CEDS Spotlight – John Randall, CEDS

Share this article

One of the things I love is hearing the stories of fellow CEDS members and the journey that lead to getting e-discovery certified. For quite some time the default answer I had back to others would be, I do not need to be certified. As an e-discovery consultant who is well versed in all areas of the EDRM model what was the point? Was there really a need to get myself certified? The question one may ask is this: Why Did I Think That?

To answer that, let’s go ten years back in time. 2007 was entirely different than it is now, processing was seen then as the most important aspect of e-discovery. Just about all vendors were getting into this from the small to large companies. From third party solutions to proprietary, on the day that the new FRCP rules went into effect on December 1st, 2006 I also released the first comprehensive comparison report on third party e-discovery applications.

E-Discovery training was typically software specific. These software companies would give certification training but only on their software. It did not do much for those wanting and needing to know more about e-discovery. In my opinion there was a huge need in the industry for software neutral e-discovery training. Due to that void, I created and taught e-discovery classes nationally. A beginner one-day class on e-discovery, a two-day intermediate class, and a four-day lab intensive graduate level class. I would get responses from one extreme to the other. Some owners of vendors did not see the value in e-discovery training. Or they did not want their employees gaining those additional skills and then bolting off to a new company with a higher pay rate. On the other side would be responses such as “Does it come with a certification?” At this time, it was a whisper that was about to become gaudy? in the foreseeable future.

2007 brought about a huge shift in the industry and this can be directly tied back to the FRCP rules going into effect. For law firms to be able to review documents natively was a game changer. Concordance and Summation were dominating yet weaknesses of the software itself, became more apparent when the switch came to reviewing tiffs to native. As well as the shift from desktop application to an online one. This opened the market for other companies to create and market review tools. So, there was this move that began a decade ago from the processing function dominating to online review. It was a time where vendors were also coming out with their own proprietary programs. Some were better than others, yet many were bare bones with no forward movement. A true lack of scalability and customization were apparent in many of these tools. Where would the next leap come? Who had the vision to see the future of online review?

Numerous friends in DC came up to me and said there was this one application I had to see and wanted to know my thoughts on it. At the time it was also just a whisper. This was not a review tool but a platform. An application that had forward movement, unlimited customization and yes scalability. After seeing the demo I was blown away with the first word out of my mouth being “Whoa”! The name of the application was called Relativity.

By the time Legal Tech 2008 came around the oversaturation of online review tools was apparent. 80% of all booths there had some type of review tool. It was insane how many jumped on the online tool bandwagon just as they had done with processing. Many processing third party applications still had issues with being able to read all embedded items and deep nesting to a lack of true Lotus Notes support.

The need for e-discovery training was also growing along with the word certification. By late 2009 the recession had its full grasp on this industry. With that the need for e-discovery training bottomed out. Within a year a few organizations came to the forefront with e-discovery certifications. At first, I was involved with one of these organizations but soon I took a step back and watched this all unfold. Who would rise from this e-discovery certification battle? I will be honest as I thought none would make it through. A few years later I still believed the best type of certification was through a full training program, something like what Georgetown training academy was doing.

ACEDS as everyone knows did come out on top. However, I was still skeptical wondering if it was the top certification for the industry? Does it have true value? Is it more than just a piece of paper? By 2016 at least for myself the answer was a resounding yes. A few friends of mine in the industry, who I trained years back, have received their CEDS and the question I asked was the same. Is this certification worth it? The answer was also yes.

This was my journey to becoming CEDS certified. Hesitation for a few years was caused by part ego and part not fully understanding how mainstream this had become in the industry. Saying rhetoric with phrases “As an E-Discovery consultant I am well versed in this area.” “I used to teach classes nationally what do I need a certification for?” Upon reflection though, the ACEDS certification is everything I had hoped a certification would be back in 2010. That there is inherent value in having it, a greater amount of respect in the industry for going through the process and knowing e-discovery from the early stages all the way through production. The ability to articulate to others potential pitfalls. Offering advice to a few attorneys is one thing where they may or may not listen. Offering advice with a CEDS attached to your name means the greater likelihood of those same attorneys paying more attention to what you may have to say.

There were a few takeaways I had once completing the certification process. The first is that it is a challenging exam. One that goes over all aspects of electronic discovery. The second is after watching the certification prep videos done by Mary Mack I believe all attorneys dealing with e-discovery should watch them. The industry is at the point where attorneys need to be more technical and this is a great way to getting there and fully understanding the process. Not everyone will have time to go through the full certification process but I have confidence that the prep videos are a must watch.

This industry now has online review at the forefront and modules to deal with other areas of the EDRM. Trying to compare one software program to another is a difficult process. Some e-discovery platforms started at processing and worked to the EDRM right. While a few others started at online review and worked to the EDRM left. One e-discovery application started at the far left in legal holds and worked its way right. Looking back ten years ago is interesting because in my opinion processing is dying a slow death. In the future it will be merged together in the ingestion process of online review. Analytics and predictive coding will all be done on the front end, unless AI technology becomes mainstream over predictive technology. When that happens then a new EDRM model will be needed.

John Randall
John Randall is an E-discovery consultant at Unsurpassed Consulting, where John uses his eighteen years of experience in the industry to help formulate solutions to complex problems from start to finish, including auditing software platforms and training clients about the e-discovery lifecycle. Please email [email protected] to contact John.

Share this article