Legally Trained in eDiscovery

Author:  Jesse Smith, Director of Sky Discovery

Introduction

A couple of years ago, while I was in Chicago for a conference, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Will McGee of Momentum Media for a Lawyers Weekly podcast. We discussed the Australian eDiscovery market, Sky Discovery and touched on a topic I’ve wanted to expand upon for some time: Lawyers Trained in Technology & Technology Consultants Qualified in Law. Several questions come to mind when this topic is raised:

  • What career opportunities are there for lawyers in legal technology?
  • What are the advantages of working with legally qualified technology consultants?
  • How can lawyers embrace technology & partnerships in their current roles to make their life easier and help progress their careers?

Background

Being a graduate of the University of Technology Sydney’s Faculty of Law; maybe I was destined to work in Legal Technology from day one?  However, embracing technology as a lawyer wasn’t easy at first.  Frustrations with software support, development & integration, infrastructure and general IT were a daily part of life, and yet a short time later I found myself, along with three others, starting my own eDiscovery Consultancy business.

Sky Discovery was formed by four people that each came from unique backgrounds, however all based in the Legal industry:  Technology, Sales, Consulting and a qualified Lawyer.  As the lawyer of the group, I made it my mission to keep my perspective of our services framed by the eye of our end users; always asking the questions:

  • Is this system helping me do my job as a lawyer more efficiently?
  • Is this technology helping me be more accurate?
  • Is this eDiscovery provider going to enable me to get home for dinner tonight?

A Career in Technology as a Lawyer

When discussing this topic, it is important to distinguish between a lawyer who specialises in applied technology law and one who uses technology in their day to day job to improve their performance.  This article will be focusing on the latter.

“Technology” is often overlooked in the legal industry as a buzzword, a ubiquitous cliché from past decades, a trend that flashes and quickly fades away, or an area that “other” departments look after.  While the concept is raised ad nauseum at team meetings, client events and networking conferences; few lawyers see it as a vehicle for progressing to the next step in their career path.

A career in legal technology isn’t just about being computer savvy.  It is about leveraging tools such as databases, AI, strategic partners, cloud based solutions and software development to increase one’s success rate.  It is about being able to stand head & shoulders above your colleagues, your competition, and your clients when it comes to technological advantages.  It’s about fast tracking your career in ways you hadn’t yet imagined.

The Insider

“I became the ‘go to lawyer’ within my firm early in my career.”  Says Leonie Taylor, the Head of Projects NSW at Sky Discovery.  “I was the only lawyer to put my hand up and proactively engage with software and databases.  It built my brand within the firm and it opened up new relationships & career development avenues.”  Working as an Associate, SA, or even Partner in a law firm; particularly a mid-tier or domestic firm; you’ll often find yourself & your team lacking a Technology Champion.

As a business owner, let me say that there are few things more exciting than an employee who brings me an idea that saves time, effort, and money.  Efficiency is what drives a successful organisation and if you can take that extra time; go that extra step to investigate, trial, and educate others about beneficial technologies; you’ll place yourself as a ‘go-to’ for technological advice within the firm, even if it’s applied to something outside your specialised area of law.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to industry experts for advice!  We are always willing to discuss a unique issue you are having and we can be a backboard to bounce ideas off, enabling you to progress your goals.  Remember, it’s not always knowing expressly how the technology works behind the interface, it is about being able to demonstrate how it will save time & effort.

Familiarise yourself with a wide variety of technology, but make sure to specialise in at least one.  Identify key stakeholders within your organisation that your skills & knowledge will help.  Foster and leverage relationships outside your organisation that will enable you to become a technology insider and ultimately an influencer within your firm.

Parallel Careers

Forensic investigation, eDiscovery, applied software development are all growing areas in the legal industry, each in desperate need of legally educated & experienced individuals.  While many service providers focus primarily on Technology educated consultants, at Sky Discovery we take great pride not only in our technical prowess, but also the fact that approximately half of our consultants come from a legal background. Their ability to understand the client’s needs and clearly communicate solutions is the basis for an elite consultant.

