem overwhelming to a newbie — there is so much to learn.
Ideally, the newbies can find a good mentor/manager that will patiently work with them, but before that, the newbie will hopefully take the initiative to educate themselves in these areas by taking courses and/or by doing research and studying hard. There are many resources out there.
I might also suggest that a newbie create an excellent list of questions in the categories above (after doing the research) and then request informational interviews with seasoned litigation support professionals to help fill in the knowledge gaps. Sharing specifically what you've learned from your research during a job interview could be impressive. A hiring manager wants confirmation that a newbie is taking it seriously and really wants the job opportunity.
If you have any other thoughts or positive encouragement, please share them in the comments area below.