Temp Document Reviewer to Permanent Senior eDiscovery Project Manager – A Real Contract Attorney Story – PART 2

Here’s part two of our Temp Document Reviewer to Permanent Senior eDiscovery Project Manager – A Real Contract Attorney Story post series in which Contract Attorney Central reader Lawfool shares his story about how he got out of the document review and contract attorney circus and how he managed to secure job in the fast growing and exciting field of eDiscovery project management. Part one covered his struggles as contract attorney and how he finally set his mind to proactively make a move. If you enjoyed reading the first post, you will love this part in which you will find great tips and some unique approaches he to improve your resume and get your foot in the eDiscovery Project Management door. Here’s where Lawfool left off:

[…] It was under these circumstances that I knew I needed to get out of the rut I was in. I had been consistently applying for a wide range of other jobs while I was doing document review, but with no success. At the time I was employing the “shotgun” approach. I applied for as many jobs as I could in a dozen different areas/industries, many outside of traditional legal roles. My thought process at the time was that I was being “flexible,” that by not limiting myself to a smaller subset of job opportunities (say, IP law, which I nominally had the most experience in, although it was only about a year and a half), I would have a greater chance of finding work. However, in hindsight, I think this approach backfired. It is my feeling that many prospective employers knew that it wasn’t my true passion to, say, work at the EPA. Where was this reflected on my resume? It wasn’t of course. I needed to change, and so I decided to take the exact opposite approach. Focus all of my time and energy into one particular industry, and make myself the most promising candidate in that area. Unfortunately, I had already applied for dozens of IP law jobs and hadn’t gotten so much as an interview. What was the next thing that I was most experienced in? 

eDiscovery. Sure, document review is a very small aspect of the EDRM (that would be the “Electronic Discovery Reference Model“), but I figured I could learn about the more broad contours of the industry and try to make that work. This is where my journey really began.

The first thing I did was just try to familiarize myself with the world of eDiscovery beyond just doc review. I ditched the audio books (“A Dance with Dragons” would have to wait) and started listening to some podcasts on iTunes. A simple search in the iTunes store reveals a wide range of free, informative podcasts that tackle many of the issues that arise in eDiscovery, everything from predictive coding, to FRCP 26(f) meet and confer best practices, case law developments and dozens of other important topics. Then I sat down and read “eDiscovery for Dummies.” No, seriously, that’s where I started. It has actually been a surprisingly useful reference.

But I knew that I would need more than just a self-study regiment to truly become an attractive candidate for the jobs I wanted. So I began researching formal education programs that I thought would be beneficial. This eventually led me to the “Georgetown eDiscovery Training Academy“. This was a week long course at the Georgetown Law Center that offered a broad, comprehensive education on eDiscovery. Topics included everything from the nitty-gritty of using forensic tools such as EnCase to drill down into the metadata of a document and analyze its unique MD5 hashing, to open discussions on matters of law and policy with federal district court judges Paul W. Grimm and John M. Facciola. Beyond just the substantive knowledge I gained that week, it was also a tremendous networking opportunity that I took full advantage of. There was a wide range of professionals in attendance, from the head of eDiscovery at UBS (who flew in from Geneva for the week) to, well, me. A lowly contract attorney trying to find his way in a familiar, yet new, world. Overall, it was an incredibly productive week, which is good, because it was a costly one. The program itself was $3000, but I also took a week off from the project I was working on (and my employers at the time were good enough to allow me to do so without letting me go), which resulted in approximately $2000 of lost revenue. Another hit to the credit card…

While the Georgetown program was great as an overall primer and provided an excellent “big picture” look at eDiscovery, the next program I took was purely practical. In July, I spent two days at kCura’s “Relativity Administrator Training” program. This was a crash course on the nuts and bolts of working on the backside of Relativity, a program that most contract attorneys should be intimately familiar with. It was boring. But it was also incredibly informative, and helped me understand the system’s underpinnings in a vital way: from how to create work spaces, to loading documents to running productions and much more.

The last two steps I took were to have a professional resume writer give my crappy old CV an extreme makeover, and to put a dedicated eDiscovery recruiter service to work for me. The first was arguably the more painful of the two, at least financially. My resume at the time was pretty awful looking; the biggest issue was what to do with the twenty some odd doc review gigs I had worked on over the course of the past year and a half. Simply listing them all out, with largely repetitive descriptions (“worked at x firm, reviewed documents for substance and privilege, drafted privilege log entries, zzzz”) wasn’t working. I knew I needed help to fix this in order to make the best impression possible in that tiny window of time in which a hiring associate is looking over my resume (one of a stack of potentially hundreds). A quick Google search will reveal a plethora of resume writing services out there, many that are specifically tailored to attorneys. I sent out emails to several services, telling my story and trying to get their sales pitch for what they could do for me. I eventually went with an independent attorney resume writer named Shauna Bryce. Shauna is a Harvard educated lawyer who has worked on law firm hiring committees and now writes and runs her business around legal career counseling. Although her services are expensive compared to some of the other options out there, I found that the level of personal care and attention to detail that she brought to my resume was invaluable. It made me look like a totally different (and much, much more polished) candidate. Both substantively and stylistically, the difference was striking.

