How do you transition from Paralegal to Project Manager?

This is a question that in today’s legal market place, I’m getting asked a lot. I have my thoughts and recommendations but I’d love to hear from you too. What does it take to transition from being a senior litigation paralegal to an electronic discovery project manager?

There are lots of transferable skills including:

  • Communication (“legaleze”)
  • Understanding the scope and procedures of the discovery process
  • Agility in working on multiple projects at the same time with tight deadlines

What did I miss? I’m sure there are more.

What are the “new” skills that today’s paralegal needs to acquire in order to achieve success as an EDPM?

Here are a few of my key recommendations:

  • Technology – not just how to search and report from the discovery document database but rather an understanding of basic (to advanced) knowledge of IT infrastructure and systems (or simply, the difference between an e-mail server and a file server)
  • Communication – “legaleze” isn’t enough… status reports, budget vs actual spend, change management
  • Change management – how to manage the implications to the budget and the schedule if the scope changes in a way that holds project stakeholders accountable for those changes

Have you made this transition? What skills were you able to carry over from your days as a paralegal to your new career as an e-discovery project manager? Are you a recruiter? What skills do you recommend to your clients to look for in a qualified candidate? Are you a hiring manager? Does certification in e-discovery, litigation support and/or project management matter?



About lstrainer

I've been in the litigation support industry for over 25 years and have a passion for training. Teaching litigation support professionals how to fish for themselves is my primary objective.

7 thoughts on “How do you transition from Paralegal to Project Manager?

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  4. Great question. I do think taking courses through such organizations as The Organization of Legal Professionals and obtaining certification is a worthwhile investment in professional development.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa!
      I agree. Training is an important step and we are fortunate that there are many avenues available for training today… in addition to the one you mentioned paralegals wishing to explore e-discovery project management can look into The Association for Litigation Support Professionals, The American Society of Digital Forensics and E-Discovery, Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists, ILTA, Kroll and LitWorks as well as the various conferences, workshops, community college programs and self-directed learning opportunities. I am excited about the abundance of training and resources available today for e-discovery, litigation support and project management.

      • Greetings from Georgetown Paralegal! I constantly tell my students that paralegals really are “project managers!” In order to transition to an EDPM/PM Analyst position, a paralegal would absolutely need formal PM and ED training (although I’m sure we know lots of people who “fell” into their ED or LS positions!). We are developing a Lit Tech/ED/Proj Mgmt Track for our program, and working with our Prof Ed group to create a stand-alone Certificate in Lit Tech/ED/PM, plus a Legal Project Management course (all with the 35 hours necessary to sit for PMP exam). For our paralegal program, the Lit Tech/ED/PM track will give our students the knowledge necessary to create immediate value to employers as “para-technicals” in the Lit Support/ED field. I define a “para-technical” as a legal professional whose role requires legal knowledge, data management, and technical skills. Certifications are fantastic ways to further define yourself and your expertise/desire in a particular area (PM, eDiscovery, etc.) but having an education that provides applied skills in legal, IT, PM is what individuals, companies, firms, and clients will value most.
        HOYA SAXA!
        Kelly S. Holdcraft
        Director, Paralegal Studies Program
        Georgetown University

  5. Hi Kelly!
    Thanks for your comment! I agree that training and additional educational resources are a great way to make the transition. I am excited to learn that the paralegal studies program at Georgetown University offers e-discovery classes. There are currently only a handful of programs around the country that offer e-discovery education as part of their curriculum for paralegals. For those who do not have access to such a program, (my other site), provides another e-discovery learning opportunity that allows the individual to control how their knowledge gaps will be filled. Today’s fast-paced litigation environment doesn’t afford us as much time to learn on-the-job as I did 16 years ago. We are fortunate that there are so many options for paralegals to learn about e-discovery today.

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