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What the Experts Say About e-Discovery Certifications

McKenna Brown

From the very start of “e-Discovery Certifications: Why, Which, and in What Order,” a session at Relativity Fest 2019, one thing was clear: The Relativity Certified Administrator (RCA) certification reigned supreme.

“The RCA is the single most important certification for professionals in e-discovery,” said Sarah Roberts, director of recruitment and account management at TRU Staffing Partners and the session’s moderator. “It’s the first eliminator when discussing hiring.”

Sarah and the three panelists—Martha Louks, director of technology services at McDermott Will & Emery; Mary Mack, CEO and chief legal technologist of the EDRM; and Sean Neilsen, senior certification specialist at Relativity—agreed that the RCA was the most impactful certification in the e-discovery industry. Sarah added that one out of every four job requests she sees requires or desires a candidate with their RCA.

But it’s not your only option.

Navigating the Maze of Certifications

To start the session, Sarah walked the attendees through a series of slides showing all the certification options in the legal field. The first slide started with just a few of the most common certifications, and each slide added a concentric circle of even more—and more, and more—cert options.

By the time she flipped to her last slide, filled to the brim with acronyms, the question at the heart of the session was obvious: Where do you start?

The panelists had some thoughts.

 “If you want to go deep into the technical side, start with the RCA,” Martha said. “Then you can start determining how you want to branch your career out from there.”

Sean mentioned the Relativity Certified User exam as a great starting point and added that the RelativityOne Certified Pro has become Relativity’s fastest-growing certification.

He also made sure to talk about the importance of leaning on others as you prepare to take an exam.

“It’s always great to find at least a study buddy, if not a study group,” he said. “We do have the Community site where you can find other people who are studying for an exam, so you can connect there. We also have a wealth of study materials available.”

Certifications Outside Relativity

The world of certifications extends far beyond Relativity, and it’s important to take your interests and ambitions into account.

Mary recalled the “certification palooza” she embarked on after getting her law degree, citing the CEDS and CISSP certifications as particularly valuable.

“I think an Office 365 cert would be great if you want to go on a forensics path,” Martha said. “There’s a whole slew of certs for the forensics folks.”

“We actually get a lot more requests for Office 365,” Sarah added. “It’s come up a lot more in the last six months than in the last three years.”

Martha also called out the difference between a certificate and a certification—a certificate generally signals the completion of an educational program, whereas a certification demonstrates the holder’s mastery of skills or knowledge.

“If you’re just starting out, I’d start with a certificate just to get the baseline knowledge, then move on to a certification,” she said.

The Value of a Certification

Toward the end of the session, Sean highlighted the dynamic nature of Relativity’s exams.

“We always want our certifications to be valid and relevant and adopted,” he said. “We’re always looking to see where our certifications can add value.”

At that point, a paralegal professor from Seattle raised his hand with a comment: Relativity certifications were changing his students’ lives. Many of them worked in low-paying retail jobs before they were trained on Relativity, he said, and now they were making $60,000 a year right out of school.

The panelists grinned and agreed.

Martha imparted one last word of wisdom, directed especially at those new to the e-discovery world.

“Do not be afraid to try these certifications and fail,” she said. “It’s not a bad thing. It’s an opportunity to find out what you don’t know.”

Illustrating the Diverse Value of Professional Certifications

McKenna Brown is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, specializing in content development.