eDiscovery Careers: Achieving Success as a Non-Attorney in a Law Firm: Know Your Stuff

By: Jane Gennarelli

In the first posts in this series, we covered finding / making an environment that fosters growth and success.  The right environment, however, isn’t enough.  It goes without saying that you also need to “know your stuff”.  And that means more than knowing how to do your job.  Let me make a few suggestions:

1. Be an expert within your area of responsibility:  This might mean knowing everything there is to know about the litigation technology your firm uses, about handling electronic discovery, about litigation support vendors, and so on.  As you move up the ranks, you don’t necessarily have to be the premier expert in everything in your area.  You might have people who report to you that know more about their direct job than you do.  That’s okay.  Make sure you know enough to manage them effectively and to replace them if the need arises.

2. Stay ahead of the game and know what to expect:  Attend trade shows, training sessions, and webinars.  Subscribe to trade publications.  Join professional groups.  Keep on top of what’s going on in the industry and on what technology is ‘up and coming’.  The last thing you want is for an attorney to approach you about emerging technology that you know nothing about.

3. Don’t have tunnel vision:  Learn how what you do fits into the bigger picture.  In litigation support, this means:

  • Understand the entire litigation process:  Know what happens in a case before you get involved and learn how the results of your work are used, and what tasks need to be done with the documents and data after you’ve finished your job.  If you really understand what attorneys need, you’ll be better able to help them make use of the work product that you provide.  You are also likely to uncover new ways in which you can help.
  • Understand the bigger technology picture:  Make sure you understand what technology is used in the firm and what the firm’s technology plans are.  You’ll be better able to select technology that’s a good fit with the firm’s culture and goals.

4. Develop management skills:  Advancement usually means taking on management responsibilities, so you need to develop management skills.  This is tough because it’s hard to be a good manager from the get-go.  You get good at it through experience.  Nonetheless, there are a couple of things you can do to speed up the process:

  • Read materials on management techniques:  Glean as much as you can from a variety of materials.
  • Observe managers with whom you work.  Identify the things they do well and the things they aren’t very good at.  A key part of successful management is having the support and loyalty of those who report to you.  Identify what things the managers you know do to foster or hinder support.

In the next post, we’ll talk about making yourself well known in a firm – which is one of the keys to successful advancement.

So, what do you think?  Do you have other tips for staying on top of your game and knowing your stuff?  Please let us know or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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About the Bloggers

Brad Jenkins

Brad Jenkins, President and CEO of CloudNine Discovery, has over 20 years of experience leading customer focused companies in the litigation support arena. Brad has authored many articles on litigation support issues, and has spoken before national audiences on document management practices and solutions.

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Doug Austin

Doug Austin, Professional Services Manager for CloudNine Discovery, has over 20 years experience providing legal technology consulting and technical project management services to numerous commercial and government clients. Doug has also authored several articles on eDiscovery best practices.

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Jane Gennarelli

Jane Gennarelli is a principal of Magellan’s Law Corporation and has been assisting litigators in effectively handling discovery materials for over 30 years. She authored the company’s Best Practices in a Box™ content product and assists firms in applying technology to document handling tasks. She is a known expert and often does webinars and presentations for litigation support professionals around the country. Jane can be reached by email at jane@litigationbestpractices.com.

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