EDISCOVERY PERSON OF THE YEAR: JANICE JACO
Friday, October 16, 2015
Posted by: Jason Krause
What makes an eDiscovery Person of the Year?
Janice Jaco has certainly been deserving of an award for a long time.
As a litigation support project manager with Keesal, Young & Logan, Janice years of experience in high-stakes discovery disputes and has been CEDS-certified since 2013. But more importantly she has long been an advocate for education within the industry, including helping to shape training materials with ACEDS.
But most recently, Janice was one of eight professionals from the U.S. and U.K. invited to lead the eDiscovery steering group of the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition (also known as LTC4™), helping to shape competency standards for attorneys in the broad spectrum of skills required to measure eDiscovery competency. The LTC4™ EDiscovery initiative is positioned to be an important resource for the Bar and law schools as well as the 90+ existing member firms in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
ACEDS: Congratulations on the award. Were you surprised? How did it feel winning?
I was surprised, and deeply honored to have been selected for the award. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all the dedicated people at ACEDS for their confidence, as well as for all they do year-round for members of the ACEDS community, like me. It is a very exciting time in the eDiscovery industry, and I am lucky to be a part of it. I hope I can give something back to the ACEDS community in the coming year.
ACEDS: How did you wind up in this field? What do you enjoy about being a project manager?
I have always worked in law, and for the past 22 years, I have had the extreme good fortune to work at Keesal, Young & Logan, in their main office in Long Beach, California, which also has offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage and Hong Kong, specializing in defense litigation for large corporate clients. I started at KYL as a legal assistant and progressed into paralegal tasks. In those roles, I was always trying to squeeze more time out of the day by using technology and managed processes. I got into Excel, Adobe and PowerPoint in the early 2000’s, and became a go-to person for that type of support. By the mid-2000s, I was learning any one-off application that helped support our case teams in their practice areas and moved into a litigation support role full-time. Around 2007, we started seeing larger ESI volumes in our cases, particularly in oil spill cases, and I was one of the folks tapped to learn eDiscovery. Since then, I work primarily on large or complex eDiscovery projects. I love helping my case teams locate needles in the haystack.
I also love being a project manager. I learn something new on every project, which I try apply to the next one. I definitely see project management as critical to outcomes that are speedy and increasingly less expensive per gigabyte.
ACEDS: What types of matters are you involved in? How has eDiscovery changed the nature of your work?
KYL represents large corporate clients in the energy, shipping, financial services, and other industries in trial and arbitration, so I get to see a wide variety of ESI volumes and diverse projects. And I have opportunities to support attorneys moving through the fast paced-litigation process, as well as DOJ and SEC investigations, which entail a whole different approach and set of considerations for reviewing and producing ESI. Working at KYL gives me opportunities to work on a wide-range of projects that continue to evolve as ESI and need changes.
eDiscovery has changed how I think about evidence. I try to keep in mind the document’s metadata, since that can say something more or different than the text. I also pay attention to cells formulas when a spreadsheet’s values are important to case facts. The story of who knew what and when they knew it is often better told by the metadata, rather than the text of document. I remind our case team members of the value of this “third dimension” of evidence when it can change the facts of the case.
ACEDS: Tell us about the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition. How did you get involved in this project? What has the outcome been so far?
For a bit of background, LTC4™ was founded in 2010 by law firms and the training/change management firm Capensys™, because firms were spending too much time individually developing their own core legal technology competencies for which there were no real industry standards. Since that time, LTC4 has become a not-for-profit organization with its own Board of Directors. It is comprised of a growing coalition of 90+ leading law firms members (including KYL), corporate law departments and law schools who have come together to create and share workflow-based, standard legal technology core competencies.
This group of firms realized that by cooperating and sharing what they have learned, they could achieve greater efficiencies and get their competencies validated by others with deep knowledge and experience in the different areas of legal technology learning. To date, nine Core Competency Learning Plans have been completed and shared with thousands of legal professionals through the LTC4 membership. My CIO, Justin Hectus, who is now a board member of LTC4, suggested that I volunteer to help build the first eDiscovery learning plan. Since August 2014, I have had the good fortune to collaborate with some extraordinarily talented and experienced eDiscovery attorneys and support professionals in the U.S. and U.K. to create a basic, core competency learning plan in eDiscovery. Our first draft is nearly done, and is expected to be submitted for peer review in the next month or so. Once the final copy is complete, it will be available to all members of LTC4.
