Bitcoins, blockchains, and “Edublocks”

Last month, National Public Radio’s Marketplace aired a short segment about “new” forms of education and certifications employers can look to in order to get a sense of a candidate’s expertise when making hiring decisions. One group called the ACT Foundation is advocating the use of blockchain technology (the same technology used to track and verify bitcoin trades worldwide – more on this next week) to create an educational currency to track educational blocks of time or “Edublocks” earned by individuals, regardless of the source. Companies and associations have been creating certifications for quite some time. I received my MCSE from Microsoft back in 1999 and many technology companies have followed suit. eDiscovery even has its own set of relevant certifications. I scrolled through my list of LinkedIn contacts and, of those that included a certification directly behind their name (ignoring “traditional” certifications such as Esq, JD, MD, MBA, Phd, etc.) the list included: CEDS, CeDP, CLSS, CFE, CPA, CFA, CIPM, CIPP, CFCS, PMP, CISSP, EnCE, CSP, GCIH, RCA, RRS, ACE, CFC, CHS, GLP, CPM, IGP, CSSGB, and I’m sure I missed a few. I started looking up the ones I didn’t recognize but got tired and stopped. The point being that these are (mostly) all related to eDiscovery and the list is only going to get longer. This makes having an educational currency sound like a pretty good idea. Each of us could include a link to our Edublock account the same way we include links to our LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook profiles.

Also last month, the eDiscovery Institute launched a beta trial of its Distance Learning Initiative with a Discovery Practice Certificate (no information on what the acronym will be yet. DPC? CDP? CiDP?). But the course is no joke, eventually comprising 40 classes plus electives, 14 of which are available now. According to the website,

Certificate candidates will be required to:
•Complete and pass (70%) 40 core courses that EDI will release between March 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016. 14 of the 40 are available now.
•Complete and pass (70%) at least 5 elective 60-minute courses (can be in-person at EDI events or online).
•Complete an 800-word publishable article about a related discovery topic. The article will be peer reviewed by EDI faculty and possibly published in the EDI Journal.
•Complete an online declaration and meet identification requirements attesting to the completion of the courses.
•Complete and pass (70%) at least two 60-minute elective programs annually to maintain “current” status.

 

The course is (nearly) free to enroll for now with no word about the cost after the beta program ends but the EDI claims that “education and training should be accessible to practitioners without hefty travel requirements and CLE registration funds.” Does the eDiscovery industry need another certification? I would argue that it does, even with the alphabet soup of certifications above notwithstanding. Even though eDiscovery is no longer new – perhaps we should drop the “e” and just call it “Discovery” – the changing nature of the law, the advance of technology, and the vast chasm of subject matter expertise between legal practitioners and technologists seems to point to a need for a uniform knowledge base. The Association of Certified Ediscovery Specialists has long issued its CEDS credential. At about $1500 it is substantially more expensive than the beta EDI courses but that may change when the EDI certification emerges from beta. The prerequisites are also quite different with CEDS requiring certain experience and passage of a single exam. By way of reference, an attorney who has worked solely eDiscovery for three years automatically fulfills the prerequisites and only needs to pass the exam, whereas the EDI certification requires taking and passing at least 45 individual courses. Different approaches for sure. The CEDS credential has been around for years but never really seemed to catch on. Perhaps due to the cost although I’m not sure. I have seen the study materials and even employed a few CEDS in the past. But I must admit that the CEDS credential didn’t make a big difference in my hiring decision and I’ve never seen a job posting listing CEDS as a requisite. Will a different certification standard catch on more effectively? Will it make a greater impact in hiring standards? It will be interesting to see how many enrollees the EDI gets and how many finish the rigorous path to certification.

What do you think, does the eDiscovery industry need another professional credential?