As we slip past the 365-day mark of my tenure at ACEDS, it seems appropriate to prepare some remarks for the ACEDS membership and the broader e-discovery and legal community. This year also marks the ten-year anniversary of ACEDS. Happy Birthday ACEDS! Stay tuned for celebratory announcements coming soon.
In mid to late 2010, in the wake of a huge financial crisis, a group of about 40 legal and e-discovery experts from across the U.S. gathered to develop and soon after release the Certified E-Discovery Specialist (CEDS) certification. ACEDS was born out of the need to promote a unifying influence in the advancement of technology in the legal profession, to improve and, through certification, to validate individual’s knowledge and skills in e-discovery. Along the way, ACEDS has also sought to provide other educational, career and networking opportunities.
I believe wholeheartedly that ACEDS has fulfilled its mission and more. And so, I am happy to report that the state of the ACEDS union is indeed strong!
One indicator of that strength is the numbers. ACEDS has been fortunate through the obstacles 2020 has presented to grow and thrive. As of October 1, ACEDS year-over-year membership is up 8%, the number of CEDS-certified professionals is up 9%, and enrollees in our eDiscovery Executive Certificate (eDEx) program is up 80%.
ACEDS members reside in 128 US cities and 25 countries across the globe. We now have 26 global ACEDS chapters! In 2020, we added 5 new chapters to our global federation of chapters: Denver, Orange County, Toronto, Vancouver, and Wisconsin. We are very thankful to the leaders in each city who stepped up to organize and lead our chapters.
Highlights from our 2020 membership survey demonstrate great confidence in the work we are doing. 89% of the membership believe the CEDS certification adds value, and our more than 90% renewal rate further supports that value, and we continue to add value for our members. In 2020, we refreshed our flagship CEDS certification, updated and reorganized the study materials and the exam itself. We reinstituted the ACEDS mentorship program and added study groups to help members learn and better prepare for the CEDS exam.
We are actively working on building a CEDS certification for our neighbors to the north in Canada. With a tentative launch early 2021, the CEDS/CA exam will hopefully set a standard in e-discovery expertise from Quebec to Vancouver.
We’ve also updated our eDiscovery Executive Certificate program (eDEx), and we are adding a new E-Discovery Technology Certificate (eDTech) in Q4, which will combine our e-discovery theoretical training with practical knowledge in software platforms in use across the industry.
We also introduced a student membership this year that enables students to join ACEDS at a significantly reduced cost of just $39, and we’ve launched a pilot program for law schools that enables law students to gain recognition from ACEDS for completion of certain e-discovery credits.
For our business partners, we continue to add value for our affiliate and affinity partners, and we are forever grateful to the partners who continue to support ACEDS and our educational mission. Sponsorship is up 21% this year over last and in 2020 we welcomed several new affiliate partners and we are forging new partnerships with industry and adjacent organizations. A survey of our partners demonstrates that they are extremely happy with our relationship and gain value from our ability to amplify their message.
We have also instituted creative new ways to help our business partners and sponsors reach the community. Our educational webinars average 240 registrants and about 140 attendees. Our digital marketing reaches 50K subscribers across the legal community, and lead generation activities increased 92% year over year. Earlier this year the ACEDS blog was given the #1 E-Discovery Blog award by our syndication partner, JD Supra, and readership on the blog is up 50% in 2020 with nearly 100K individual reads so far. We have also added to our content delivery the #ACEDSBlogLive series and #WeAreACEDS series on LinkedIn Live and both have been hugely successful at reaching and engaging the community.
On the philanthropic side, we have partnered with the Relativity Fellows program to offer foundational e-discovery training to the first cohort of students in Relativity’s first-of-its-kind program designed to welcome motivated individuals from overlooked communities to learn about and hopefully begin careers in e-discovery or litigation support. And we continue to offer resources to many others who are negatively impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
Consistent with our internal values and mission, we created an Inclusion, Diversity, Equality Awareness and Action (IDEAA) committee, which is our think tank for members interested in discussion and activism within the legal community on diversity, inclusion, and social justice.
Any day we will be launching a new ACEDS website that will offer improved stability, greater speed, and functionality. Chapter leaders will have more access and members will enjoy our modern learning management platform. Once launched, the new platform will enable ACEDS to continue to add new technologies to enhance member benefits.
Finally, in 2021, we are launching new messaging pillars designed to make ACEDS more relevant and meaningful to our members and will propel ACEDS into the next ten years. We’ll be rolling out the full messaging plan soon, but let me just tell you that it is structured around four key pillars.
- One: We are leaders in certification and community. This is our baseline. Our ‘reason for being’
- Two: We are here to teach and to help members establish credibility in their workplace or discipline. This is the key to ACEDS elevating our members’ careers.
- Three: We exceed standards of technical excellence. This is how we are elevating e-discovery and technology competence and it is the high ground we hold.
- Four: We strive to keep the legal profession on pace with technology. This is the aspirational goal that will help us elevate practitioners in the digital age.
Four pillars with a common goal: To keep ACEDS the category leader.
And there you have it. A summary of what we have been working on here at ACEDS. I personally hope that as we enter the last quarter of the year each and every one of you are safe and well.
Happy anniversary to everyone who has embraced the ACEDS brand over the past ten years. Our values, mission and purpose are guided by our members, partners, and friends. I am thankful for your continued support.
Mike Quartararo, CEDS
President, ACEDS and Professional Development