How to Transition from Litigation Paralegal to E-discovery Paralegal
Career options for paralegals are opening up, thanks to technology and a robust job market. One of those options is to transition from Litigation Paralegal to E-discovery Paralegal. Here are 3 steps you can start to take now to open up doors for you in your career.
1. GET THE HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE.
You simply cannot go straight from a recent paralegal certificate program graduate to an e-discovery paralegal. Even if you added on a specialty certificate, you still must have hands-on experience to be an e-discovery paralegal. The easiest way to get that experience is to ask to be put on cases that involve e-discovery. If you are currently working in a practice area that does not provide any opportunity for exposure to e-discovery projects, then ask if you can assist another team on one of their projects. You might start out as one of ten paralegals on the document review portion of the project, but at least you will get some exposure to the review tools used during an e-discovery project.
Every little bit of exposure helps. There are some practice areas where the likelihood of ever getting exposure to an e-discovery project is so slim that you may have to consider making a lateral move to another law firm. Moving into another practice area as a litigation paralegal may make sense if there will be an opportunity to get exposure to e-discovery. Before doing that, be sure that what you are giving up is worth the risk. Sometimes the best career options for paralegals are available with their current employer.
2. GET THE CERTIFICATION.
Once you have hands-on experience in your litigation paralegal job, should you get certified by an e-discovery organization? Yes. Which one? That is entirely up to you. One of the most recognized organizations is ACEDS and its Certified E-discovery Specialist. It is a huge investment of time and money, so it is important to do your research. Talk to other paralegals who have taken the exam and whether or not they feel that the certification has advanced their career.
Regardless of which organization you get certified through, you have to first make sure that you have the education and hands-on experience to pass the certification exam. Additionally, while some practice areas might allow a paralegal to get by with just one or two CLEs per year, being an e-discovery paralegal brings CLE to a whole new level. Every year there are changes to the rules, upgrades in the technology available, and case law that relates to ESI. As an e-discovery paralegal, you will have to commit to making sure that you keep current on all of that through your continuing education.
Where can you get continuing education?
SILVER LEVEL: Start with your free vendor webinars, as long as you keep in mind that those webinars are free because they want you to buy their product or use their services. It still might be worth your time to gain some general information and to keep up to date on the emerging e-discovery technology. Just remember, you get what you pay for. And sometimes with free vendor webinars, you pay for it with your time.
GOLD LEVEL: Your local e-discovery associations. If you plan to move into a career as an e-discovery paralegal, you should join your local chapters now. Local e-discovery chapter meetings provide good quality speakers at a very reasonable fee and sometimes free. But, in order to get anything out of your membership, you have to actually attend the meetings and participate in the events.
PLATINUM LEVEL: Online courses (like the E-discovery Boot Camp) and annual education conferences specifically focused on e-discovery and put on by e-discovery certification organizations. These can be expensive to attend, but annual conferences are typically two to three days packed with high-quality continuing education and usually, it is at these conferences when the vendors show off their newest technology products that they will be launching.
3. GET THE WORD OUT.
This isn’t the time to keep it a secret that you want to move from litigation paralegal to e-discovery paralegal. The e-discovery community has its own networking events in every city and several LinkedIn groups. Sometimes those networking events include an educational component. Use those opportunities to get out and meet people who work at law firms that have e-discovery paralegals.
You may learn about job openings at those firms as well as tips on how they handle their e-discovery projects. You could also learn how one of your contacts at these events took their career from litigation paralegal to e-discovery paralegal. Talk to your local recruiter about their recent job posting for an e-discovery paralegal. Ask the recruiter what they would want to see on your resume that would help you qualify for the next position that opens up.
Look for online job descriptions that provide a list of job responsibilities and use that as a checklist for skills that you need to work on. This might also provide you with the opportunity to give your current employer a copy of that job description and a plan on how you can fill the role. It is exciting to see career options for paralegals opening up. If you’re already working as an E-discovery Paralegal, we’d love to hear from you and any advice you can share with others.
About the Author
Ann Pearson is the Founder of the Paralegal Boot Camp, specializing in training for paralegals that focuses on the important paralegal skills not taught in paralegal certificate programs, such as ediscovery project management and preparing for trial.
Ann started her paralegal career as a litigation paralegal and then was a manager of paralegals for many years prior to starting her own company in 2010. When she’s not working, you can usually find her somewhere near an ocean – either scuba diving, boating, cleaning up a beach, or volunteering to help save sea turtles.
Connect with Ann on LinkedIn.