Holland & Knight, Technology

Is E-Discovery Becoming Certifiable?

Recently on my blog I have been posting different viewpoints as to whether the e-discovery industry should have its own specialized certification. In the past year there has been a push by several organizations to establish standards of testing in the industry.  In fact, a few weeks ago, the newly formed Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists or ACEDS (prenounced “A-Saids”) held an inaugural conference in Hollywood, Florida. Although ACEDS was just founded last year by the Intriago Group, led by a former McDermott Will & Emery partner, Charles Intriago, the meeting had over 300 attendees — not bad for a first conference.

I had the chance to speak with two attorneys who spoke at the ACEDS meeting. They provided me with a better understanding of whether the movement toward certification is simply a passing trend or a sign of things to come…

ACEDS is not the only organization beating the e-discovery certification drum. Chere Estrin, the chair of the Organization of Legal Professionals, has been talking about setting standards for e-discovery professionals for quite some time. Ralph Losey, partner at Jackson Lewis and publisher of the blog  e-Discovery Team, has recently started e-DiscoveryTeamTraining.com, where he offers up to 150 hours of courses on the subject.

So what is the Certified E-Discovery Specialist or “CEDS” exam like? First, the exam covers 15 major topics in e-discovery, including project planning, litigation hold implementation, project management, and international discovery. Under each main topic there are subtopics. For example, “Navigating Cross-Border Data Requests” would be a subtopic of international discovery. You can check out all of the topics and subtopics here.

As far as the exam make-up, tell me if this sounds familiar: 6 hours to answer 200 multiple choice questions. Remind you of  any multiple choice test that many of you have taken in the past?

Seth Row

On of the ACEDS conferece panel speakers was Seth Row. As you might imagine, Row knows a lot about e-discovery. He should. The Georgetown Law alum was part of the e-discovery group when he was an associate with Holland & Knight.  Currently he serves as of counsel with the Portland, Oregon based firm Parsons Farnell & Grein.

Row also knows a lot about the CEDS exam. Not only is he one of the first to have taken and passed it, he also wrote one of the chapters for the exam’s study manual. So for him, this should have been a breeze, right?

“I found it to be really challenging,” said Row. “Even narrowing the answers to two possibilities was difficult.”

While Row thinks the CEDS designation may not yet have such a huge impact for a smaller firm like the one he works with now, he believes a certification could have positive results in Biglaw.

“For a larger firm to put together an e-discovery team where they took the extra step of certification would show how serious they are about it,” he said. “Especially since the exam is fairly expensive.”

The CEDS exam will set you back a pretty penny. The cost is $995 if you are not a member of the association or work for the government. But hey, they do kick in their electronic study guide for that price, so I guess that makes it a bargain, right?

The certification could also be a benefit to vendors, according to Row. A vendor who valued the CEDS designation would carry more weight with him in the vendor selection process.

Speaking of vendors, Barry Schwartz — Director of Advisory Services of Business Intelligent Associates (BIA), and also an attorney himself — was a panel speaker at the ACEDS conference as well. One of the questions asked of his panel what was in store for e-discovery in the future. That question gave Schwartz a chance to bring up BIA’s signature service, TotalDiscovery.com (which I might discuss in a future post). One feature I did find intriguing about it was BIA’s ability to perform electronic collections via remote.

Of course, the latest buzzwords for 2011 that I mentioned in this column, predictive coding, was brought up. “Seems to me that it’s the wave of the future,” said Schwartz.

If ACEDS needed to get the word out about the importance of taking their CEDS exam, Schwartz thinks they won some fans at the conference. “The conference permitted an open dialog between the attendees and presenters in a very meaningful way,” he noted. “The attendees were very much vested in the learning process.”

Lastly, what does Schwartz think about the CEDS exam and/or a certification exam in general? Although he hasn’t taken the CEDS exam himself, he does think that a certification exam may not be far away: “I suspect that to make it a requirement, the various federal and state bars would need to formalize the status, but certification for e-discovery is desirable in my opinion and perhaps inevitable.”

Gabe Acevedo is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and the publisher of the e-discovery blog GabesGuide.com. His articles on legal technology and discovery issues appear regularly on Above The Law. You can reach him at gabe@abovethelaw.com and follow him on Twitter.

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