The CLSP Designation, eDiscovery and Lit Support-Are You Properly Certified? You May Not Be!

Buyer Beware! eDiscovery and Litigation Support are an important part of modern litigation and plays a major role  in the job duties of a paralegal.  Knowing the ins and out of electronic discovery well is a major boost to a paralegal's resume and assists their ability to land the bigger and better jobs.  Gaining the proper certification in this field and earning the CLSS designation provides the proper credentials for this aspect of litigation.  The difference between being able to say you are certified, or that you simply acquired a certificate, could mean gaining the job of your dreams, getting the raise you need, or, in the case of false certification, it could mean the loss of your job.  

See the chart below showing the difference between these certifications, and links to CLSS exam organizations.  

Wikipedia states:"According to the American Bar Association, there is a distinction between "certified" paralegals and "certificated" paralegals and the terms are not interchangeable. Certified Paralegals have passed a professional exam while certificated paralegals have completed a paralegal program or other preparatory education, seminar, CLE, etc. through an academic institution."

Proper Certification:
It is somewhat well known that a paralegal can be certified by NALA and NFPA as a Certified Paralegal.  These are the only entities providing the rigorous exam that allows paralegals to place the "CP" of "RP" after their name.However, a paralegal may also be certified  in eDiscovery and Litigation Support.  As it is with the NALA and NFPA exams, there are only two entities that provide the legitimate testing that certifies a paralegal in eDiscovery and Litigation Support, the Organization of Legal Professionals and the Association of Certified eDiscovery Specialists. The Organization of Litigation Professionals partnered with Pearson, a $7 billion company that specializes in certification exams.  It took OLP almost 2 years of planning, along with 27 top OLP experts and 5 Ph.D's from Pearson who provided the technology and the science of psychometrics for the test.  Both OLP and ACEDS follow the guidelines set down by the NCCA - National Commission for Certifying Agencies (also known as ICE)  which holds to best practices and standards. 

Improper Certification: 
As a sharp contrast, there are eDiscovery and Litigation Support companies providing services and software to law firms across the country. These vendors provide short run seminars and give a certificate at the end of the these three - four day seminars. However, unfortunately, they are calling the certificate "certification". This is a mistake.  Many of my colleagues believe themselves to be certified in eDiscovery and Litigation Support after taking these marketing seminars. They are using credentials such as CLSP.  (Certified Litigation Support Professional) which is not from a legally defensible certification exam as defined by NCCA.  A recent browsing of paralegal profiles on LinkedIn turned up several paralegals using this designation with Litworks noted as the course of study.

eDiscovery companies such as Kroll and Litworks, for example, are currently offering three to four day seminars in several cities across the U.S  that typically cost anywhere from $1200.00 to $2500.00 per person and advertising them as Certified Litigation Support or Certified eDiscovery. Litworks has been managing a a facility in Atlanta since 2006. Kroll is based in Minneapolis. Litworks, as posted on their website as of October 1, 2014, informing students they are taking "Certified" courses and, at least in the past, may use the "CLSP" designation after their name.  Kroll's website recently advertised Certification Workshops in a number of locations around the US this year for $395 each. 

Certificate vs Certification (from the University of Michigan)

Often the question is asked, "What's the difference between earning a certificate and certification?" To clarify the distinction between certificate and certification a comparison chart has been provided below.

Results from an educational process.Results from an assessment process.
For both newcomers and experienced professionals alike.Typically requires some amount of professional experience
Awarded by educational programs or institutions.Awarded by a third party, standard-setting organization.
Indicates completion of a course or series of courses with specific focus; is different than a degree granting program.Indicates mastery/competency as measured against a defensible set of standards, usually by application or exam.
Course content set a variety of ways (faculty committee; dean; instructor; occasionally through defensible analysis of topic area).Standards set through a defensible, industry-wide process (job analysis/role delineation that results in an outline of required knowledge and skills).
Usually listed on a resume detailing education; may issues a document to hang on the wall.Typically results in a designation to use after one's name (C.P.H., C.H.E.S.); may result in a document to hang or keep in a wallet.
Is the end result; demonstrates knowledge of course content at the end of a set period in time.Has on going requirements in order to maintain; holder must demonstrate he/she continues to meet requirements. C.E.U.'s are continuing education units. For example, RN's and other allied health professionals are required to complete annual C.E.U.'s to keep their licensure.
Provides the basis and gateway for achieving a degree.No relationship with attaining higher education or degree.

The terms certification and credentials and designation are also often confused or used incorrectly.
  • Credentials attest to someone's knowledge or authority. Credentials can be a degree earned, e.g., M.P.H. and/or a list of published papers.
  • Certification is a process that results in credentials.
  • designation simply refers to the letters someone uses after their name (M.D., Ph.D., C.P.A.).
My opinion is this:
Know the difference between "certified" and receiving a certificate for attending a seminar. Do your research on your own. Call any of the organizations and talk with them directly. If you are satisfied that what you are getting meets your requirements, then it is up to you to decide whether to proceed. However, as the old saying goes, "Buyer Beware." In this case, "Buyer, for heaven's sake, know the difference."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good information you've provided!

I would add that until hiring managers start requesting certain certifications they are mostly for your own reasons. I personally do not think eDiscovery itself is rocket science (I manage a global fortune 50 eDiscovery program).

Most programs that I have seen are extremely overpriced offering very little value.

I personally am more interested in the technical skill set someone brings to the table. That is where the value of an eDiscovery person is IMHO.

Thanks for sharing!

Steve Sanchez

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