“The College of Law drilled in letter writing skills and taught that it’s important to be succinct.” Says Tom Pritchards, Sky Discovery’s Head of Projects QLD.  Tom also found competitions and workshops outside of class to be helpful.

“Mooting and mock interviews helped me learn the soft skills and promoted confidence with clients in the role of an advisor and later as an expert witness.”  He further notes, “Long nights spent on Westlaw, LexisNexis & Austlii taught me all the details of Boolean searching and filtering, which are directly transferable skills to the day to day work of an eDiscovery consultant.”

All lawyers know the frustration of an email that falls off topic or simply rambles on incoherently.  They also instinctively pick up on communications that triggers a thought in the back of their mind… ‘this person understands my problem, they are seeing it from my perspective.’

“That is a feeling of comfort” says Rachel Burr, a Senior Consultant at Sky Discovery.  “Our clients are appreciative of our ability to understand instructions and reply with accurate, concise and informative responses in the first instance.  Their time is too valuable to be going back and forth in multiple emails regarding the same task or to educate their project manager on litigation terminology and workflows. Also, some lawyers simply aren’t familiar with all of the eDiscovery terminology.  We understand what they are trying to achieve in a practical sense.  We can recognise what they are asking for immediately and it is possible someone who isn’t from a legal background might interpret their request differently and ultimately incorrectly.”

Technology professionals and lawyers don’t always speak the same language, thus becoming proficient in both is highly valued in each field.  This can lead to new opportunities in the industry.  Sohael Qayyum, Associate Director working out of Sky Discovery’s London office credits his education in law with accelerating his legal technology career from day one.  “Basically, I became a translator between IT and Law.”

Sohael started his 2 year training contract as a lawyer by working in Legal Technology.  “At first it was a way to complete my training contract early.  Special exemptions were given if your worked in Legal Technology, but before I knew it, I was being promoted.  eDiscovery & Litigation Technology became a more lucrative career path than continuing purely as a lawyer.”

The Leader

Your ultimate goal?  There are various paths to become known as a Legal Technology leader.  Progressing from the Insider, becoming an Influencer within a firm and ultimately even industry leader.  One might also shift from a role within a law firm into a parallel career.  This is an outstanding way to diversify connections and hone your specialty be it in forensics, software, eDiscovery or even sales.

Your ability to relate to lawyers, captivate them and ultimately engage with them on more than just a business level will determine your success as a leader.  I will leave you with some words from a mentor of mine, “Jesse, I know you’re able to learn the technology… you’ve already learned the law and we know that’s not easy; I think eDiscovery awaits you.”

Does the legal technology industry await you?

Contact details

For further information on Sky Discovery’s eDiscovery services, please contact your Sky Discovery Consultant on telephone: +61 2 9293 2999 or email: sales@skydiscovery.com.au

About the author

Jesse Smith, Director

As a founding Director Sky Discovery, Jesse has been responsible for creating the infrastructure of the operations of Sky Discovery.  He has successfully implemented Sky Discovery policies to ensure a standardised business approach is adopted each and every time. Jesse is a graduate of the University of Technology, Sydney’s Faculty of Law, Jesse brings industry & Relativity experience with a strong history of operations management supporting the review team.  Jesse worked for one of the Australian eDiscovery service providers and is well versed with the processes, procedures and requirements of Australian based firms.

Sky Discovery

Sky Discovery is a leading independent Australian eDiscovery firm.  We focus on building strategic relationships with leading mid-tier, specialist and international law firms in Australia that require outstanding eDiscovery services to achieve successful outcomes on disputes, investigations and regulatory matters.  We are renowned in the Australian market for having one of the largest teams of eDiscovery experts, a 24/7 service model and, technological and service innovations that underpin speed and quality whilst providing demonstrable cost savings.

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