Is Perception Reality? Nineteen Observations on ACEDS in the Summer of 2019

As part of its focus on offerings and opportunities that impact certifications, careers, contacts, and competence, ACEDS recently conducted a comprehensive online survey of individuals currently working in the field of the eDiscovery. The goal of the survey, the ACEDS Community Survey, was to gain an actionable understanding of industry perception regarding four key areas. Those areas being respondent awareness and possession of industry certifications, respondent valuation of ACEDS offerings to include the CEDS certification, respondent view of the evolution of eDiscovery, and respondent competence in technology. While the individual respondent answers to the survey are confidential, key results from each of the six topic areas are provided for your consideration.

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Is Perception Reality? Nineteen Observations on ACEDS in the Summer of 2019

“Perception is Reality.” Radika Duggal (1)

The discipline of eDiscovery impacts legal, business, and information technology professionals daily as it is entangled in the information and litigation lifecycles of electronically stored information from creation to destruction. Organizations and individuals who are successful in this discipline understand the importance of comprehensive education, practical execution, and the pursuit of excellence in their eDiscovery efforts. With this in mind, the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), led by industry pioneer Mary Mack since 2015, is dedicated to providing offerings and opportunities to help professionals in various disciplines improve and certify their eDiscovery knowledge and skill, advance their careers, increase their contacts, and increase overall competence in eDiscovery and related fields.(2)

As part of its focus on offerings and opportunities that impact certifications, careers, contacts, and competence, ACEDS recently conducted a comprehensive online survey of individuals currently working in the field of the eDiscovery. The goal of the survey, the ACEDS Community Survey, was to gain an actionable understanding of industry perception regarding four key areas. Those areas being respondent awareness and possession of industry certifications, respondent valuation of ACEDS offerings to include the CEDS certification, respondent view of the evolution of eDiscovery, and respondent competence in technology. The survey was conducted by an outsourced and primary research firm, Hanover Research, and was designed to provide insight into survey areas through the responses to approximately 250 questions organized around six general ACEDS-related topics. The six topics being:

  • Awareness and Usage
  • Perceptions and Value
  • eDiscovery Importance
  • Technology Competence
  • Past Experiences
  • Respondent Characteristics

The target audience for the ACEDS Community Survey was the ACEDS community email listing of more than 20,000 eDiscovery professionals, a listing that is one of the most comprehensive listings of eDiscovery professionals available. These ACEDS community eDiscovery professionals were invited to participate in the survey by direct email, and the survey was open between May 15, 2019, and June 3, 2019. Of those receiving invitations to participate, 149 eDiscovery professionals completed all 250 questions. Partial responses to the survey were not tabulated as part of the survey results, and the reward for full survey completion was $20 directed by respondents to one of three charities. Additionally, legal, technical, and compliance professionals within the eDiscovery ecosystem and identified as part of the ACEDS community who were not on the community email listing, were not surveyed.

While the individual respondent answers to the survey are confidential, key results from each of the six topic areas are provided for your consideration. These results highlight the current influence and potential opportunity for ACEDS and eDiscovery professionals as they serve in the eDiscovery ecosystem.

Nineteen Survey Observations

Do You Know Who I Am? Observations on Certifications, Content, and Community (Charts 1-3)

  • 93% of ACEDS Community Survey respondents were aware of the Certified E-Discovery Specialist (CEDS) certification, with 80% of these respondents being very familiar or extremely familiar with the CEDS certification. This ranking was the highest awareness ranking of presented certification choices, choices that included vendor, project management, and security certifications. (Chart 1)
  • The ACEDS Blog was noted as a primary source of legal news and thought leadership information by 79% of survey respondents. This ranking of the ACEDS Blog was the highest ranking of presented choices for sources of information, choices that ranged from industry news organizations, associations, and communities to educational blogs and research websites.  (Chart 2)
  • Unsurprisingly given the target audience of the survey, 75% of respondents shared that they were current members of ACEDS. Additionally, 35% of respondents noted Women in eDiscovery (WiE) as the most common non-ACEDS membership to possess among presented legal industry groups. Also, the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) was highlighted as the second most common non-ACEDS membership to possess, with 25% of survey respondents reporting that it was one of the memberships they possessed. (Chart 3)

What Do You Think of Me Now? Observations on Perception, Value, and Career (Charts 4-6)

