A current topic in the e-Discovery community is the value of certifications and associated programs. While a variety of options have popped up over the past few years, there is much debate on their effectiveness in gaining knowledge, measuring skill and progressing careers.
The certification programs run the gamut of educational opportunities, both non-profit and for-profit. Some are test-only, others are courses offered as CLE (Continuing Legal Education) courses or live seminars. Additional certification offerings are online or are combined with live classes including a number of options for study.
The debate about certifications falls into two distinct camps. Supporters argue that the programs provide an effective measurement of a focused and defined set of knowledge. Up to this point, education in this discipline has been a hodgepodge of self-selected detail from a variety of superficial sources. Proponents see certifications as a good starting point to build experience and a helpful tool for employers to evaluate knowledge.
Detractors argue that there are too many certifications and not enough standards. The e-Discovery field has no central authority deciding which topics should be included for testing nor the stringency, depth or breadth of the instruction (if any). They point out that it is disingenuous to offer certification where no standards actually exist. The critics further argue that some types of certification put the primary focus on passing a test, not accumulating knowledge. Gaining certification cannot take the place of hands-on training and practical experience. Lastly, claiming certification may be problematic for attorneys because certain jurisdictions forbid these types of specializations.
How does this debate affect you?
If you are thinking of certification, do your homework. A good program should be strong in areas such as legal background, technology and project management. Look at offerings and be sure to ask questions including:
• What are your goals in getting certified? Do you need the official recognition of a certification, or is instruction your objective?
• What does the cost of the program include – training, course work, certification testing, etc.?
• What type of learning works best for you?
• Who is the program targeted to (attorneys, paralegals, litigation support, technical folk)?
• What are the pre-requisites for taking the courses?
• What type of commitment is involved and are you prepared for it?
• Is the program associated with well respected individuals, accredited colleges or organizations in the field?
In the world of e-Discovery, the opportunities and options are boundless. Once you have weighed your options, make a decision appropriate for your future.