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The Technology Education of Today’s Lawyers

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

By Tom O’Connor, Senior eDiscovery Consultant

A quick look back: Judge John Facciola gave the keynote address at the 2009 Legaltech conference in New York. During his remarks, he suggested that the low level of technological competency by attorneys is directly correlated to their high level of stubbornness for learning new subject matters.

His solution: lawyers should be continually tested for technical competence.

As I noted in a blog post at the time, there are precedents for such a test in some of the federal courts – with limited jurisdiction.  My suggestion was to include technology education during law school.

A quick look at today: Now this week, several small events have surfaced that tell me the need for law school education still exists.

First, is an interesting blog post by Kelly Twigger on Above The Law: Stop Equating eDiscovery With Data — It’s Not That Simple.

Kelly is a former Biglaw partner who left to start ESI Attorneys, an eDiscovery, and information law firm.  In her column, she notes that attorneys are never taught to distinguish between traditional paper discovery and eDiscovery.  That means they then treat ESI like paper and are soon floundering in the highly complex world of massive data types and volumes without the proper technology tools.  The result:  rather than time spent on formulating legal strategies and arguments, they are distracted by the very expensive and very time-consuming data beast.

Next came an entry on the Relativity blog called How Two Law Schools are Making the Grade for e-Discovery Education. Now granted, while the story did talk about how “…more and more law schools are embracing the need to introduce technical skills to their curriculum,” two does not make a trend – and the takeaway was that we still have a long way to get to even the basic levels of legal technology training.

Just yesterday I spoke about authenticating social media as evidence at the Lafourche Parish Bar Association.  A young attorney approached me after the presentation and said, “I have had those exact issues come up in cases several times. Boy, do I wish they had taught that in law school.”

Exactly.

In discussing this issue with one of my colleagues, he observed that “Our core expertise is in being highly-skilled project and process managers, with key legal domain expertise.”  Imagine how much more efficient we would be if our legal training also covered the ability understand proper eDiscovery workflows – so we could influence, rather than be subsumed by the process.

Much like the British system of barristers and solicitors, we could develop a new class of attorneys with technical skills. The new lawyer who Craig Ball likes to refer to as “Homo Electronicus.”  We have a long way to go – stay tuned.

Tom O’Connor

Senior eDiscovery Consultant
Advanced Discovery

Tom O’Connor is nationally known as a consultant, speaker and writer. In his consulting work, Tom specializes in working with law firms and their corporate clients to manage their electronic discovery needs. As senior eDiscovery consultant for Advanced Discovery, he assists clients in database design, implementation and training. He also addresses specific eDiscovery issues such as retention policies, litigation holds and document exchange protocols. Tom speaks at major legal conferences and writes for both the Advanced Discovery blog and national legal publications.

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