Data discovery: The geek who joined the lawyer's nestNot all big data jobs are being snapped up by line-of-business pros. Entrepreneurial techies are capitalizing on the new business-IT blend as well, especially in industries where the data revolution has had a deep impact, such as the legal profession.
Take electronic discovery, which is now a multi-billion-dollar industry that accounts for the lion's share of costs associated with most litigation.
"A run-of-the-mill case used to involve 50GB to 100GB of data," says Craig Carpenter, VP of marketing for Recommind, a maker of predictive coding software that automates e-discovery by finding key documents while filtering out irrelevant ones. "These days a typical case can easily run 200GB to 300GB, and we're increasingly seeing cases involving several terabytes of data."
When discovery was largely paper-based, the job fell to paralegals and clerks. But as more companies began storing documents and communications digitally, discovery moved into the digital realm and technology-savvy people took over, notes Jeff Fehrman, vice president of forensics and consulting at professional services organization Integreon.
"Email administrators would be asked to collect mailboxes from certain individuals relevant to an investigation, or network administrators would be asked to retrieve document stores," he says. "All of these IT people were still responsible for doing their day-to-day jobs, but they were also asked to help with litigation. They ended up being pulled in different directions."
The result: a new field that combines both law and technological expertise. For example, Fehrman says his background is as a network/systems administrator, not an attorney. But he makes a point to read as much as possible about legal matters and emerging case law. Along with his understanding of the rules of civil procedure, this allows him communicate more effectively with attorneys.
"The people who deal with this data used to be either tech people or lawyers and paralegals," says Carpenter. "Either they knew the law, or they knew speeds and feeds. That's changed dramatically. We're finding that people on both sides of this need to be able to speak both languages. The hottest area in hiring today is people who understand both areas really well. "