  • 84% of ACEDS Community Survey respondents shared that they have a positive impression of ACEDS, and one-third of respondents noted that the reason for the positive impression was ACEDS educational content and certification course materials. (Chart 4)
  • In considering the frequency respondents use skills acquired from certifications in their work, security-related certifications appeared to be the most utilized certification skills with 91% of respondents with security-related certifications reporting that they always use the skills related to that certification in their work. Also, 58% of respondent CEDS certificate holders noted that they always use CEDS-related skills in their work. (Chart 5)
  • Of survey respondents possessing a CEDS certification, 91% agreed that the certification validates their eDiscovery knowledge, 85% agreed that the certification improved their professional reputation, and 84% agreed that the certification made them stand out as a job candidate. (Chart 6)

Do You Need Me? Observations on Education, Expansion, and Economics (Charts 7-9)

  • Only 7% of ACEDS Community Survey respondents shared that eDiscovery was taught as part of their law school or paralegal school curriculum. With just under two-thirds of that teaching (64%) being teaching as part of a course dedicated to eDiscovery. (Chart 7)
  • 90% of survey respondents believe that the presence of eDiscovery will continue to expand during the next five years. The security, privacy, and data volume elements of this eDiscovery expansion were rated as elements of extreme importance, with 80% of respondents viewing security as extremely important, 79% of respondents viewing privacy as extremely important, and 66% of respondents viewing data volume as an extremely important element for eDiscovery. (Chart 8)
  • Of the survey respondents in roles where they hire eDiscovery professionals, which was 40% of all respondents, almost all (97%) believe that eDiscovery competence will have an impact on the future hiring decisions for employers. Additionally, more than half of respondents in hiring roles agreed that CEDS certified individuals help their companies save money based on the CEDS certified individual’s data reduction and error reduction skills. (Chart 9)

Do You Know How To Do That? Observations on Familiarity, Attitudes, and Financial Competence (Charts 10-12)

  • 73% of ACEDS Community Survey respondents reported a high familiarity with the ethical duty of technology competence as mandated by the American Bar Association in its Model Rules of Professional Conduct. (Chart 10)
  • Almost all respondents (96%) believe that technology competence will allow attorneys to serve clients better. Additionally, 85% of respondents think more states are going to adopt the technology competence mandate. (Chart 11)
  • Most survey respondents did not perceive financial competence as important as technical competence, with more than half (56%) viewing the basic task of being able to prepare financial statements as not at all important to their career development. (Chart 12)

Do You Ever Look In The Rearview Mirror? Observations on Career Paths, Stability, and Conferences (Charts 13-15)

  • 89% of ACEDS Community Survey respondents reported an increase in compensation during the last five years and 77% reported an increase in job offers. (Chart 13)
  • 37% of survey respondents shared that they had received four or more job offers in the last five years, with 91% reporting at least one job offer during that time frame. (Chart 14)
  • More than half of survey respondents (53%) reported not having changed employers during the last five years. (Chart 15)

Do You Know How We Look? Observations on Individuals, Industries, and Income (Charts 16-18)

  • 42% of ACEDS Community Survey respondents possess at least an attorney, paralegal, or investigator license. (Chart 16)
  • More than one-third (36%) of survey respondents worked as part of law firms in their eDiscovery work. Service providers (24%), corporations (19%), and governmental departments (9%) were the next most represented industry groups of employment for survey respondents. (Chart 17)
  • 85% of survey respondents operate in the United States, and 41% of all respondents reported an annual total compensation for eDiscovery activities as being at least $100,000, with 5% reporting total compensation of $200,000 or more. (Chart 18)

Lagniappe (Chart 19)

  • 69% of survey respondents attended at least one industry professional development conference during the past year, with LegalTech NY, Relativity Fest, and ILTACON being the most attended conferences. 32% of respondents noted attending LegalTech NY, 24% of respondents noted attending Relativity Fest (Chicago or London), and 20% of respondents noted attending ILTACON. (Chart 19)

