In response to the increased automation of legal processes, skyrocketing volumes of electronic data and the growth of large-scale, complex litigation, a new occupation in the legal field has emerged: the litigation support professional. This cutting-edge profession combines the legal knowledge of attorneys and paralegals with the technical skills of information technology professionals.
Litigation support professionals help identify, preserve, collect, produce and manage electronically stored information (ESI) in litigation. Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure extending the rules of discovery to electronic information (such as e-mails, spreadsheets, voicemails and other digital data) combined with growing volumes of ESI have fueled the growth of this fledgling profession to address the electronic realities of a digital age.
The explosive growth of electronically stored information has increased the cost and complexity of the litigation process and posed new challenges to organizations and the legal professionals that serve them. The growth of ESI has created an unprecedented demand for litigation support skills, pushing salaries to new levels.
As the litigation support industry has matured, a variety of specialized roles has developed. Since the industry is still relatively new, titles are inconsistent, interchangeable and evolving. For example, an analyst in one firm might be known as a specialist in another firm and a project manager in yet another organization. Below are several of the most common litigation support positions as well as links to more information on each position, including job duties, education, skills, salaries, and employment outlook.
In complex, large-scale litigation and regulatory investigations, the volume of electronic data is too large to manually sort, organize and review (also called objective coders, database coders, legal coders, or litigation coders) review and code documents, files and other data so that the litigation team can more easily search and retrieve information during the course of the case or project. A document coding job is generally an entry-level position and is a good way to gain exposure to the legal and litigation support fields.
Litigation Support Analyst
The litigation support analyst is generally an entry-level position. In some firms, this position is called a litigation support specialist. The litigation support analyst is responsible for the day-to-day litigation support needs of assigned cases and projects. The analyst builds, maintains and troubleshoots databases for large, complex litigation in which the documents - which may number in the millions - and data are too voluminous to sort and analyze manually.
Litigation support analysts typically report to a project manager or litigation support manager. In larger organizations, the role of litigation support analyst is often broken into junior and senior levels and analysts move up to senior analyst positions after they reach a certain experience level.
Litigation Support Specialist
While the litigation support specialist (also known as litigation technology specialist) is generally a step up from analyst, in some markets, the terms analyst and specialist are used interchangeably or the titles are reversed (i.e., a specialist is the entry-level position and an analyst is the next progression in the career path). Often the roles of the analyst and specialist intertwine and overlap.
Litigation support specialists usually possess a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience in the litigation support field. In large organizations, specialists typically report to a project manager in charge of a unit, project or department. In smaller organizations, they usually report to a litigation support manager.
The project manager, alternatively known as the litigation support supervisor or project coordinator, is an expanding role for litigation support professionals. Project managers frequently work their way up through the ranks from a litigation support analyst or specialist position. Project managers generally report to the litigation support manager and provide day-to-day supervision and guidance to the litigation support staff. In larger organizations, experienced project managers may move up the career ladder to senior project manager.
Litigation Support Manager
Litigation support managers generally ascend the litigation support career ladder from analyst, specialist and project manager roles. In larger organizations, they typically report to a firmwide litigation support director. In smaller organizations, they might report to the IT director, managing partner, CMO or another executive within the company or firm.
Firm-Wide Litigation Support Director
At the top of the litigation support, career ladder is the firm-wide litigation support director also known as VP of global legal services or firmwide director of practice support. Litigation support directors are responsible for the management and marketing of litigation support services and technologies across all law firm offices or corporate business units. In smaller firms, the litigation support manager and litigation support director are one and the same.