Finally, I found a good eDiscovery recruiter service. The company that I worked with is called TRU Staffing Partners. Terrible name, but it is because of them that I got the job I have today. I worked primarily with Cara Petrie, who manages recruiting in the Washington, D.C. area, and Jared Coseglia, the president of the company. Once the process began, things came together more quickly than I ever could have anticipated. We talked through my resume over the phone and they got a feel for who I was and where I wanted to go. They found what is now my company who was hiring at the time, submitted my resume, and got me an interview with the head of the DC office. That interview went well, and I was then sent up to New York for a follow up interview with the management team there. That, too, went well, and approximately two agonizing weeks later, Cara called and gave me the good news. They were offering me the position of “Senior eDiscovery Project Manager.” Suffice it to say, I was some combination of elated, humbled, relieved, incredulous and truly, truly grateful. I accepted the offer and gave my two week notice for the project I was on (that agency thankfully let me finish out those final two weeks without cutting me as I feared they might).

And that was that. To those who have read the entirety of this opus you, too, have my gratitude for indulging me this long. As I stated at the outset, it is my hope that my story can serve not necessarily as a blue print for others who feel “stuck” on the carousel of document review to slavishly follow, but to dispel any cynical and misguided notions that to enter this line of work is tantamount to a career death sentence. Last time I checked, document review isn’t listed in any of the nine circles of Hell in Dante’s “Inferno,” and accordingly, “abandon all hope ye who enter here” should not be the mantra of those who pass through these doors. There is always hope.

So here you go – the real life contract attorney to permanent eDiscovery manager story. We hope you found this post as helpful as we do and get a lot of ideas for your own quest out of the document review world. Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment in the box below. We had multiple requests from readers to get into contact with the author. We are happy to relay any messages you may have to him. Just drop us an email under info@contractattrneycentral.com or use our contact form and we will make sure to forward your comments, questions, requests to connect to Lawfool. 

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13 thoughts on “Temp Document Reviewer to Permanent Senior eDiscovery Project Manager – A Real Contract Attorney Story – PART 2

  1. I can not believe I only now stumbled over your site. This post is exactly what I needed reading. I feel stuck in the document review world for far too long and all my previous attempts to secure a job outside this area failed miserably. Your tip about getting some professional resume makeover makes a lot of sense to me. having read this post, I just looked at mine again and am sure it could do with some work-over. Great tip! Thanks, HVR

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    • Hi Harry, you are very welcome here! I’m pleased you’ve found us and hope the site offers some advice and interest for you. Do take a look around at some of the previous posts – you will likely find more interesting and useful stuff here, given that we concentrate solely on making the document review world more positive and fruitful (that’s the hope, at least!).
      Look out for our post next week, which gives advice on what not to do: mistakes made by both contract attorneys and project managers in the e-discovery world.
      Glad you enjoy it here.
      All the best,

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  2. Thanks for sharing the specifics of your adventure, Lawfool. I hope it will inspire others to “take action”. Your initiative to do so WILL be noticed by the right people.

    I am curious to know what your daily tasks are in your new position. What kind of work are you required to do day-to-day for the service provider? I have found that the project manager title doesn’t always clearly describe the tasks at every company.

    My follow-up question would be – what is your favorite thing about your new position?

    I love your honesty in describing the training as boring and the recruiter name as terrible. I also like (and agree with) that you decided to invest in yourself, with the hope that it would come back to you later.

    Congrats on your accomplishment. Kudos!

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  3. Well-written and highly encouraging. I too am a document reviewer, but for a law firm and also involved in the other aspects of paralegal duties. I have considered a career overhaul too and have been recommended by our litigation support manager to consider project managing document reviews. I am curious whether these types of firms staff non-attorneys such as myself for such positiions and practically speaking…where to start (to identify such firms)?…thanks again for the interesting read.

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  4. Thank you! This article was very well written and informative. I too am stuck in the document review cycle and can’t seem to break out. I try to attend networking events, but am constantly frowned upon because I’m just a doc reviewer/contract attorney. It’s very hard and depressing at times, to say the least. I hope to break out of this rut at some point, but for now, doc review has given me some financial stability. Thanks again! Great 2-part article!

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  5. A very inspiring article. I’m taking a break from e-discovery/document review due to childcare obligations, but I’m always curious to see how people break out of the rut. I appreciate the honesty, kindness and helpful perspective of the author. I would definitely like to hear the nuts and bolts of his new job, as much as he feels comfortable revealing without violating confidentiality. No need to know the name of his company or their clients, but details re the vendor perspective and vendor duties would be great. I may be coming back to this line of work in a couple of years, if it hasn’t been completely automated by then. Hopefully I can use columns like this as a guidepost to career growth and options.

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  6. I’m glad this story is out there. I too went from a contract attorney to a project manager at a well respected vendor, and I could not have done it without the help and encouragement of those already in the industry. There were people who would speak to me for over an hour simply on strategies for getting your foot into the door, what articles to read, who to contact. I hope the story above and mine encourages those in the “doc review” to maybe step out and see what else is out there in terms of making a career for yourself in ediscovery.

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  7. We love to have recommendations to good attorneys/doc reviewers from doc review companies. My last hire was from one of these recommendations. Doc review can be all of the things said in this two part posting and finding someone who can learn from it effectively is important and that person will usually be a good hire.

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