by Michelle Sanders~

As most will agree, 2020 was anything but “normal”.  For the majority of us, a pandemic was a new experience, and the events that unfolded left us scrambling to adapt.  Americans were suddenly faced with learning how to stay home.  In a society where daily life keeps most of us on the go more than we would like, suddenly with nowhere to go and no events taking place, we had to figure out what to do with extra time.  For some, this meant addressing home improvement projects, binge watching Netflix, or participating in scavenger hunts for basic life essentials such as toilet paper.  For others, it was an opportunity to further their education, and strengthen their career.  For me, this was the most logical choice.

In February 2018, I became a member of NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants).  I immediately began studying for the Certified Paralegal exam.  Part of my studies included attending the NALA Annual Conference. While attending the conference, it became clear why so many professionals attend conferences over several days.  The education I gained was invaluable, and the connections I made with other paralegals allowed me gain friendships and create a network with paralegals worldwide. After successfully passing the Certified Paralegal exam in 2018, and having a requirement to obtain CLE credits, I vowed to never miss an annual conference. Yet, just two years later, I was faced with a realization this year would be different.  While the administrative body of NALA worked to formulate a plan for the annual conference, I began to explore other options.  Being aware that NALA offered advanced certification in certain areas, I determined taking one of the courses to be the best choice.

After reviewing available courses for the Advanced Certified Paralegal credential, I selected the e-discovery course and began my journey.    As a litigation paralegal, discovery is a major part of my job, and while e-discovery has been on the horizon for several years, my day-to-day experiences had not provided me with many opportunities to strengthen my knowledge in this area.  The course consisted of 11 modules and required successful completion of an exam at the conclusion of each module.

Through this course I learned e-discovery can be very extensive, requires great attention to detail, organizational skills, and has potential for adverse consequences when not performed in accordance with court rules.  As a paralegal, it is important that I am familiar with court rules in the jurisdictions where I work, in order to ensure we are following those rules.  Paralegals must also be familiar with current technology related to capturing and production of electronically stored information (ESI), so that we are always acting in the least invasive, and most cost-efficient manner for the client. Strong organization skills are needed to track the ESI produced.  Clear logs detailing the steps taken to ensure due diligence was utilized in the capturing and production of ESI must be maintained. When Paralegals maintain proper logs detailing all the steps taken, the Court will be less likely to impose sanctions if mistakes are made.

As a litigation paralegal, I will use the knowledge obtained in this course to make certain we are in compliance with the rules of the jurisdiction we are in, as well as to ensure that we are utilizing the best technology for the case at issue.  The knowledge obtained from this course will help me in working with clients to formulate strong questionnaires for their employees concerning what ESI they may be in possession of, as well as creating logs to track the steps taken in obtaining ESI and detailing ESI production.