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3 Reasons Why Law Students Should Take eDiscovery

Thursday, August 11, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jason Krause
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By Michael Simon

You can’t get through law school without passing Civil Procedure, and you can’t pass Civil Procedure without learning discovery.  But you can learn discovery without learning electronic discovery, and that seems outdated in an age where 97% of documents are electronic and never printed.  eDiscovery is not a required class, but if you plan to practice law in any manner that brings you anywhere near a courtroom, it’s a class that you shouldn’t skip, because:

  1. Electronic evidence is fast becoming our only evidence. Many of us older lawyers learned to practice in an age where evidence was on paper.  Then we found that we could scan all of that paper and make it much easier to carry around than hundreds of boxes of paper.  Then in the biggest cases we found that the documents didn’t have to be scanned, because they were already electronic: emails, spreadsheets, database reports.  Now in many cases most if not all of the evidence is electronic: contracts signed over email, business disputes blown up over IM, personal injuries disproven with a quick Facebook pic and divorce cases destroyed by GPS readings. How long will it be before we get our first big case over Pokemon Go?  But to use electronic evidence you have to know how to request it from the other side, to collect it from your client, to review it and to properly produce it.  Do it wrong and you’ve lost your chance – and your case (and maybe your client).  So why would you want to just learn how to do discovery for paper?
  2. Technology is increasingly important in the legal profession, and eDiscovery is the best “gateway drug” for it. Perhaps lawyers, unlike Jeopardy! grand champion Ken Jennings (shown above conceding defeat to IBM’s Watson just a few years back), will never have to welcome our new computer overlords.  Indeed, older lawyers often seem to wish for the robot revolution to be delayed just long enough for them to safely retire, but law students now will find themselves at real disadvantage against adversaries that can play “Lawyer Moneyball” with systems like Lex Machina, manage cases automagically with Clio or draft contracts in micro-seconds with Kira Systems.  eDiscovery is a great way to get started with analytics before you leave law school.  You will learn to use advanced search and filtering systems, algorithms to categorize documents and Machine Learning AI to help you review them. Maybe by the time you graduate your job will be to build the new computer overlords that will sweep the rest of us into the dustbin of history.
  3. And speaking of jobs . . . and of course of jobs, because, let’s all just admit that law school is all about getting a job, eDiscovery can be a big advantage for you. Remember all those old lawyers I keep mentioning?  Well, we kind of run the profession. We are the ones who you have to impress to get that job.  Tell us that you’ve learned oh so very much about contracts or torts or employment law or pretty much any substantive subject in the law that we have 20+ years of experience doing (we’re old, remember) and all you’ll get is a jaded yawn, not a job.  You want to get hired?  Remember Douglas Adams’ set of rules describing our reactions to technology (and if you don’t know who that it is please Google him!):
  • "Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  • Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  • Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things."

So tell us that you know how to deal with this new-fangled eDiscovery stuff that we hate because it involves technology invented long after we turned 35, and that might just impress us enough to give you a job.

I’ve had the honor of teaching e-discovery at law schools now for over three years, most recently at Michigan State University College of Law. MSU has created a program called LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation, to improve legal-service delivery and access through research and development of efficient, high-quality tools and systems.

Unlike all of those other old lawyers, I for one do welcome our new computer overlords.  I plan on being our computer overlords’ friend if only so they’ll keep me around; join an eDiscovery class – whether at MSU or whatever law school you are at now and some of us old lawyers will teach you how to make friends with the machines too.


Michael Simon has been in the legal industry for over 20 years. He practiced law for almost 7 years as a trial attorney and for the last 15 years he has focused on developing, marketing, and supporting products and services for legal technology, particularly e-discovery. He is currently also an Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University College of Law. 

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