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eDiscovery Certifications: Which One Is Right for You?

Electronic discovery (sometimes known as e-discovery, ediscovery, eDiscovery, or e-Discovery) is the electronic aspect of identifying, collecting and producing electronically stored information (ESI) in response to a request for production in a law suit or investigation. ESI includes, but is not limited to, emails, documents, presentations, databases, voicemail, audio and video files, social media, and web sites.

The processes and technologies around e-discovery are often complex because of the sheer volume of electronic data produced and stored. Additionally, unlike hardcopy evidence, electronic documents are more dynamic and often contain metadata such as time-date stamps, author and recipient information, and file properties. Preserving the original content and metadata for electronically stored information is required in order to eliminate claims of spoliation or tampering with evidence later in the litigation.

E-discovery represents a unique and constantly evolving intersection of technology and law. Many of today's e-discovery experts" have acquired their knowledge through ad-hoc training methods such as CLE presentations, product training, seminars and conferences, along with real-world trial and error.


Less than 5 percent of U.S. law schools have added e-discovery specific course material to their curricula. This lack of formalized, cross-functional education has spurred the development of e-discovery education and certification organizations. From private companies to associations and organizations, litigation support professionals and lawyers have many options to become certified" in e-discovery. These programs offer different curricula and certification upon completion.

So if you are looking to become certified, which one is right for you and your organization? Here is a description of the most recognized offerings today, in alphabetical order:

Arkfeld & Associates

Michael R. Arkfeld, the author of Arkfeld on Electronic Discovery and Evidence, has developed the Electronic Discovery and Evidence Course. This course, which is conducted online, is designed to provide legal professionals with an integrated and comprehensive foundation about the technological and legal issues involved in e-discovery. The course is divided into three sections: Information Technology for the Legal Professional; E-discovery Critical Issues, Strategy and Tactics; and Admissibility of Electronic Evidence.

The course, which includes more than 15 hours of on-demand instruction time, includes pre- and post-testing and certification.

The Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)

ACEDS, established by The Intriago Group in 2010, is a member organization for professionals in the private and public sectors who work in the field of e-discovery.

The Certified E-Discovery Specialist certification is awarded to candidates who meet education and experience eligibility criteria. Candidates who earn the CEDS credential must pass a rigorous, psychometrically sound examination of 145 four-choice items. The exam, which meets the testing standards of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, probes knowledge and skill in performing numerous job tasks" performed by the multidisciplinary population that works in e-discovery, including attorneys, litigation support professionals, information technology specialists, paralegals and others.

The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP)

After 18 months in development, this nonprofit organization launched its certification program in July 2011. OLP's mission is to establish global standards and certification through collaboration and education. The certification applies to attorneys, paralegals, litigation support staff and consultants.

The certification exam has been developed and designed with OLP's strategic partner, Pearson VUE, a division of Pearson Learning Solutions. OLP has provided the content, while Pearson has provided a team of PhDs and a measurement services team.

eDiscovery Team Training

The Team in Training program was designed by Ralph Losey, a partner at Jackson Lewis, for the class he teaches at the University of Florida College of Law. This program, with 84 modules, provides 75 to 300 hours worth of education depending on how much supplemental homework is completed.

While there is no certification per se, once you complete all 84 modules you can ask to take a 3,000 word essay exam to test your understanding of the materials. If you pass the exam, you will receive written confirmation of your passing grade.

The curriculum includes ideas and solutions from experts around the world that address the many challenges of e-discovery. It also explores common mistakes, what to avoid, legal opinions and real-world practice suggestions.

For current information on costs of these programs, contact the provider or visit their website.

Remember Your Ethics...

The idea of e-discovery certification is controversial in some legal circles. Many lawyers are wary of these types of credentials. Attorneys should adhere to their state bar rules regarding presentation of any of these certification credentials to clients or potential clients. However, the idea of more education should not be controversial. Receiving certification doesn't guarantee expertise, any more than passing the bar guarantees one will make a great lawyer. By successfully completing one of these programs, participants signify that they have undertaken a rigorous educational pursuit and have proven a fundamental knowledge of the subject matter. This baseline should ideally be continually augmented with practical application and continued learning.

Each of these organizations has demonstrated a commitment to education and providing a comprehensive standardized curriculum for legal professionals who have the desire to learn and are willing to invest time and money into their e-discovery career.

When considering which program to pursue, reach out to members and the organizations' advisory boards. Talk to those who have completed the course materials and have become certified. After you study hard and earn the certification, consider that the beginning, not the end, of your educational journey. Experts in any field are never satisfied with status quo and continually seek knowledge and improvement.

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