IT Opportunities in E-Discovery

Companies big and small are recognizing the complexity involved in managing, retaining and searching electronic documents that could end up as evidence in lawsuits. At the center of that complexity is their IT operations.

By Sonia Lelii

Dice News Staff | August 2008


Rich Hall’s fifteen-year stint as a senior-level IT executive at Enron gave him a unique view of the energy giant’s rise and fall. The experience Hall attained, especially during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings, was enough to establish a foundation for a new  career path – in e-Discovery.

Today, Hall is a vice president of e-Discovery at the Houston-based Bridgeway Software, a developer of solutions for in-house legal departments, and one of a growing number of companies that have staked a claim in this new and growing field.

Companies big and small are recognizing the complexity involved in managing, retaining and searching electronic documents that could end up as evidence in lawsuits.  At the center of that complexity is their IT operations. As a result, the demand is growing for IT workers with specialized skills in IT and litigation, document management, security and forensics.

So far, the world of e-Discovery is filled with new technologies that have yet to satisfy the demands of intricate compliance rules and legal requirements surrounding electronic data used as evidence in legal cases. For that reason, e-Discovery is becoming ripe with opportunities for specialists who understand the complexities of document management and retention and forensic data preservation, and have the communications skills to be a liaison between IT operations and legal departments.

“Lawyers don’t typically embrace technology, so companies need someone in IT to be a bridge between IT and business, to understand the impact, decisions and requirements made by legal departments,” says Hall.

In particular, several positions are crystallizing. They include e-Discovery consultants, litigation support specialists and forensic engineers for data preservation. Presently, many companies outsource these tasks, but some observers see a vanguard of companies  beginning to move them in-house. The reasons: Continuity of process is crucial, and outsourcing can grow cost-prohibitive if a company faces multiple lawsuits.

“E-Discovery is a broad term and there are about 500 vendors in this space,” says Hall, whose company develops end-to-end e-Discovery solutions. “A lot are dropping off and a lot jumping in to take their place. With such change, corporations are not sure who or what company will still be around.”

It’s all the more reason companies – particularly enterprise-level firms that often face multiple lawsuits – are feeling pressured to hire internal e-Discovery specialists. “It’s a huge trend,” says Andy Cohen, vice president of compliance solutions and assistant general counsel at EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Mass. “e-Discovery is moving in-house by necessity. It’s too expensive to outsource each time there is a lawsuit. Everybody gets sued, so everybody has this need.”

Emerging Roles

One of the more recognized roles in e-discovery is that of computer forensic engineers. One of their primary duties is to preserve documents and infrastructure at a specific point in time, much as criminal investigators preserves a crime scene. They also specialize in the detective work within technology systems to find crucial documents that are relevant to a lawsuit.

Computer forensic engineers also have to be skilled in streamlining the disparate formats in which data resides – from e-mails to instant messages to data formatted in handheld devices – and compile the information in a central repository so lawyers can examine it. Typically, companies employ a third-party firm to do this as part of their risk-management strategy.

An IT person with a solid background in networking and programming, familiarity with data formats and e-mail stores are strong candidates for these jobs, says Jim Doyle, senior director of professional services at Guidance Software in Pasadena, Calif., which develops products to search, identify and recover digital information in a forensically sound method.

Generally, computer forensic engineers should have about two years of IT experience and are required to take a certification exam, such as the EnCase certification exam. “You have to be certified and the certifications are not easy,” warns Andre Guilbeau, vice president of e-Discovery at Kiersted Systems in Houston. Also, because they have to be on-site in order to pull data , these people tend to travel a lot.

Another emerging job is that of the litigation support specialist, which doesn’t necessarily require an IT background. Often acting as a bridge between the legal departments and IT operations, the job is largely about managing litigation cases through technology, and requires expertise in soft skills and an ability to manage the workflow of a legal case. It also has a strong qualitative component, and a major focus on process. Bottom line, litigation support specialists take on more of a project management role.

“Forensic engineers need a deep IT background, while litigation support specialists need project management background and experience at a law firm or internal law department,” sums up Guilbeau.

Contact Sonia Lelii at sonia.lelii@dice.com

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