Monday, August 29, 2011
This story from Forbes (hat tip ATL) is about e-discovery moving to the cloud but what really caught my attention is just how big the e-discovery industry is expected to become. According to Forbes, e-discovery software and services generated $3 billion in revenues for 2010 and that number is expected to double in the next two years. It's not clear to me the extent to which large scale opportunities exist in the e-discovery industry for lawyers (rather than software designers), putting aside the question of whether it's wise for law students to incur heavy debt for a career in e-discovery even if that's an option.
It is abundantly clear, though, that law grads must understand the technological issues involved in e-discovery including how to search for meta-data to prevent the inadvertent waiver of the attorney-client privilege or other mistakes that could compromise the client's case. Graduating students who don't understand these issues may be a bit like graduating ones who don't understand the significance of deadlines; they will be malpractice cases waiting to happen. And while digital natives are fluent in social networking, the use of the web and video-games, some commentators have suggested that they have little to no understanding of the technological issues that underlie it all.
What, if anything, should law schools be doing to impart to students the skills needed to competently assess and handle e-discovery issues? I know what you're thinking - there already isn't enough room in the curriculum to teach students some of the most basic skills they will need in practice without adding "technology 101" to the mix. And besides, who on the faculty has the technological know-how to teach such a course? Unless a faculty member has come from practice within the past few years, they most likely don't have the expertise to do it either. Perhaps librarians (as information technology experts), vendors (we often use Wexis reps teach those technologies to students) or IT department personnel could do it.
What do you think? Are these the kinds of skills we should be adding to a "practice-ready" curriculum and if so what would such a course look like and who would staff it? Please share your thoughts below.