The Legal Beat
New Program Offers Law School Grads An Alternative Career Path
Posted on Tuesday September 17, 2019
I’m a fan of education. Anything that makes people smarter and creates opportunities. Who doesn’t want to get behind an initiative that generally contributes to the good of the legal community? Through my affiliation with the University of Florida Levin College of Law and their eDiscovery program run by Professor William “Bill” Hamilton, I recently learned about a program that is creating new career paths for law school graduates. It’s a path that does not involve the typical grind of working at a law firm.
UF Law’s eDiscovery Program is of course well-known for providing law students hands-on knowledge of eDiscovery through its Distinguished Speaker Series and its annual eDiscovery conference. And on March 19, 2020, UF Law will host its eighth annual eDiscovery conference, an event not bogged down in vendor sponsorship or prohibitive costs. Just education — all day. In-person or streamed live online. And it’s free to students (full disclosure: I’m on the conference planning committee).
UF Law has now partnered with international eDiscovery company Consilio to offer graduates unique opportunities to learn the business of eDiscovery and practice law. This is nothing new for UF Law. Every year, before the eDiscovery conference, the law school hosts eDiscovery CareerFest, during which alternative career paths for law school graduates are explored through presentations by companies in the legal service and technology industry.
I spoke last week with several of the people who put this new internship program together, and below is the distillation of these conversations.
The program is referred to as the Consilio Summer Internship Program. It functions in the same way as law firm summer associate programs. Consilio came to the UF Law campus to recruit, just as law firms do, and they interviewed students for the program.
It used to be that law students “summered” at a firm, accepted an offer, and later joined as an associate. In six or seven years, they had an inkling as to whether they were in line for partner. That career path now is more elusive. Now students can intern at Consilio, learn the eDiscovery business, and decide whether it’s a path they’d like to pursue.
The program is the brainchild of Consilio sales executive Canaan Himmelbaum, who approached UF Law’s Bill Hamilton with the idea. UF Law obviously has a robust summer recruitment program and they have facilitated other internships in the past. “What was different this past year is that Consilio developed a formal structured program designed to persuade UF Law students to accept summer positions that translate into offers of permanent employment upon graduation,” said Hamilton. “This seemed like the perfect complement to our CareerFest Day.”
UF Law Dean Laura Rosenbury said, “UF Law is excited that Consilio is providing alternative career pathways for students interested in the ways technology is transforming the legal profession. This partnership helps students acquire the skills necessary to build and invent exciting futures. “
Himmelbaum says students are exposed to every aspect of the eDiscovery lifecycle. They start by participating in a sales call or client meeting. They may sit in on a project kick-off call and then they will shadow a technician as they perform a data collection, see how ESI is processed, and sit in on a document review. Along the way, the student is observing and learning the tools of eDiscovery, gaining an understanding of project management, and they see the strategies and tactics used to work on and produce a successful project outcome for a real client.
“We are teaching law students project management skills, communication and client-interaction skills, and the use of technology to solve problems in legal practice,” says Himmelbaum. “You simply don’t learn how to practice these skills in law school.”
And they may get to practice law, too, because legal questions and issues frequently arise during litigation and eDiscovery disputes and working on these projects also means providing legal analysis.
For Sofie Marescalco and Aly Mariani, this internship seemed like a better fit. Sofie and Aly are both third-year law students and the first at UF Law to go through the Consilio program. Both will graduate in 2020 and both have accepted offers to work at Consilio upon graduation. “What made this program valuable to me,” Sofie says, “is the hands-on approach and the rotation through the different departments that enables us to get a holistic view of the EDRM and the eDiscovery lifecycle.”
Sofie and Aly both interviewed with law firms as well, but they did not feel that working at a firm was a good fit for them. Aly told me that “they immediately had me sold on the idea of working for Consilio.” And Sofie says that after comparing Consilio and law firm interviews, she just “found Consilio to be a better cultural fit.”
The eDiscovery business very much remains a service-driven industry. Companies like Consilio need recruits who have critical thinking skills, who can be client-facing, and who can solve client problems. “Sometimes our people are interacting with clients at a very high level. It could be the GC at a Fortune 500 company or a partner at an international law firm,” says Lou Mancuso, Global Director of Recruiting at Consilio. “The fact that they have a law degree — and all of the skills and training that comes from law school — is just a huge bonus,” he says.
The bottom line is that this program benefits not just law school graduates and Consilio, but also the eDiscovery industry generally. It offers students an alternative career path and Consilio gets to mold young, talented people in their way of doing things. But smart, logical, driven young people — that’s great for the industry overall.
“And students can expect that in a few short years they will be earning the same money and working on the same exciting cases that may have motivated them to go to law school in the first place,” suggested Himmelbaum.
Sofie Marescalco and Aly Mariani are both planning to take the bar next year and both feel that they are prepared to practice law — just not along the traditional path law school graduates take.
Mike Quartararo is the managing director of eDPM Advisory Services, a consulting firm providing e-discovery, project management and legal technology advisory and training services to the legal industry. He is also the author of the 2016 book Project Management in Electronic Discovery. Mike has many years of experience delivering e-discovery, project management, and legal technology solutions to law firms and Fortune 500 corporations across the globe and is widely considered an expert on project management, e-discovery and legal matter management. You can reach him via email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @edpmadvisory.