What Is an E-Discovery Professional?

Definition & Examples of an E-Discovery Professional

Female lawyer working late at a laptop in an urban office

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E-discovery professionals use technology to facilitate the legal discovery process when it involves electronic documents.

Learn more about working as an e-discovery professional.

What Is an E-Discovery Professional?

E-discovery professionals use technology to facilitate legal discovery and to manage electronic data. In a legal sense, discovery takes place when each party in a court case is permitted to discover information that's in the possession of the other.

In the past, this meant boxes of paper records. While there still may be paper involved, today's discovery also involves electronic data. E-discovery professionals review and manage the electronic records involved in the discovery process.

  • Alternate name: eDiscovery professional

How E-Discovery Professionals Work

E-discovery professionals are primarily employed by law firms, e-discovery vendors, corporate legal departments, and the government. Some also work in academic settings, teaching best practices and compliance with e-discovery rules.

An e-discovery professional's work may include:

  • Assessing a client’s electronically-stored information (ESI) 
  • Helping to create ESI preservation policies
  • Serving on e-discovery teams
  • Ensuring compliance with federal rules regarding ESI
  • Educating clients on e-discovery policies
  • Drafting and communicating litigation hold procedures
  • Using technology to facilitate discovery
  • Assisting in the collection, processing, review, analysis, and production of ESI
  • Serving as a liaison between the legal team, IT personnel, vendors, and records management personnel

E-discovery professionals must understand both information technology and legal processes, and these skills are in demand. An e-discovery professional starting as a document coder may earn a relatively modest $37,000 per year, but experienced e-discovery directors can earn an annual salary of $124,000 or more. 

E-discovery was an almost $11 billion industry in 2018, and it's expected to top $17 billion by 2023.

Types of E-Discovery Professionals

While the exact duties and titles of an e-discovery professional vary depending on the employer, there are a few common types:

  • Document coders: These professionals input data and import and organize databases. Someone starting in e-discovery may be a document coder, depending on their education and expertise.
  • E-discovery analysts/specialists: In this role, professionals analyze ESI to determine what's relevant and coordinate with stakeholders. They may also do technical troubleshooting and administrative tasks related to their firm's e-discovery software.
  • E-discovery managers: Managers oversee e-discovery teams and communicate with outside firms and vendors. They may set deadlines and manage the day-to-day work of their teams. They may also handle staffing on their team.
  • E-discovery directors: Directors are executives who oversee all the e-discovery teams within a firm. They typically oversee a department budget and staffing levels on e-discovery teams. They are also responsible for e-discovery business development and strategic planning.

Requirements for an E-Discovery Professional

You don't have to go to law school to become an e-discovery professional. While it certainly doesn't hurt to have one, you can enter the field with a bachelor's or master's degree.

Most e-discovery professionals have backgrounds in law, information technology, or both. Those entering the profession with legal backgrounds are traditionally paralegals, but rising salaries are attracting more attorneys to the e-discovery specialty.

E-discovery professionals with IT backgrounds generally possess bachelor’s degrees in information science or a related field. Some e-discovery professionals have advanced technology degrees.

Although it's not required to work in e-discovery, certification can increase job prospects and affect pay. Numerous programs exist at varying costs. The Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS) is among the most expensive and the most challenging, but it's also highly respected by legal employers.

Key Takeaways

  • E-discovery professionals use technology to facilitate the legal discovery process when it involves electronic documents.
  • Discovery is the process of sending and receiving information from parties in a legal proceeding. 
  • E-discovery professionals work in law firms, for e-discovery vendors, for the government, and in academic settings. 
  • There are several types of e-discovery professionals; some have a supervisory role over one or more e-discovery teams.
  • You don’t have to go to law school to become an e-discovery professional.