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5 Essential Components of an e-Discovery Course for the Adjunct Professor

Janice Hollman

Those already in the legal profession must stay abreast of e-discovery evolutions, attending trainings and conferences to brush up on the latest technology and legal considerations. Knowing that these educational requirements are on the rise, lawyers and paralegals alike are seeking opportunities to hone this knowledge and get ahead of their peers.

But what about the next generation of legal professionals? If you’re also an educator or a board member at a law school or paralegal program, as many practitioners are, you can help improve your legal education program by encouraging a greater emphasis on e-discovery. Here are some critical components of any good “Introduction to e-Discovery” course, and some tips on how to implement them.

#1: Introduce the language of e-discovery.

Put first things first: definitions. e-Discovery has a language all its own, and it’s important for new lawyers and paralegals alike not to look shell-shocked when their first boss mentions something about whether their ESI should be de-NISTed during processing. Paralegals, after all, may be expected to assist with these steps in a modern law firm environment—and even the decreasing number of lawyers who don’t get hands-on with the process will need to know what discovery protocols mean if they’re to hit the ground running.

An excellent way to begin is to use a trusted textbook—we like e-Discovery: An Introduction to Digital Evidence—on the subject. In addition, the EDRM Glossary can be helpful in tracking down the most popular and the most obscure terms in the practice of e-discovery. Of course, the EDRM is a great place to begin describing the process—and defining its stages—for students.

#2: Walk through a “typical” case, end to end.

Speaking of the EDRM, once you’ve defined terms and outlined concepts for students, it’s important to fit them all into place. What comes first: imaging or a privilege review? Why?

The EDRM is a good resource for this exercise. What’s even better is first-hand insight from someone in the field. If need be, bring in an industry veteran—another expert from your team or a favorite vendor; an e-discovery expert from your local court; or a law enforcement expert with data forensics experience, for example—to talk through these projects as they happen in the real world. e-Discovery can differ greatly from case to case, so it never hurts to bring in additional insights on what’s generally the same, and what varies.

#3: Discuss case law and professional requirements.

Established case law like the rulings that have approved technology-assisted review (TAR), and those that set important precedents for spoliation sanctions, make excellent topics for discussion amongst students. There are also our profession’s and jurisdictions’ requirements and recommendations to consider—some that bind lawyers to a certain degree of knowledge (like ABA Rule 1.1), and others that simply provide guidance on how legal professionals can best cooperate during e-discovery (such as the Sedona Conference’s Cooperation Proclamation).

Share coverage of recent legal decisions and this helpful case database relevant to this industry, your state’s bar association requirements (and notable requirements from other states), the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the many resources from the Sedona Conference to get a comprehensive look at these considerations.

#4: Dissect the meet and confer.

Once you’ve covered the basics and the not-so-basics of what’s generally required for e-discovery, it’s time to get specific. A mock meet and confer can be a fantastic way to do just that. Armed with their knowledge of what options are available and what standards must be met, students can negotiate discovery terms for a particular case and begin to learn the full breadth of tech knowledge that can be helpful during these essential conversations.

This is another great opportunity to dive into recent case law (to find e-discovery protocols your students might be able to mimic), and invite in-the-field experts to join and guide the exercise from start to finish.

#5: Get hands-on with current e-discovery software.

Also important for helping all of this knowledge come together is hands-on experience working on an e-discovery project. That means letting students work with real e-discovery software that they’ll encounter in the field. Many job listings require some software experience for applicants, and even if they don’t, your students will quickly get ahead of the pack if they can have an impact as soon as they start their careers.

Used by 195 of the Am Law 200, Relativity is a great option for this portion of your class. Check out the hands-on tutorials in our Training Center and learn more about the Relativity Academic Partner program.

Making the Case for Your Class

There is no escaping e-discovery in this era of data inflation and increasing litigation. If you need to make a push for introducing an e-discovery course into your program, point to the evidence of the industry’s growth, the increasing attention from legal professionals, and the eagerness and ability of your students to learn the applicable technology quickly.

Janice Hollman is a community program manager at Relativity, leading the Relativity Academic Partner program. She works closely with educators to assist with building and executing on legal technology education efforts in law schools and paralegal programs.

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