Turning e-Discovery from a Temp Job into a Permanent Legal Career

Litigation Support Guru Amy-Bowser Rollins (who is also an Executive Director for the national group Women in eDiscovery) interviewed Tracy Drynan, now a senior attorney in Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP's Litigation Group. 

At the time of the interview, Drynan was an e-discovery attorney with a master's degree. While the interview contacts plenty of information about some of the drawbacks of being a contract lawyer, Drynan also spend quite of bit of time discussing the under-appreciated advantages, including:

  • Flexible hours

  • Potential for travel

  • Relatively high pay (it's all compared to what)

  • Leave work at the door

  • Most importantly, development of a particular, marketable skill set

The term "contract attorney," Drynan says, "is a misnomer simply because it doesn't describe the skill set one actually develops while doing this type of work. And it is a skill set.... Most people don't give themselves credit -- and they certainly aren't given credit -- for the art. And it truly is an art form that you develop in mastering new technology quickly, assimilating massive amounts of information, and distilling it down".

Drynan argues that "dissecting information in a technological environment" is a "valuable" skill set a lot of law firm associates don't have, and that "more law firms are becoming aware of how to harness this skill set." 

Drynan herself made the transition from contract attorney into a highly coveted senior association position at top law firm. How did she make the change? She credits changing both her skill set and her mindset, with the help of a mentor. 

Essentially, she doubled-down. She committed to building a career rather than just surviving a job. Among her changes were upgrading her education and understanding of information governance and data management. She also worked as part of a "team that does deep dives and detailed fact development -- its highly analytical, as well as creative" to get away from coding. And she really developed a strong sense of the skill set she was building, and confidence that skill set was increasingly marketable and valuable as our economy becomes more and more data-driven.

She recommends some strategies other contract lawyers can use to get away from "battered attorneys' syndrome," the same phrase I used as a law firm associate to describe the abusive psychological cycle some lawyers endured. Among her suggestions are:

  • Keep up other legal skills

  • Network

  • Find a source of motivation and inspiration

  • Get a mentor

Here's the podcast: