Forensic Focus recently asked a number of digital forensics and eDiscovery recruitment specialists to comment on the current state of the employment market. Here are their thoughts, please leave your comments below.
President, TRU Staffing Partners, US – http://www.trustaffingpartners.com
“The current state of affairs for employment in eDiscovery, Litigation Support, and Forensics can best be summarized in three statements: There is a bottleneck at the management and director level; there is an overwhelming demand for, and dwindling supply of, experienced project managers; and there remains an abundance of talent who want to become project managers but little opportunity for entry-level talent to break in to the industry.
Many managers and directors in the AmLaw 200 thought they would organically matriculate to the Fortune 1000 by leveraging their experience building revenue-generating departments towards creating corporate cost reduction centers. This did not happen for several reasons. The 2008 economy collapse coupled with the establishment of ECA & Predictive Coding as defensible solutions forced the price of eDiscovery processing down almost exponentially. Corporations could avoid investing in pools of talent and rely more effectively on smart outsourcing. Demand for sophisticated manager and director-level talent shifted to the vendors. Additionally, there are a finite amount of law firms in the AmLaw 200, and most of these firms had established leadership in place by 2010. There has been less opportunity for managers and directors in AmLaw because those jobs are taken!
With leadership in place in most law firms, vendors, and consultancies, the demand for talent has exploded in the middle of the market. In looking at our searches over the last 12 months, and projecting anticipated search in the next 6 months, it is clear where the demand for talent will reside: 60% eDiscovery Project Managers/coordinators, 15% business development professionals, 12.5% lit analysts/processors, 5% forensic examiners, 5% manager/director level roles, 2.5% other.
We represent many individuals who are looking to break into eDiscovery business as analysts and project managers. There are many emerging educational outlets for people to get the skills necessary to become attractive to employers at an entry or sophomore level. The need for big-picture EDRM education coupled with practical technical training is essential to a candidate’s investment potential. Forensic professionals have an easier time finding entry-level work in corporations and consultancies primarily because their educational curriculum and certification has been institutionalized at the university level, while litigation support and eDiscovery education remains less standardized.”
Senior Recruitment Consultant, Warner Scott, UK – http://www.warnerscott.com
“The computer and mobile device forensic market has been fluctuating in the last couple of years. The world economy and, closer to home, the ongoing heavy cuts in public sector spending have meant that digital forensic organisations that are reliant on law enforcement and government contracts have had to suffer redundancies in technical and support staff. However, many of these organisations are now starting to focus on the private sector which has seen an increase in workload, hence a need to recruit staff. Typically these organisations seek experienced Digital Forensic Investigators and Managers who can ‘hit the ground running’. Some organisations are willing to take on less experienced graduates with a degree of workplace experience.
The E-Discovery and Litigation Support market remains active. Large business advisory organisations continue to seek the best e-Discovery professionals for roles in the UK and worldwide. Typically they seek candidates with technical skills in platforms such as Relativity, Ringtail, Concordance, Clearwell etc. as well as Data Analytical skills. In addition global banks are continuing to approach us for similarly skilled staff for in-house roles worldwide.
Internationally, large consultancy firms with offices in the Middle East, Asia and other emerging markets continue to seek the cream of talent to grow their teams in these areas.”
Director, LTS Legal Technology Staffing, US – http://www.ltsjobs.com
“With the recession still looming and unemployment lingering in a stagnant haze, the job climate within the eDiscovery, Litigation Support and Computer Forensics market is showing indications of rippling impact, yet remains substantially resilient and insulated from severe economic blows.
A common trend we have seen is an increase in temporary positions, indicating that although business is increasing, many employers are hiring with caution, and many are “gun shy” about committing to permanent staff. With the courtship period extended, employees may find themselves increasingly ‘under the radar’ and expected to do more, with less. Wise employees recognize that within each challenge lies an opportunity. Thus, prudent consideration should always be given to new possibilities when presented.
The commonly held misconceptions that temporary work is a “black mark” on a resume, and that that working in various contract assignments labels one as a “job hopper” is a fading perception. Temporary work offers employees exposure to a variety of different environments, processes, techniques, and a chance to work with new software tools that they otherwise would not obtain exposure to in one position alone. This diverse experience can significantly help “fast track” an employee’s career.
For example, consider the similarities and differences between Summation and Concordance; as well as IPRO and LAW. While these tools are similar in function and purpose, it may only take a few months to master the tool’s counterpart once you understand the core principles. The ability to include all four software tools on a resume, as opposed to just two, will afford you greater consideration and marketability, especially in a competitive job climate where employers are looking for candidates who can “hit the ground running” on day 1, with little flexibility for ramp up time.
While still an employer’s marketplace, most hiring managers are afforded the luxury of being picky. Most hiring authorities within the Litigation Support / E-Discovery industry are looking for two important qualities in a prospective hire: firstly, recent (preferably current), hands-on exposure with the newest E-Discovery software technology tools and secondly examples of experiences (e.g. advising counsel and clients on Rule 26 (b)(2), creating bit-by-bit, sector-by-sector drive images etc.) that will transfer.
As the market crawls its way back to life, the competition for each open job is greater than ever. Thus, it is imperative to remain current with technology and trends, and understand your marketability strengths and weaknesses. It is the successful employee that lends a discerning ear to unforeseen possibilities and explores them discreetly.”
