Good Information on the Current State of the eDiscovery Job Market

I tuned into a webinar yesterday put on by ACEDS, and then saw today that Jared Coseglia, from TRU Staffing Partners, had posted an article with many of the same points he mentioned on the webinar. If you’re in the eDiscovery space or want to get into the eDiscovery space, this is worth a read:

Some of the more interesting takeaways:

The number one motivation for job seekers in e-discovery and data privacy is unequivocally the freedom to work remotely from home all the time. This has been the number one motivator for e-discovery candidates since 2018 (that’s right – not compensation increase or vertical mobility) and quickly became the number one motivator for privacy professionals looking to switch roles in 2020 and again in 2021. The proportion of job seekers with this primary motivator, however, has increased aggressively since March of this year when companies began to socialize and then execute a return-to-office strategy.

As someone who works remotely, and loves it, this doesn’t surprise me. As you can see from the quote above, this isn’t even all about the pandemic, it’s been growing since 2018. The reality is that folks who work in eDiscovery are logged in and working in Cloud environments all the time, there’s simply no logistical reason for them to go to one office all of the time. In law firms, which Jared identifies as the one place that hasn’t realized this yet, even the excuses for them being in the office don’t really make sense. In my experience, there are very few personal interactions with the legal teams you work with, everything was done through email and phone calls. Why did I need to be in the same building with people who always emailed or called me? There’s just no benefit of being in the office that offsets the flexibility of working from home, or another location of my choosing.

Of course, this is impacting the hiring process.

In ESI, vendor hiring cycles have dramatically shortened. Consistent since Part One of this article’s publication, the average time from resume submission to offer extended for mid-market talent such as project managers and analysts has shrunk to a lightning-fast eight business days. Cycles for the same positions at law firms are moving the other direction, now taking upwards of six to ten weeks.

Jared said this was now closer to 12 weeks on the webinar. Simply put, if you are looking to hire a new employee, and not offering a fully remote job, the talent pipeline is much, much smaller, and it’s going to take a LOT longer to fill your position. And, as he points out, offering a “hybrid” model doesn’t move the needle. Job-seekers know that is code for “eventually we’ll be back in the office full-time” and they aren’t interested.

Of course, to get around this, many law firm managers are bringing in contractors instead of hiring employees, who would not be required to work in the office, and they are finding lots of willing contractors who want to work on something more of a gig basis than a full-time job too. This is an interesting development. I can’t help but wonder how many eDiscovery professionals are doing this to avoid burning out?

The other interesting thing that Jared mentions is that there is really no pathway for new people to enter the eDiscovery career path:

Currently, roughly 80 percent of jobs in ESI are at law firms and vendors, while 80 percent of jobs in privacy are at corporations. If you are trying to break into ESI and cannot be billable quickly, it is difficult to make a case for a new entrée to the industry, alleviating the pain most organizations are feeling from being understaffed or needing individual employee profitability. ESI is also mostly about litigation, which means customers are generally in a state of reactionary discomfort and expect experienced talent from their law firms and vendors. In general, ESI hiring managers do not want to take the time to train and groom new hires right now.

Corporations are more interested in long-term planning and willing to bring in someone new who will learn on the job, but they are mostly hiring privacy talent, not eDiscovery talent. Vendors and law firms are hiring eDiscovery professionals, but they are hiring based on immediate need. There’s no time to wait for someone to get up to speed.

I suspect that’s why we are seeing more turnover in this space than normal, folks are being enticed away with flexibility, more money, etc. to fill open positions., but I worry about the long-term impacts of these moves. Yes, it’s what is needed now, but as we see more and more people making other choices, moving out of the industry, or going the contractor route, where is the new talent coming from?  Jared mentioned that for ESI sales, this situation is even worse. As mergers keep happening and the industry gets more and more consolidated, we only want the very top-level, proven sales professionals. As those people move on though, where is the next generation going to come from?

If everyone is looking for 5 years of experience in order to hire an eDiscovery person, where would you go to get those 5 years?

On the other hand, if you have them, it’s a wide-open market for you to negotiate what you want out of a job, isn’t it?

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