Among the other interesting things I discovered today while searching for Litigation Support bloggers was an article from back in Aug. 2006 by Mark Lieb titled “The IT Department – Litigation Support’s latest recruiting ground.”
I found it interesting, not so much because it said anything new to me, after all I am doing that exact thing, taking my technical background and applying it to Litigation Support, but because it’s not what I’ve experienced when I look around outside our firm.
Back in November, while I was at the E-Discovery Conference, I was somewhat stunned by the number of Litigation Support leaders who came, not from a technical background, but a legal one. They seemed to all be attorney’s, former attorney’s or paralegals. In fact, when I mentioned my background when asking a question during one of the roundtables, the conference organizer made a point to find me afterward and ask my impressions of the conference, because they rarely get a chance to identify whether it’s technical enough for someone coming from the IT field.
I was somewhat surprised by that. After all, it only seemed natural that the more an case involved forensics, or electronically stored information, needed storage and database resources to be reviewed, or needed technology involved in the trial presentations, the more you would want someone with an IT background involved. Not just that, but the more you’d want that person to be focused on doing just those sorts of things, as opposed to the general knowledge help you’d get from tech support.
I still believe that to be the case, but I also understand the legal professions reluctance to depend on people without the legal background to be so intricately involved in their case. That’s why the communication between the legal side and the technical side is so important. Being relatively new to the legal work, it’s critical that the attorney’s communicate their specific needs with me, and frankly, I think most of the time ours do a good job with that. There are occasional misunderstandings that result in extra, or duplicated work, but nothing that’s been too difficult to overcome. That being said, the firm has a fairly long history of dealing with IT staff for many of the sorts of things I’m doing for them now, and legal staff for some of the more legal areas of the case. Typically it’s paralegals who are doing the real case work, filings, dealing with vendors, etc. while we focus on the back-end stuff that needs to be done. I don’t get the feeling that has been the case in some larger firms. I’m sure that doesn’t help them see the IT department as a possible source of Litigation Support employees, but I can’t help but wonder how much more efficient their use of tech might be if they could.