eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Trends: OLP Response to LTN Article Regarding eDiscovery Certifications


Yesterday, Law Technology News (LTN) published an article entitled E-Discovery Certification: Sham Exams?, by Patrick Oot, which questioned the validity of several of the eDiscovery certification programs that, in their words, are “sprouting up faster than dandelions in May grass”.

As you can imagine, the article did not go over swimmingly with organizations that sponsor eDiscovery certification programs.

One of those is The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP).  Chere Estrin is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the OLP.  Yesterday, I interviewed her regarding the LTN article and the OLP certification program.  Here is the interview:

What is the OLP’s response to the article published in Law Technology News characterizing eDiscovery Certifications as “Sham Exams”?

It appears as though LTN was trying hard to get some juicy August ratings by using an exaggerated title for the article.  The title of the negative article was placed right over the positive articles making it appear as though OLP fell into the sham characterization.  This layout caused many people to categorize all eDiscovery certifications as sham exams.  That is not so.

General readers would have to know details of the differences between OLP and other organizations to realize that Mr. Oot was not at all talking about OLP.  For example, he says that he is against the "for-profit" organization providing certification – OLP is a non-profit.  He says that the organization takes $995.00 for the exam.  OLP charges $695.00 for prep courses including exam and only $275.00 to take the exam without the prep course.

Further, he states that the Board is made up of unrecognizable names.  OLP has a blue ribbon panel of household and well-respected names:  Mary Mack, Herb Roitblat, Doug Mitchell, Tom O'Connor, Browning Marean, (former member), Mr. Oot's partner, Anne Kershaw (former member),  Professor Sara Hook, Steve Lief, Laura Zubulake (the plaintiff) and other well-respected professionals. Most importantly, Patrick Oot himself was a member of OLP's Board of Governors for well over a year.  He only resigned to take a position with the SEC as that entity did not allow its attorneys to sit on boards.  It is clear that Mr. Oot was not talking about OLP.

What differentiates the OLP eDiscovery Certification Program from other programs in the industry?

The Certified eDiscovery Professional (CeDP) was developed in partnership with Pearson, a $7 billion corporation with a division that specializes in testing and certification exams.  Pearson has developed well-known exams such as LSATs, GRE, GMATS, to name just a few.

OLP provided the content from over 30 top experts in the field in the US and internationally. The exam was then peer-reviewed by subject matter experts. Top experts include partners in major firms, in-house legal department counsel, well-known consultants, Ph.D.s, authors, litigation support experts, household icons in the industry and law professors.

Pearson provided 5 Ph.D.s who specialize in psychometrics and certification exams.  Pearson is also provides the technology and over 1,000 secured testing environments around the world.  The test has been in development for over 18 months.  OLP has been in no rush to market.

Certification exams differ from certificate programs because certifications include an experience component. Certificate programs, on the other hand, award certificates once a course of study has been completed. They do not require previous work experience.  Taking a course and taking a test about what you took in a course is not certification. That would be like saying you pray in church and went to Sunday school, so therefore you are a priest.  Something is definitely missing.

To be certified, the exam must meet certain standards set down by the National Association of Certifying Associations, which the CeDP does.  It is given in over 1,000 worldwide secured environments with attending proctors.

The CeDP Is a rigorous, objective, sound and knowledge-based exam without the influence of products or services.  It is not given by a vendor secretly pushing their products or services.

The science of psychometrics was applied to the exam. Psychometrics is a combination of psychology and measurement whereby measurement professionals review performance statistics for every item and make recommendations for examination improvement, ensuring that the range of item difficulty is appropriate and that problem items are identified for review.

What do you think it will take for any eDiscovery certification program to be accepted as a standard for certifying knowledge of eDiscovery best practices?

Overcoming fear.  Fear is the biggest career blocker. Generally, those who are self-taught fear that they won't be able to pass the exam.  Right now, other than OLP, there is no comprehensive eDiscovery training other than webinars, a seminar here and there or a book. Even conferences can only give overviews.   It is true that Georgetown University has a program but I believe it is only about a week long, is limited to a certain low volume number that can attend and cost something like $5,000.  While it has a reputation as a top-of-the-line program, it cannot reach the masses.  There are over 1 million licensed attorneys in the U.S., over 300,000 paralegals and an untold number of other legal professionals in the field of litigation – the vast majority of whom have not had formal training.

eDiscovery is different than any other practice area the law has ever seen in that it marries technology with the law.  Very few people are trained in both arenas.  It is not unreasonable to expect certification and formal education to be required in order to provide top of the line, expert services to clients.

Statistics bear out that those fields that turn to certification begin to produce higher paid employees – as much as 10 – 20% higher than those without certifications.   I also think money talks and with this tough market, legal professionals are going to realize that employers value the employee who takes the time and effort to get formally educated and to stand up and not be afraid to be tested on what they know.

Bear in mind, that certification does not "certify" that someone is an expert.  It is only a tool to ensure that a professional understands the core competencies.

Where can our readers go to find out more about the OLP certification program?

They can go to http://www.theolp.org/Default.aspx?pageId=401708 for more information.

About Chere: In addition to being the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Organization of Legal Professionals.  She is the CEO of the National Association for Freelance Legal Professionals and CEO of Estrin Education, Inc.  She is the Editor-in-Chief of KNOW Magazine and SUE for Women Litigators.  Ms. Estrin was formerly with two major law firms; a top executive in a $5 billion corporation; and President of The Estrin/Quorum Group, a division of Quorum Litigation (acquired by Kroll Ontrack).  She has written 10 books on legal careers and has been interviewed by Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, National Law Journal and other prestigious publications.  She is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Chamber of Commerce Women of Achievement Award, an Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year finalist and a California Lawyer Magazine LAMMIE award winner. She can be reached at chere.estrin@theolp.org.

So, what do you think? Have you been through a certification program, such as the CeDP program from the OLP?  Please share any comments you might have or if you'd like to know more about a particular topic.