In response to multiple client inquiries about eDiscovery education and certification programs, eDJ Group ran a survey on the topic this past summer. The survey sought to understand the available eDiscovery and related information governance education, certification and training programs. What we found is that the eDiscovery education market is just beginning to form and that the programs available are deep and complex; far too deep for eDJ to cover each program in depth. Instead, we will share our findings throughout a series of articles in the hopes that data will help inform decisions and start fruitful conversations and debates.
Education and training are foundational elements of any profession. In a relatively new market like eDiscovery, the importance of good education and training options is amplified. There is a dearth of expertise coupled with the need for corporations and law firms to address challenges quickly – that combination creates an immediate need for formal and effective eDiscovery training. eDiscovery professionals agree; in eDJ Group’s survey on eDiscovery Training and Certification, an overwhelming 98% of respondents believe that good eDiscovery Training and Education programs are necessary to advance the maturity of the industry.
Within the last decade, several eDiscovery training and education programs have emerged to address the market need. In fact, there are numerous organizations that have sprung up with education, training, and/or certification offerings including ACEDS, The OLP, Georgetown eDiscovery Institute, Ritter Academy, Ralph Losey’s eDiscovery Team Training, Michael Arkfeld’s program, and Bryan University. In general, survey respondents believe that the available programs are good – at least for general eDiscovery education and training.
When it comes to eDiscovery certification, however, the market view is a bit less certain. Certification is a tricky issue. Wikipedia defines professional certification as “a designation earned by a person to assure qualification to perform a job or task.” While that seems straightforward enough, it becomes more complicated in the realm of eDiscovery. First of all, there is no standards board or independent third party that has published a treatise on what it means to be qualified to perform eDiscovery. Further, there is not a job called eDiscovery. Rather, eDiscovery is a process made up of many tasks, most of which are performed by various team members. What I hear from eDiscovery professionals when it comes to certification is that there is simply not enough definition as to what it means to be a certified eDiscovery professional. While more respondents than not – 58% versus 42% – believe that eDiscovery certifications are necessary for the betterment of the industry, there is certainly room for debate and for evolution.
Almost 55% of respondents believe that good eDiscovery certification programs currently exist.
We talked to providers of certification and to professionals that have been through the certification programs. The individual programs are far too detailed to cover the level of depth needed to analyze them. Anecdotally, those that have been through the programs are generally happy with the rigor and believe the training for the tests to be helpful. That said, most also agree that anyone with solid eDiscovery experience could pass the certification exams currently on the market.
In no way does this mean that certification does not have a place in the eDiscovery market. It is likely that one or more certification programs will gain critical mass and become requirements for prosperous careers. Right now, though, eDiscovery certifications do not accelerate career speedometers. We spoke to several eDiscovery staffing professionals; not one could say that an eDiscovery certification was the resume game-changer that got a candidate the job. Nor could any quantify a salary boost that comes with certification. Rather, certifications – for the time being – serve to showcase a candidate’s intellectual and professional curiosity.
In my next post, I will look further into where eDiscovery professionals look for training and certification and how that landscape may change in the coming months and years.