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Learning Legal Tech – The Struggle for Attorneys

If you want a really good review of what it is going to take for the legal world to truly educate attorneys you could do worse than watching Craig Ball talk about the current status of legal tech education and what he is trying to do with his law school class.

He was on an EDRM webinar last week talking about it and I found it really interesting. If you can catch the recording, I recommend it.

One thing he talked about that resonated with my own experience was the current state of legal CLE covering technology. As Craig mentioned, a lot of what is available for attorneys is free or cheap CLE offered by experts from vendors. Those are good, but they will only ever go so far. The goal of the presenter is often to teach you a little bit, but not so much that you don’t need them. To paraphrase what Craig had to say about it, “They aren’t going to teach you to do it yourself, they’ll teach you enough to hire them to do it for you.”

And that’s fair. A free CLE session should benefit both parties. I don’t really have a problem with it, but there still needs to be somewhere for people to learn it for themselves and that can be a challenge within eDiscovery.

I’ve seen the same thing when it comes to M365 Purview as well. If you want to learn it yourself, you can, but it’s going to require a lot of time, effort, and learning materials that come straight from Microsoft, which can sometimes lack a sense of real-world application. I spent three years deeply involved in M365 and eDiscovery and I didn’t write about it here at all. I did that for the same reason those CLE sessions will only take you so far. The company I worked for got paid to provide that kind of expertise. I couldn’t share it here.

Of course, now that I no longer work there, I am offering a newsletter that tries to offer some of that expertise. It’s not CLE, and it’s not free, but it’s inexpensive and you’ll get a deep dive into some of the eDiscovery tools in M365. No sales pitches for consulting work, no sales team taking your information to sell you software. Just me sharing the things I have learned and continue to learn about M365 as a side gig. 

But, back to Craig’s presentation. His law school class is nice, it sounds pretty intense. But it doesn’t solve the problem for the million or so practicing lawyers in the US. That’s where we need better CLE, but is there a market for that? Is there enough money for someone to make their living teaching the technical details of eDiscovery to thousands of lawyers? There are organizations like EDRM, or ACEDS, that do a decent job with education and certifications, but we still have a knowledge gap with lawyers. I know a lot of folks who have ACEDS certifications who aren’t lawyers, for example. I’m not sure how much these educational resources are penetrating the lawyer market.

The other side of that issue, of course, is time. Learning the details of how data is processed for review, or how it is collected, takes time. For lawyers, time is money. How many lawyers can afford to dedicate that much time to diving deep into the technical details? The CLE hour requirements for technology aren’t even close to enough time to do this work. How do we encourage more lawyers to learn this stuff? It’s going to take systemic change, but that change will only be possible if people start taking individual initiative and proving the value of education in their work. Hopefully, with better educational efforts we’ll see more of that.

Imagine a day when technologists, lawyers, and vendors could have easy conversations about eDiscovery because they all have a deep understanding of the technology and tools involved. We don’t see it often, and that causes some real problems as we see from some of the cases we all read about. Maybe someday.

If you’re interested in learning more about Craig’s course, he provides the 617-page Electronic Evidence Workbook for free on his website. Again, you could do a lot worse than getting some of Craig’s knowledge for free.

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