Posted on: July 23, 2015in Blog
Document Review Simplified - 9 Things Every Legal Team Should Know
This post explains nine questions legal teams should answer prior to beginning document review to prepare for an efficient workflow.
Many people understand what document review is and why it needs to be performed, but do they understand everything that should be considered prior to starting review? Based on my experience as a member of the Professional Consulting Group at D4, we have found that legal teams have varying degrees of understanding on what it takes to make document review workflows successful.
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Some case teams are aware of the complexities involved and do their best to employ best practices in order to avoid potential review pitfalls. However, too many case teams ignore expert advice and take perceived “shortcuts,” which adds additional expenses and lengthy delays to the overall review process.
Here is a list of 9 key points all legal teams should consider prior to starting document review.
1. Is native review or image review being performed?
Litigation review platforms have different functionalities available to reviewers depending on the type of document review being performed. Legal teams should take the time to understand the differences between native file and image review functionality in their chosen review platform, especially when it comes to tasks, such as printing.
- Native review is the review of ESI content in its current native source format. Almost all software companies develop their applications and native file viewers around other technologies, such as Oracle Stellent or QuickView Plus. This allows end-users to view native file content in one single platform without having to launch the original source file application. It is important to note that PDF files are considered native files by almost all litigation review platforms, not images. This common misconception about PDF files has been known to cause challenges during review and/or production.
Native files do not have set page counts. Page counts for native files are determined by a person’s individual computer settings when they open a file in its native source application. Page counts can change from computer to computer, which is one of the many reasons legal teams choose to convert ESI to image format.
- The process of converting ESI to image format for review is considered image review. Now that ESI is included in litigation review on a daily basis, imaging has become a means of “preserving” the formatting of a native file consistently for all parties accessing the same documents. Imaging all ESI prior to document review used to be a fairly standard practice; however, now that data volumes have increased significantly, this practice has become outdated and costly.A more cost-effective solution would be for legal teams to start with a native review and only request images for responsive and/or redacted documents if required.
2. What is the overall goal/objective for this review?
Is it a standard document review for production? Is it review for an investigation? Is the case team reviewing for privilege? Is the case team preparing for depositions or preparing witnesses and experts? The overall end-goal for the document review being performed will determine the workflows legal teams will need to setup.
3. How many reviewers will there be and what level of review needs to be performed?
In other words, how in-depth does the analysis of the data need to be for this particular matter? Will there be different review teams with different tasks? (i.e. first level review, second level review, QC review, attorney level review). The level of review required will determine how many reviewer groups and access permission levels (i.e. full admin rights, reviewer only with limited editing, admin with less restrictive permissions, etc.) there are to set up. Controlling user permission levels will make it easier to maintain an organized and documented workflow.
4. What specific coding information are reviewers required to capture during review?
This requires planning by legal teams so custom fields specific to the matter and document review can be setup prior to starting review (i.e. issues, hot doc status, privilege, responsiveness, redactions, confidentiality, document request/RFP number, deponent name, expert name, etc.).
5. Is there a need for custom workflows or database administration tasks to be performed prior to or during review?
For example, batching implemented and reviewer batch sets created, custom QC or workflow searches created, search terms applied and search term reports created, key terms highlighted, etc. All of these tasks take additional time and should be considered as part of the workflow.
6. Will external or non-party reviewers need to access the review database?
Will the legal team need to share documents with co-counsel, experts, or consultants? If so, this requires planning and detailed discussions on what other parties are allowed to see, access and edit. External parties require stricter permissions, which must be managed properly, especially when determining their levels of access to the work product of the other parties sharing the database.
7. Will advanced technologies be used to expedite document review?
There are many advanced technologies available for document review (i.e. near-duplicate detection, email threading, categorization, predictive coding/assisted review, etc.). Understanding the various technology options and their unique functionalities allows legal teams to determine which tool to implement. Workflows must be planned and review teams trained prior to starting review.
8. How many documents need to be reviewed?
Document review can take hours, days and even weeks, and is typically the most expensive part of the eDiscovery process. Keeping the data volume in mind before you begin review, and throughout the entire process, can help reduce costs along the way.
9. Have you budgeted time prior to the discovery deadline to accommodate for unforeseen variables?
Discovery deadlines are often established without a clear understanding of the variables that can negatively impact the overall review process. It is not uncommon for limited client budgets, limited resources (both human and technology), complicated review workflows and lack of planning to derail a review. Many times legal teams experience delays or missed deadlines because something wasn’t considered or properly setup in the beginning of a matter. Ensure you remain within your timeline and meet mandated deadlines by keeping the big picture in mind and planning accordingly.
Document review itself is not complicated. However, it does require a lot of strategy, thought and preparation from legal teams in order to implement efficient and cost-effective workflows. Case teams should be realistic about what they need to accomplish and use the information discussed in this post to guide them. It is imperative for everyone involved to take a step back and look at the big picture before beginning review. Don’t be afraid to utilize experienced consultants who can provide guidance from beginning to end, which will help eliminate the need for deadline extensions and other inconveniences.
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