Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Babs Deacon. Published: 2012-12-03 04:00:53Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. When is the best time for lawyers to learn about eDiscovery: law school; on the job?  Perhaps it’s after being very publically slapped on the wrist by a judge. No, seriously, folks: ignorance of eDiscovery is a big problem.  As Mikki Tomlinson mentioned in her recent impassioned post, ignorance drives up costs, engenders risk and subverts cooperation.  And, it is no excuse for bad practices.  U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman, in Chen v. Dougherty, went so far as to refer to one attorney as a novice and to knock down her billable rate.

“Ms. Mindenbergs’ inhibited ability to participate meaningfully in electronic discovery tells the Court that she has novice skills in this area and cannot command the rate of experienced counsel.”

Why am I dredging up this five-year-old case? Because things haven’t really changed.  In 2009, when the above decision was rendered, only a handful of U.S. Law Schools taught an intro to eDiscovery elective.  Today, that number is at 30-40; an improvement but still only a small percentage of schools.

I spoke to several attorneys who are currently or have previously taught eDiscovery electives.  The hurdles they see are as follows:

  • Permanent law school faculty members have little litigation experience, let alone actual eDiscovery experience.  The culture supports fulltime professors with academic, theoretical backgrounds.
  • eDiscovery courses are usually taught by adjunct professors who are often practicing alumni with passion for the topic.  These classes take a lot of preparation because they are part clinic, part practicum and require knowledge of case law, discovery rules and technology.
  • The hands-on nature of eDiscovery classes means they can only be taught to 15-25 students per session, which is less revenue for schools than a larger lecture.
  • Students assume eDiscovery is about “doc review” and isn’t an interesting topic in its own right.

Why wouldn’t future litigators acquire legal skills as early as possible?  Employers are asking the same question and many law schools are modifying or completely overhauling curricula to emphasize practical skills and experience.  As eDiscovery and Discovery become synonymous, due to the overwhelming digitization of modern society, law schools will need to prepare their graduates to participate in eDiscovery and to compete for positions where an understanding of eDiscovery will be preferred, if not expected.

Two lawyers who are on the forefront of encouraging inclusion of eDiscovery in law school curricula have reached out to the larger community.  One is Bill Hamilton, a Partner at Quarles & Brady LLP, who has been teaching at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law since 2007.  He maintains a listserv dedicated to sharing information among attorneys who are interested in eDiscovery law school offerings. For more information please email: william.hamilton@quarles.com.

Fernando Pinguelo, Partner at Norris McLaughlin & Marcus P.A. and adjunct Professor at Seton Hall University Law School, has harnessed the power of his own students. They currently maintain the eLessons Learned blog as part of their eDiscovery course requirements. The site appeals to large audience with varying levels of experience in eDiscovery.

eDiscoveryJournal Contributor and eDJ Group Consultant – Babs Deacon

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