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What's New in the Ediscovery Job Market? Eye on ESI Q2 Part 1

TRU Staffing Partners June 2, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Eye on ESI is a lively, quarterly meeting sponsored by the Association of Certified Ediscovery Specialists (ACEDS) that provides the latest data on industry hiring trends.

For their regular quarterly webinar on the state of the ediscovery job market, Jared Coseglia, founder and CEO of TRU Staffing Partners joined Michael Quartararo, president of ACEDS, and Maribel Rivera vice president of strategy and client engagement at ACEDS, to discuss industry trends and practical tips on job search and professional development issues. Attendees included seasoned and newer lawyers and ediscovery and legal technology professionals who eagerly posted questions to engage the panel in a lively discussion.

In the first part of this three part blog series, we break down the hottest tips from the conversation.

What's new in the ESI job market

Rivera began the discussion by asking Coseglia about the well-received blog post he published on the ACEDS website. TRU Trends: ESI FOMO encouraged those who might be considering a career or job change to act now while the market is hot.

Coseglia noted that the many statistics in the blog post led TRU Staffing Partners to realize that the hot job market would start to slow down in the coming months. He noted that last year, the average increase in base compensation for a mid-market ESI professional (data analytics, project managers, etc.) was around 22% at the point of hire. In Q1 this year, that went up to about 30%. While that was great for some of the people who got those significant increases, many ediscovery professionals remain on the fence about changing jobs. And the FOMO is getting real.

Right now, Coseglia noted, it is a very ripe opportunity to capitalize on mid-to-high level ediscovery experience and get a lucrative job in the industry. TRU is also seeing the levels of responsibility increase within new roles, (particularly with project managers) and these people are now being compensated accordingly.


Ediscovery jobs: Get 'em while they're hot, or risk missing out

So, you may ask why it isn’t going to go on forever. Downward factors are now appearing in the stock market, which will eventually affect business. As the stock market faces some disastrous days, supply chain issues loom, and the Fed raises interest rates, there will be a downstream impact on business, and ultimately on litigation. Companies will start preparing for recession, which means they are going to be less likely to spend the same kind of money they have been to secure talent.

Coseglia and his team are seeing a deliberate holding of concrete ceilings in compensation ranges with some customers, which unfortunately is elongating their hiring searches. There seems to be a growing willingness within law firms that do ESI hiring to wait it out, be patient, hold the line on what they are willing to spend, and wait for the right candidate to become available.

On the flip side, TRU is seeing vendors start to do the opposite: they are spending more money for talent (as they did in the first quarter of 2022) because they need people with specific skills in place. Coseglia sees more business going to vendors and they require this headcount to stay competitive.

Creating the next generation of ediscovery professionals

Coseglia said that only 2% of TRU’s job order intake over the last 15 months has been for people with little-to-no experience in ediscovery. Most employers are looking for experienced people who are “plug- and-play” and can immediately begin billing clients. The sooner they bill, the sooner they will get their return on investment with the employee. These firms and vendors are where the best salaries are and often where the best jobs are in the industry. TRU has found that 90 to 95% of job openings are at law firms and vendors. There is very little opportunity at the corporate level.

Coseglia noted he works with some customers that do hire entry-level ediscovery pros, but they act in a very formal way and create farming systems to mentor and train new recruits. He encourages clients considering a farming system to find industry examples prior to going into this type of training. Having structure appeals to Gen Zers who appreciate feeling like they are impacting an organization.

Quartararo asked where Coseglia thought the next generation of ediscovery professionals were coming from because he is seeing that the industry is getting older. He wondered how to get younger people into the job pipeline.

Coseglia replied that the problem isn’t getting the talent into the pipeline, the problem is getting the hiring managers to be willing to hire more inexperienced talent. There just are no entry-level jobs for these people. It appears that the next generation of ediscovery professionals is going to come from litigation or compliance not from pure paralegal experience. Also those in Legal IT can fit well into open roles.

Most-requested ediscovery skills

Coseglia said there are two skills that IT people need to be successful in new ediscovery roles now. First, IT pros should have work experience in customer service (high customer contact and be able to explain very technical terms simply). Second, IT pros are needed with deep database and analytical experience in working as a business analyst or crunching data. Those skills have been very useful to TRU customers. Whatever their level, candidates need to articulate their value proposition to hiring managers in order to get roles they want. Especially if they can show that their time to being billable is truncated or minimal. Entry-level candidates have a hard time articulating that value during interviews. They need those crucial ACEDS certifications that give them creds and confidence.

Rivera asked the panel a question from the audience about what they thought was the inflection point where litigation paralegals could become ediscovery professionals and if that was part of the future state of paralegal jobs.

Quartararo noted that he was a paralegal early in his career. He believes that the legal foundation a paralegal gets and the fundamental skills the industry requires enable a person to be able to work in ediscovery. Experience in working with clients, the court system, and data is invaluable in the ediscovery space. He asked Coseglia if paralegals could convert that experience into ediscovery project management or information governance.

Coseglia replied that it was possible, but only if the candidates could “get technical.” The most important skillset in the industry to Coseglia was the background in technical training. The ACEDS certifications, the Relativity Certified Adminitrator (RCA) completion, and even self-taught knowledge by watching others were useful. There is always going to be a carveout for the litigation paralegal that has a separate set of responsibilities as well as a different kind of relationship with attorneys they work closely with. But those litigation paralegals may hit an inflection point where the financial and professional mobility is no longer viable. At that point, he feels that they must get technical and can move into ediscovery. At the end of the day, people in ESI make a lot more money than paralegals do in litigation.


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Stay tuned next week for Part 2: How Much Money is Out There for Ediscovery Professionals?

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