Survey Charts

Chart 1: Respondent Awareness of Certifications

Survey 1 – Respondent Awareness of Certifications

Chart 2: Respondent Online Sources of Industry Information

Survey 2 Respondent Online Sources of Industry Information

Chart 3: Respondent Membership in Legal Industry Groups

Survey 3 Respondent Membership in Legal Industry Groups

Chart 4: Respondent Perception of ACEDS

Survey 4 Respondent Perception of ACEDS

Chart 5: Respondent Frequency of Always Using Certification Skill

Survey 5 Respondent Frequency of Always Using Certification Skill

Chart 6: CEDS Certified Survey Respondent Agreement on Key CEDS Attributes

Survey 6 CEDS Certified Survey Respondent Agreement on Key CEDS Attributes

Chart 7: Respondent Institutional eDiscovery Experience

Survey 7 Respondent Institutional eDiscovery Education Experience

Chart 8: Respondent Five Year View of eDiscovery Elements as Extremely Important

Survey 8 Respondent Five Year View of eDiscovery Elements as Extremely Important

Chart 9: Hiring Role Survey Respondents Agreement on CEDS Personnel Impact

Survey 9 Hiring Role Survey Respondent Agreement on CEDS Certified Personnel Impact

Chat 10: Respondent Familiarity with Ethical Duty of Technology Competence

Survey 10 Respondent Familiarity with Ethical Duty of Technology Competence

Chart 11: Respondent Agreement on Benefits of Technology Competence Mandate

Survey 11 Respondent Agreement on Benefits of Technology Competence Mandate

Chart 12: Respondent View of Financial Competencies as Not at All Important to Career

Survey 12 Respondent View of Financial Competencies as Not at All Important to Career

Chart 13: Respondent Compensation Increase Overview During Last Five Years

Survey 13 Respondent Compensation Increase Overview During Last Five Years

Chart 14: Respondent Job Offer Increase Overview During Last Five Years

Survey 14 Respondent Job Offer Increase Overview During Last Five Years

Chart 15: Respondent Number of Employer Changes During Last Five Years

Survey 15 Respondent Number of Employer Changes During Last Five Years

Chart 16: Respondents by Licenses

Survey 16 Respondents by Licenses

Chart 17: Respondents by Industry of Employment

Survey 17 Respondents by Industry of Employment

Chart 18: Respondents by Compensation Band

Survey 18 Respondents by Compensation Band

Chart 19: Respondent Participation in Industry Conferences During The Last Year

Survey 19 Respondent Participation in Industry Conferences During The Last Year

Yes, Perception is Reality

As demonstrated through the results and observations from this comprehensive survey, ACEDS continues to expand its influence on the world of eDiscovery through extensive certification programs; through educational and informational content, events, and surveys; and through a highly networked community of members, partners, and advocates. Based on industry expert feedback harvested from this comprehensive summer 2019 survey of 149 eDiscovery professionals, it does appear that the positive perception that industry professionals have toward ACEDS is indeed a reality, a positive reality that benefits all who take advantage of ACEDS’ offerings and opportunities.

Additionally, through the service of this ACEDS Community Survey, the team at ACEDS led by Executive Director Mary Mack and Vice President of Client Engagement Kaylee Walstad has collected information well beyond what has been shared in this short overview. Information that may be incredibly valuable for individuals and organizations seeking to understand educational and economic challenges and opportunities in the eDiscovery ecosystem. To learn more about the complete results of the ACEDS Community Survey, or to learn more about ACEDS and how it can help you on your eDiscovery journey, contact the ACEDS team today at ACEDS.org.

(1) Duggal, R. (2018). The One Marketing Truism You Cannot Ignore: Perception Is Reality. Forbes. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/05/29/the-one-marketing-truism-you-cannot-ignore-perception-is-reality/#3ebe36fe7030 [Accessed 28 Jun. 2019].

(2) Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.aceds.org [Accessed 28 Jun. 2019].

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ComplexDiscovery is an online publication that highlights data and legal discovery insight and intelligence ranging from original research to aggregated news for use by business, information technology, and legal professionals. The highly targeted publication seeks to increase the collective understanding of readers regarding data and legal discovery information and issues and to provide an objective resource for considering trends, technologies, and services related to electronically stored information.

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The results of the recent Summer 2020 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey present the unfortunate and continuing impact of COVID-19 on the business of eDiscovery. However, for these pandemic-driven results to be fully understood, they should be viewed through the contextual lens of the results of all nineteen surveys that have been administered to eDiscovery professionals since the inception of the eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey in early 2016.



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