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2013: What’s your next move?

 

Meeting the legal department’s needs means not just “how fast a partner picks up the phone,” the survey notes, but the extent to which an outside attorney understands the client’s business and industry.

You are an e-discovery project manager or you want to become one. What do all of the industry surveys and reports mean to you? How do you interpret them to not only understand the current status of our industry but to determine the next move in your career? The quote above is from the Law.com article that aims to interpret the recent In-House Counsel survey results and report from ALM Intelligence. If you are an e-discovery project manager inside of a law firm, you can support your partners and the firm’s clients by taking the time to learn about the business they are in… does the client manufacture carpets or complex healthcare devices? Knowing more than just the company name will help you to understand the litigation matter and what kind of data (ESI) that will need to be preserved, collected, processed and reviewed.

Legal Tech NY outlined some of the trends we are watching for 2013 a few weeks ago. What should you focus your personal education efforts on this year in order to advance your career in litigation support and/or e-discovery? 

The answer lies in what trends we will see in 2013:
– A rapid increase in corporate migration of unstructured ESI to SharePoint and cloud repositories;
– Steady increase in SaaS;
– Predictive coding competition heats up;
– How to collect new forms of ESI like social media and mobile device content;
– More focus on Information Governance (IG) activities like defensible deletion, while IG initiatives will seize on opportunities to clean up expired and or redundant information;
– Legal departments will struggle with application of selective preservation; and
– Requests for social media will increase, but gathering information will still remain challenging.

Taking a targeted approach to learning about e-discovery and e-discovery project management this year will help you meet your career objectives. You will notice that some of the technology trends in e-discovery are not going to be limited to just our industry. And you will notice that just covering the basics in project management is not going to be enough anymore. In fact, as the industry continues to expand, the projects you will manage and support will increase in sophistication as will the expectations for coming in on schedule and within budget from the corporate client perspective. Career moves can happen within your current organization or you may need to make major changes and step out into the job search scene.

What are some of the factors you will need to consider in any career move you make in 2013?  The Cowen Group 2012 Salary Survey identifies four critical trends for job seekers and employers in 2013:

 

  • Large firms with a strategic focus on providing eDiscovery services to their clients pay significantly more than mid-market firms. Moving to fill an urgent need at an established department can increase salaries by $15,000 to $50,000.

  • Large firms with a less established eDiscovery service offering are recruiting Senior Attorneys and Partners to develop a market leading practice area with staff attorneys, internal Litigation Support teams, and a network of strategic partnerships.

  • More law firms are anticipating adding talent. 70% reported plans to hire in 2013, up from 53% in 2012, and 60% in 2011.

  • Salary growth is higher – firms were more likely to report raises of 5% to 7% range, where in prior years raises were in the 3% to 4% range.

How will you respond to this forecast? What direction do you want to take with increasing your knowledge so that you can take advantage of the new opportunities in our maturing e-discovery industry?  I encourage to read the Cowen report in its entirety.  Then consider which role you envision yourself in: technologist, manager, legalist, consultant, project manager.  Identify the skills you need for the role and determine the best path based on your individual learning style.

Another point of discussion in 2013 that will continue is whether or not your next career opportunity lies inside of a law firm or a corporate legal department. Much has been written about insource vs. outsource and if you haven’t followed this debate, it is worth examining so that you will be prepared to ask the right questions during your job interview.   This conversation is much broader than just our e-discovery / litigation technology community. It is a concern in the larger IT context as well.  And this leads us to e-discovery issues because of information governance — how you manage your data determines how prepared you are for potential litigation. (See the trends above.) As an e-discovery project manager, your collection project schedule may be hampered by an outsourced IT department. How do you plan to work around this sort of project risk? This also brings us back to the beginning quote in this post and the importance of understanding the how the corporate client runs their business. Bottom line: ask questions.

And finally, have you considered the opportunities available with software developers and service providers? According to the Cowen report overview found here, there are lots of new roles and opportunities being created with service providers. Consider the firms who choose to outsource their litigation support and e-discovery project management.  The outsource management companies will require your skill set to meet the demands and requirements of their clients. Overall, 2013 looks to be shaping up as an ideal year for growth in our industry and new and exciting opportunities to move your e-discovery career forward.