TRU Trends: October 2021

Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)

ESI Sales Recruitment – The Game Is Back On

In 2020, TRU placed fewer business development professionals and received the least inbound interest in representation from e-discovery sales talent since 2010. 2020 also marked a historically low number of companies seeking to hire new sales talent. This is no longer the case. With the increase in recent acquisition activity, the rapid rise of software provider growth, and the resurgence of a strong, growing boutique/regional service provider marketplace, individual revenue generators are not only in high demand again – they are finally considering other opportunities. Safe from the uncertainty of pandemic-related litigation pauses, Q4 will usher in a surge of open headcount and curious job seekers in the ESI business development marketplace. New logos are looking to get their names on billboards by hiring marquee sales talent, and industry staples are throwing the kitchen sink at lateral hires driving $7MM or more in revenue annually. That’s the good news.

Here’s the challenge – do the best of the best want to sell for someone else? The answer is somewhere between maybe and not really, no. A remarkable trend has emerged over the last month. A wealth of very successful e-discovery business development professionals seeking representation are attempting to exit individual contribution and move completely into a role of substance over sales. They don’t want to move into sales leadership (which is typically the case with most individual contributors who’ve peaked in earning potential). They don’t want to do anything related to pre-sales consulting for vendors or software companies. They want to contribute in a full-time role to the health of a corporate client’s e-discovery approach and practices, a role akin perhaps to something broadly categorized as “legal operations.”

The challenge for like-minded professionals is an overwhelming dissonance between the total compensation of a highly successful e-discovery sales professional (the top 10% of whom are commanding close to seven-figure salaries) and that of a subject matter expert who does not drive revenue. Many believe that legal operations would be a logical transition where their ability to leverage the large-size scope and complexity of deals they have packaged and managed parlays into corporate cost efficiency and legal spend strategy/excellence. Unfortunately, the gap in take-home pay is hundreds of thousands of dollars, and most lose their appetite quickly.

e-Discovery sales professionals are struggling to figure out what’s next. They’ve made a lot of money. They might want to be entrepreneurs. They might want to sell for another logo. They might want to sell something else in another industry. They know enough to be dangerous but make too much and may not be quite experienced enough to compete for legal operations or the C-Suite. What now?

(Find out “What now?” next month in TRU Trends!)

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Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)
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