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How Much Money Is Out There for Ediscovery Professionals? Eye on ESI Q2 Part 2

TRU Staffing Partners June 9, 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 second part of this three part blog series, we break down the hottest tips from the conversation.

Missed earlier installments in this series? Check out Part One here.

So: How much money is out there for ediscovery professionals?

Quartararo asked Coseglia to explain the financial difference between litigation paralegals and ediscovery pros. Coseglia said that some litigation paralegals can get to six figures (around $120 to $125K) if they have been at it a long time. But that is about the highest he’s seen. TRU has frequently placed ediscovery project managers at $150 to $200K. People are placing a premium on the time, effort, energy, and efficiency of what they do based on their expertise. The older an ecosystem of talent gets, the less they want to base their careers on an hourly pay structure unless it is extremely high. That becomes the choice to build an effective ecosystem of work in ediscovery; people need to put in a lot of hours on projects.


How to grow into the ediscovery industry

Rivera asked Coseglia if he could give some specifics on how to increase skills and move from being a document review attorney to become a team lead or a PM in ediscovery.

Coseglia said there are two different paths or agendas to take.

To move into being a team lead for doc review or to move into being a leader of team leads in doc review, you have to have a few things in your arsenal.

  • First, candidates must possess an incredible ability to retain reviewers – you need to be a people person, likeable, inspiring, someone people want to work for.
  • Second, you need to be great at evaluating metrics. You need great skills in reporting, analytics, and an ability to see the forest for the trees.
  • Third, you need to be great at conflict resolution. Those the things that move people from being a worker bee to a leader.

Now if you want to be an ediscovery PM, it’s simpler:

  • You need to get technical. An RCU is not enough, an RCA might get you in the right direction. You have to administer these databases, wield data and know how to run reports on data.
  • You need to ask for the right things from a forensic collection all the way through to document production. It means your knowledge has to move from the far right of EDRM to a full encompassing role throughout the process.

Quartararo agreed with the technical aspects but said there is also a consultative component. It’s not enough to just resolve problems, you have to be able to look at a situation and persuade people to do things a certain way. It could be as simple as knowing what to ask a client or custodian to being able to evaluate the spectrum or lifecycle of an entire project. You need to be structured in your approach to things, have planning skills. You have the technical chops as well as these soft skills. Doc review can lead to a lot of great opportunities. It can make or break a case. It’s where the evidence is uncovered and sits. You can grow out of this role – the point is to dedicate yourself to the learning process and learn the whole process.

Coseglia added that the last point is the zinger. There are 30 to 100 times more people doing ediscovery document review versus the amount of jobs there are for ediscovery project managers. He said that TRU goes through hundreds of resumes a month and sees very few doc review attorneys who actually take the initiative to get technical skills to move forward. It is very difficult in an interview to convince a hiring manager to move forward on soft skills alone – the technical chops will get a person hired.

To get these technical skills, Coseglia encouraged job seekers to take time and enroll in courses to learn them, or shadow someone at your current firm who does that type of data production. You need to get more hands-on and be able to both walk and talk the processes. If you have done ACEDS certifications but don't yet have an RCA, Coseglia said this is the work you need to do. An RCA is a very respected certification within the industry and it goes a long way to being a technical expert. Someone with an RCA can start adding value to a firm or organization within a few weeks instead of a few months.

Ediscovery job jumping is NOT over

Quartararo said that it’s also important to be realistic with yourself. Ediscovery used to be an industry where you could pick a point, dive in, and figure it out. That’s not the case anymore. Employers are discriminating in terms of skillsets and hiring based on technical know-how. He asked Coseglia if the jumping trend is slowing down.

Coseglia emphatically said NO. According to Korn Ferry research, 58% of people in America changed jobs since March of 2020. TRU is finding now that one in five people who took a job in the last two years is having remorse about that job. People will continue hopping jobs to help recalibrate inflationary decision-making. And hiring managers are doing the same thing — saying they hired the wrong person and want to re-conduct a new search. The volume of movement isn’t going to change until the amount of available jobs decreases.

TRU Staffing Partners is seeing that the amount of available jobs where you can get a 30% increase in salary are decreasing. The amount of available jobs coming to market on a weekly basis are decreasing for ediscovery. This means that what will be left after the jobs that will pay more money are filled, are the jobs that have been open for a long time or jut some trickles of new ones. Coseglia feels that’s the industry hiring will slow down in Q3 and Q4 of 2022. The key is to make that jump now if you are planning to do it. If you want until later in the year, there will be fewer options in ediscovery to choose from.

Coseglia added that the contract market for mid-market ediscovery professionals (those who want lifestyle flexibility) has increased exponentially as a result of the pandemic and the customers willing to buy that kind of temporary help has increased exponentially as well.

No one wanted to hire full-time employees during the pandemic. Employers realized this was a great thing – they could scale up or down as needed to meet business needs. Candidates realized they loved it – they had more control over their careers, got to work for a variety of employers, had more diverse jobs, and expanded their networks. Coseglia said that as contract staffing becomes more readily adopted, it will be increasingly difficult to hire people in full-time jobs below market salary averages. Candidates will just move to contractor status and get the higher paying roles. Learn more about TRU's contract staffing services.


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Stay tuned next week for Part 3: How Much Money is Out There for Ediscovery Professionals?

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