Recruitment Manager, Red Snapper Group – Forensic Skills, UK – http://www.forensicskills.co.uk
“The market for Digital Forensics and e-Discovery has started very strong in 2012. We have noticed a decrease/pressure on salaries for pure mobile forensic skills but a strong demand and salaries holding up well in other areas. Companies are adapting to cuts from the public sector by diversifying services and looking to tap the corporate markets. We have noticed that companies that have specialised in one specific area previously are now looking to step up a level e.g. Mobile Forensic companies adding more Computer Forensic offerings and Collections and Analysis companies wanting to add more review skills to complete their e-Discovery offer.
Graduate candidates wanting to make a move from IT with very strong SQL, SQL Scripts and Database skills are being considered at the same level possibly even in favour of MSc Forensics candidates for processing and data analytics roles. It is the collections and processing that have been the busiest areas with review only providing the minority of roles. There has been a demand for strong legal experience at the review end with a law degree often being required. There is a very large in-flux of Degree and MSc candidates coming to market with little or no experience and competition at this level is very high.
Large corporate companies don’t yet seem to have realised the cost savings they can make with the right software platforms e.g. Ringtail, Blackthorn etc and a few internal staff of their own. Most corporates still seem to outsource much of their business.
We are finding clients are ever more responsive to us offering flexibility with the way we work with them as they try to manage their fluctuating workflows. We are providing more contract and temporary staff options as clients ascertain if their demand will be consistent enough for a permanent position.”
Director, Proprius Recruitment Ltd (Specialists in IT & Information Security & Risk), UK – http://www.propriusrecruitment.com
“As IT & Information Security specialists we are at the forefront of demand for staff with specific skills and experience, particularly within the commercial market. Over the past 5 years there has been an increase in demand for both ethical hackers and computer forensic specialists primarily as firms begin to establish more mature IT Security environments. With ever increasing digital methods to conduct business comes a targeted environment to both protect and manage especially with digital crime and insider threat on the increase. Key tools are the ability to test, protect, investigate and if required, prosecute and within many commercial businesses there are choices – whether to bring the services in-house or to use highly specialised consultancies.
In-house forensic investigator roles tend to be fairly self sufficient and are usually slightly adrift of the usual IT Security teams, building relationships with legal teams and technology alike. Some highly mature security environments have worked out that extensive cost savings can be made by bringing in small teams of investigators and building capabilities such as forensic labs on site. This is still relatively rare, in such a large scale at least, and the lab set up costs can be prohibitive for some, however it is being discussed at executive levels across multiple environments including financial services, utilities, media and online business which means that there is a slow but steady increase in demand for investigators with solid forensic skills.
Progressively this also means that the move towards forensic services and e-Discovery capability is ramping up both in consulting firms and in some cases within the business itself. The most common of these demands is within top tier and niche consulting practices and more recently this has increased tenfold. The difficulty, however, is that many of the roles have not only a requirement for the knowledge and skills but also for a ‘consultative approach and manner’ as well as high levels of academic achievement. Notoriously, those who have operated e-Discovery areas within law firms and started as legal support analysts, clerks or even police teams for example, have not arrived through an academic route and there is a shortage of degree educated e-Discovery analysts entering the profession. There are some forensic specialists who have taken the leap across but they are still in the minority and the best advice to those seeking employment in these areas is to ensure you support the experience you have with academic and professional certifications and technologies.
Overall, the criteria within the firms seeking these professionals are highly exacting although generally forensic and e-Discovery roles are on the increase which bodes well for the industry as a whole.”
Managing Consultant, Specialist Solutions, UK – http://www.specialistsolutionsuk.co.uk
“Let’s start by looking back at 2007 when I first got involved within the industry and CF skills were in high demand and phone analysts were worth their weight in gold! Most organisations were actively recruiting, and in turn salaries were rising on almost a monthly basis – good candidates could command almost any salary they thought they were worth.
Moving to late 2008 and 2009 when the credit crunch hit the industry, many senior practitioners at the upper end of the pay scale found themselves facing redundancy. Many companies took the opportunity to cut cost and follow the general trend in the business world of letting higher paid employees go, many private CF firms put recruitment on hold, and/or replaced senior guys with cheaper less experienced candidates. Interestingly enough it was around this time that E-Discovery skills really became in demand and remain so very much today.
2010 and while traditional CF skills were flat-lining in terms of demand, E-Discovery skills spiked, led by the large professional service firms and consultancies. From then till now the situation has not changed much. Candidates that are familiar with the whole EDRM model, candidates that have project experience from cradle to grave, candidates that are highly technical, with skills in SQL/Access, review platforms and scripting, programming, as well as having excellent communication and interpersonal skills are in big demand. Many companies are always open to taking on candidates at the mid-tier level (around £40K-£50K salary level), and I could place somebody every week with that profile!
2011 and the public sector cuts hit; many firms that relied on the Police and public sector work found they were losing business, and lesser well known or smaller firms picked up much of that work and they took on mainly graduates.
Now we’re in 2012 and there are many opportunities out there at various levels. Although many firms are top heavy at the moment which means senior manager roles are less in demand, junior and graduate roles do often come up but still require some practical experience.”