Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Document Review, Law Schools, Small Law Firms, State Judges, Technology

E-Discovery in Law School: Yes, You Need to Learn This Stuff

Last week I wrote a story asking the question, “How important is it for law schools to teach students about electronic discovery?” The post stemmed from a perturbed tipster, who lamented the fact that her alma mater had decided to offer a class exclusively dealing with the subject.

The poll results were interesting. Most of you said the subject is definitely worth learning in school, despite its alleged unsexiness.

Additionally, I received an letter a few days after the story ran, signed by 14 attorneys, including small firm and Biglaw partners, tech company leaders, and one state judge, who wanted to give their collective opinion on the issue.

Technophiles will appreciate the note, although some young lawyers might find it an ominous sign of document review work to come. Let’s take a look at what these decision-making readers had to say…

As many of you know, we normally do not reveal the names of our tipsters. The lawyers who signed this letter have allowed us to print their names. Here we go:

We saw your article on eDiscovery classes in law school, and just wanted to thank you for writing on the topic and highlighting eDiscovery education.

There are quite a few (over a dozen) law schools that offer eDiscovery as a stand-alone course. These courses are as varied in content as their teachers are varied in personalities. None of the eDiscovery courses we are aware of teach only document review. Also, contrary to one of the comments offered in response to your article, eDiscovery is almost always an issue in “bet the company” litigation.

That’s a good point. In high-profile litigation, you don’t necessarily hear about the discovery side of the case in headlines. But, really, there’s no getting away from it. (Also, regarding the commenter, Successful Troll is successful?)

Let’s keep going:

These eDiscovery courses run the gamut in focus, and they cover the substantive legal issues associated with the preservation, collection, search, and production of electronically stored information. Some of the thorniest issues revolve around the duty to preserve information, spoliation sanctions, and when you hit the tipping point where responding to discovery becomes “overly burdensome.”

These are not simple issues with universally settled and easily applied bright-line tests, and the law develops rapidly in the eDiscovery arena. Most courses also have some fundamentals of computer science (e.g., explaining metadata, forensics 101), and a practical component (e.g., mock interviews, motion practice).

We are unaware of any other law course that can more directly affect a law student’s job prospects in a positive way, and the point we are trying to make with this email is that eDiscovery doesn’t equate to document review and eDiscovery education is uniquely important as there is a general dearth of knowledge in the profession at large.

In our opinion, a law school does its students a great service by offering a course an eDiscovery.

Unfortunately, most of the time, electronic discovery issues get media attention when things go wrong. But no lawyer wants to be the guy in that story. So, getting yourself a little education will never hurt.

And besides, if you’re a law school student shooting for a Biglaw associate job, dollars to doughnuts you’ll have to do it anyway. So you best get ready!

See the full list of the attorneys who signed the letter, along with basic bio information, on the next page.

(hidden for your protection)

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