A recent Law.com article, “Law Firms Are Missing Opportunities to Maximize Paralegals’ Potential,” advocated for paralegals taking on a larger role in ediscovery. Mary Mack, executive director and chief legal technologist at EDRM, called this a “huge missed opportunity.”
The tight job market for skilled ediscovery professionals combined with an increase in ediscovery work has escalated an industry-wide need for more people with ediscovery expertise and created an opportunity for “paralegals to [come to] the rescue” at their firms.
Paralegals already have the legal expertise; they simply need the technical training. However, Law.com uncovers that firms are either not willing to invest in training or assume their paralegals do not need training.
Training Pays Off
While the Law.com article cited a number of reasons why firms don’t train paralegal staff on ediscovery, it didn’t touch on perhaps the top reason why firms should make this investment with their paralegals: employee engagement. In the midst of the Great Resignation, where staffing shortages cause stressful working conditions that lead to even more attrition, training can help break this vicious circle. Training and development is a quantifiable driver of employee engagement, which we know leads to higher productivity, retention and results. Indeed, engaged employees are 17% more productive than their peers, and are predictably more likely to stay longer with their employers. Lastly, skilled paralegals can bill at higher rates, meaning that investing in training pays off for firms, bottom line.
Role-based Training for Paralegals
Many firms are hesitant to invest in training because of the rigid classroom structure, lack of paralegal-specific information, and overall drain on time and resources. Recognizing the critical role that paralegals play in ediscovery, we created paralegal-specific tracks in our online training platform DISCO University. The paralegal program covers the essentials of creating and managing matters, productions, privilege logs, exhibit sets, and closing out matters – over a 7.5 hour course that includes on-demand videos and interactive live sessions. These online courses replace the need to hire a trainer and offer the flexibility of self-paced learning. At the completion of the training, paralegals have the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle ediscovery. Paralegals can also earn DISCO Certifications to showcase their technical expertise and demonstrate mastery of DISCO Ediscovery and industry best practices.
Hands-on Learning Experiences for Paralegal Programs
Another point the article raised is that in lieu of proactive initiatives at a firm, paralegals often seek out (and often pay for) training on their own. It’s a hot topic at conferences, and we’ve received a marked increase in our training and certification offerings from paralegal programs. Paralegals are clearly taking on more ediscovery responsibilities and are searching for ways to educate and better qualify themselves to complete the tasks. Additionally, programs we work with are reporting increasing pressure from the ABA to incorporate hands-on experience with ediscovery technology to prepare paralegals for the reality of the job, which is increasingly including ediscovery work.
"The Paralegal Education Program approved by the ABA requires we stay apprised of trends in the industry and the realities of paralegals' day-to-day job requirements, which increasingly includes ediscovery work. Accordingly, our program added hands-on experience with ediscovery technology and opportunities for our students to earn ediscovery certifications. We believe this will distinguish our students as they seek employment after graduation and better prepare them for their careers."
- Alexandra Makosky, Esq., Paralegal Program Director, Harrisburg Area Community College
More and more paralegal programs are reaching out to our DISCO for Schools program for help incorporating ediscovery in the classroom. Students request ediscovery training, there’s market demand for the training, and program accreditation standards are applying pressure for them to include the training in their course offerings.
DISCO can help you train your paralegals to become ediscovery technical experts and bring additional value, and higher billable work, to your firm. Learn more about DISCO University and Certifications or check it out for yourself.