Back to (Law) School: Ediscovery Education by the Numbers

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 by Thought Leadership Team

Ediscovery Pop Quiz!

Question: What do you get when you add the number of law schools with the number of ediscovery classes offered and then divide by the number of students who enroll in these classes?

Answer: A pretty small number.

How do Law Schools Rate in Training Future Lawyers about Ediscovery?

The day after Labor Day highlights an important date in the calendar year: back to school! Whether you are starting kindergarten, high school, college, or law school, in September it’s time to buckle down and hit the books.

Over the years, Kroll Ontrack has had the opportunity to partner with an assortment of law schools, assisting in their ediscovery education efforts. However, with the start of a new school year, it is pertinent to ask: How are law schools generally doing when it comes to training future lawyers about ediscovery?

Kroll Ontrack recently examined 193 law schools’ course offerings, available on their websites, to determine whether they offered an ediscovery course or seminar, and if so, whether it targeted students, attorneys, or paralegals, and if it offered a technology component as part of the teachings. Our findings: of the 193 schools, 124 offer no ediscovery curricula beyond perhaps a few brief mentions in Civil Procedure.

Is Your Law School ahead of the Ediscovery Education Curve?

Now we don’t want to go so far as to call them “gunners,” but of the law schools surveyed, 69 or 35% are ahead of the curve and offer a course or seminar on ediscovery. Classes include such topics as: discussions of Zubulake, the Ediscovery Reference Model (EDRM), preservation and spoliation issues, and the recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Much of the material differs from school to school, as some offer a basic one credit “overview course” to help future attorneys spot ediscovery issues, while some offer three credit “skills courses” that tackle searching protocols, predictive coding, and technology platforms. Another noteworthy observation: ediscovery classes are offered irregularly, not every semester or every year, and the varying levels of instruction lacks standardization across schools, making it difficult for students to evaluate and compare ediscovery curriculum across schools.

Got Ediscovery Technology?

In addition to the case law and rules, gaining a practical knowledge of ediscovery is now essential to the modern practice of law. Actual hands-on use of these technologies is critical, and of the 35% of schools that offer a course or seminar on ediscovery, 8 offer a simulated technology component.

Students, not just schools, are realizing that ediscovery skills are marketable as a speciality in their future careers as modern attorneys. Law schools don’t have to make students experts in ediscovery technology, but have the opportunity to teach students to be proficient in basic technology concepts to be able to competently communicate with a client’s IT staff or an ediscovery provider. Furthermore, for the large number of practicing attorneys without an in-depth knowledge of ediscovery practices, 4 of the schools that offer an ediscovery class have programs beyond students for attorneys and paralegals. Technology is always evolving, and modern attorneys, paralegals, and litigation support staff seek to keep up to date with current technologies to best serve their clients.