The eDiscovery Answer to “What Do You Do?”

[EDRM Editor’s Note: The opinions and positions are those of Aaron Patton.]

Explaining what I do is hard.

How do I summarize a job that’s more than one thing, a little less than everything, and that only exists in a specialized area where technology and legal practice overlap? There are some annual holiday blog posts that poke fun at how hard it is to explain jobs to family and friends, but humor only highlights the problem.

Image: Aaron Patton aka Gates Dogfish.

And if you find your own explanations, examples, and analogies aren’t working very well, you are not alone.

The Curse of Knowledge

To make everything worse, most of us have the curse of knowledge. So even if we could just say what we do, it would be so full of internal and industry jargon that it might not mean anything to anyone.

Image: Aaron Patton aka Gates Dogfish.

I understand what I do because I grew into my job over 15 years. Many of you are in the same boat. So how can we explain successfully in a single sentence what took years to understand? There’s no way — or is there?

The Problem is the Question — Not the Response

In Adam Leipzig’s 2013 TED talk: “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes,” I found a better question than “What do you do?”

Adam proposes a 5-question approach to craft your “Life Purpose” statement, and in the process of working through his model, I discovered my answers had the added benefit of helping me explain what I really do in my life.

So let’s look at the 5 questions and my initial answers:

  1. Who are you? – My name is Aaron.
  2. What do you do, in the broadest sense? – I provide eDiscovery consulting services to law firms and corporations.
  3. For whom you do it? – I do it mostly for lawyers.
  4. What do those people want and need? – They need guidance and help spotting issues.
  5. How do those people change as a result? – They become better advocates for their clients.

WHOA! Question #5 is the real inquiry – it’s the whole game. It’s one of those rare moments when you look at a result and realize that the seemingly mundane things you do add up to something great!

When I heard question 5, I paused the video, closed my eyes to think it through, and then I changed my answer to question #2.

I don’t just “provide eDiscovery consulting services to law firms and corporations.” I help lawyers be better advocates for their clients! 

Image: Aaron Patton aka Gates Dogfish.

What do you do?

  • I’m a trainer at the gym. NO… You’re helping people accomplish their goals!
  • I do construction. NO… You’re building a family’s future home!
  • I answered some emails and phone calls. NO… You kept a salesperson’s promise and won a loyal customer!

So, after thinking through question #5, what’s your new answer to “What do you do?” 


  • Aaron Patton

    Aaron is an attorney with specialized expertise in law and eDiscovery, providing support and advocacy throughout the discovery process. With 20 years of experience, he assists counsel in navigating review and production issues, as well as complex technical discussions during meet-and-confers and in correspondence. Aaron has also served as a technical liaison between service providers, bridging the communication gap between adversaries. His goal is to offer insights and recommendations to maximize the value of eDiscovery tools.