On the Road to an eDiscovery and Information Governance Career

roadwalkMy journey as an intern with The Cowen Group began last August, and as it comes to a close, I wanted to share with the community what I have learned over the past eight months. This has been a significant opportunity for my professional development and I know The Cowen Group will continue to provide the highest level of thought leadership and career acceleration in the legal, compliance, and information governance fields.

As a third year law student at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in California, I learned about The Cowen Group when my summer internship manager and mentor at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in Washington, D.C. invited me to attend a Leadership Breakfast as her guest. I was immediately intrigued with what The Cowen Group offers to event participants in terms of communication forums and industry expertise.

eDiscovery

Part of my role has been to identify eDiscovery programs, practice groups, and leaders inside law firms and corporations. I have seen that although these programs vary dramatically in terms of structure and placement within an organization, collectively, they have gained increased support from management and are utilized by a wider range of departments than in previous years. However, when I asked law firm attorneys about career potential as a focused eDiscovery attorney, multiple associates suggested young attorneys avoid specializing entirely on eDiscovery, and instead incorporate this specialty as part of a broader litigation practice. The market exists today, but with the increase in sophisticated vendors, more inexpensive review platforms, and the mature talent already available, it may not be the next big specialization for new law school graduates. What I have taken from this is that all young litigators should have a basic understanding of eDiscovery processes and the legal requirements, but may not want to disregard other areas of the litigation practice.

Information Governance

There are two very compelling aspects about starting a career in the Information Governance space. First, these jobs are not going anywhere. Every organization, large or small, across all industries, generates data and needs to understand where it is, what it is, and how to access it when it is needed. Based on this demand, companies are continuing to create new roles for lawyers, often outside traditional litigation or advisory roles. Understanding Big Data in terms of costs to an organization, both of storage and of litigation requirements, and technical aspects of managing ever-increasing amounts of data is not lost on organizations. Because there is a certain amount of specialization and technical understanding required, many companies are allowing lawyers to define and sculpt their role in the Information Governance space—a second compelling aspect about a career in this space.

Because this is a rather new area, careers in information governance area are not entirely defined. This is a great opportunity for lawyers who have experience managing or working with records, have an IT background, or business knowledge to carve out a career path, using these skills to further the specific data management goals of the company. After speaking with various large corporations, I learned that many information governance programs started with a single person who really spearheaded the effort. These individuals brought the business, IT, and legal teams together to discuss the current status of the company’s data, where they wanted to be in five years, ten years, and how they were going to get there. Many companies have not yet taken this step and need a prospective thinker to bring together the Chief Information Officer, the Chief Technical Officer, the General Counsel and the Records Managers to develop a process that will work for the specific company. It is an exciting prospect to know that this new generation of lawyers can have such a significant impact within an organization.

Hot Job Trends

As a soon-to-be law school graduate, I have a particular interest in tracking hot new job trends so I can better place myself in a position to succeed. Due to their round tables, peer groups, market research, and recruiting services which tracks this information, working with The Cowen Group has provided me with this very unique opportunity. I have spoken with law firm partners, associates, corporate attorneys, and information officers about their predictions for area expansion and gained an inside look to where organizations predict growth, when they see this growth occurring, and what we, as new lawyers, should focus on to succeed.

Multiple industry leaders advised me that they think the areas with the most opportunities on the horizon are data privacy, both nationally and internationally, and cyber security. These are really hot-button issues and, unlike in the eDiscovery field, there is not a large group of experienced lawyers already in practice. New lawyers interested in privacy law should consider obtaining their privacy certification and joining international privacy groups. Likewise, cyber security is a great area for new lawyers with a background or interest in technology to explore. Data breaches and other hacking scams are more and more frequent and companies and law firms need lawyers who understand the technical aspects to identify areas open to threats while bringing systems into compliance with regulations and preventing against future litigation. This dual understanding will be increasingly expected of lawyers and now is the time to really develop these skills.

People who are rising to the top in this field have a forward-thinking attitude, are able to foresee budgetary implications, the relevance of technical advancements, and can anticipate legal issues and obstacles. Facing challenges of a slowly recovering economy and Big Data getting bigger, organizations need people who can tie it all together.

What Happens After What Happens Next?

This internship has provided me with an opportunity to discuss real, current issues in an area not commonly accessible in law school. I have been fortunate enough to build relationships with people I likely would not have met in this stage of my professional career, an aspect of this internship that is truly unique. They have shared with me their experiences, their challenges and the opportunities and potential the fields of eDiscovery and information governance provide.

This journey has secured my interest in pursuing a career in the legal technology area, and I eagerly await the day when I am personally invited to attend a Leadership Breakfast or Signature Dinner to contribute my more seasoned expertise in the area I pursue.

Thank you to everyone who has made this journey such a valuable and significant one. I’ll see you at breakfast!