My involvement in this non-profit effort is the culmination of the time and effort of many industry thought leaders, and it has been wonderful and educational experience for me personally. To all of you, I say thanks.
(NOTE: More information about LTC4(tm) can be found here: http://www.ltc4.org/.)
ACEDS: How long have you been involved with ACEDS? What made you want to get CEDS certified?
I always wondered how my organically grown eDiscovery skills stacked up against industry standards. To answer that question, in 2013, I started researching eDiscovery credentials and educational programs. I concluded the CEDS credential was the first and most widely recognized eDiscovery credential in the industry. I also liked the ACEDS member community content, and in particular, the hard-hitting, state-of-the-moment articles presented in “Bits & Bytes.” Since I had so much experience with large ESI volumes by that time, I decided to just read the certification study guide and take the exam. It was one of the best decisions I have made in my career.
ACEDS: What do you think of having Mary Mack as the new ACEDS Executive Director?
I am thrilled that ACEDS landed such an extraordinary leader in the eDiscovery field! Mary brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the organization as an attorney, as a 20+ year eDiscovery veteran with experience in government investigations and intellectual property cases, and hands on experience ranging from vendor shops to corporate law departments. I expect the ACEDS membership to grow tremendously in the coming years under her skilled leadership.
Mary Mack’s first book, “A Process of Illumination: The Practical Guide to Electronic Discovery,” was my first look into the broad field of eDiscovery. You could say Mary was a strong influencer for me in the early days of my eDiscovery career.
ACEDS: Are you an advocate for other legal professionals to get certified? What is the value of certification?
Absolutely, in fact, I am currently working on a couple of podcasts now with the International Legal Technology Association (“ILTA”) about the value of the CEDS certification. Mary participated in the first podcast with me, and I will be doing a podcast soon with another ACEDS member, and we will be discussing the value the CEDS credential has brought to our careers and organizations.
There is a broad spectrum of skills required to be competent in this field. The CEDS credential shows you have it all and you are committed to maintaining the credential by staying at the forefront of emerging technologies, processes and ever-changing practice of law.
ACEDS: Do you think litigation support professionals get the respect they deserve?
I definitely do. Litigation support professionals bring the “shock and awe” factor to attorney support and attorneys are deeply appreciative and recognize that brand of support as a business necessity.
ACEDS: What’s your hope for the future of the CEDS certificate?
I hope to see a significant increase in the number of professionals taking and passing the CEDS exam. The CEDS credential is the gold standard for eDiscovery skills certification and maintenance. I think corporate law departments will continue to ask outside counsel about professional certifications in all areas of legal technology, including eDiscovery, which will drive more people to seek a CEDS certification. I would like to see the industry governing organizations tackle the tough questions around whether lawyers can and should certify their skills in eDiscovery, and reduce the barriers to advertising those certifications.
ACEDS: How has your job changed over the years and how do you see the profession evolving?
I have been in law since the paper days when lawyers tagged documents with colored post-its representing different issues. I have seen ESI and technology drive change in the law firm more in the last 5 years than the previous 20. The rate of change is increasing too. Legal professionals must embrace rapid change, evolving technology and ESI, and the necessity of staying competent in eDiscovery and in legal technology generally.
I expect clients will continue to gain a better understanding of how technology applied to good effect can increase efficiency in every legal task, leading to improved client collaboration and engagement, reduced legal bills and more predictable outcomes. I expect to see certifications like LTC4 and COBOT (“Certified Operator of Basic Office Technology” formerly known as the “Legal Tech Audit”) really take off in the coming year, and think those certifications will raise awareness across the entire industry of the need to demonstrate competency in numerous legal applications, as well as eDiscovery. Capable eDiscovery professionals who invest in themselves by earning the CEDS certification will be in the best position to maintain credibility and marketability for their organizations, and will be better positioned to stay relevant in the legal industry in the coming years.
ACEDS: Do you have any particular mentor that you credit with inspiration or success in this career path?
There are many people who have inspired me in this career and many to thank. Thanks again to ACEDS, the awards judges, my talented IT professionals, firm lawyers, paralegals and litigation support peers, trainers, vendor project managers and everyone else mentioned today for their guidance and support over the years. I am deeply honored to have been selected by ACEDS for this recognition. It took a village to get here, and I could not have done this without your support.