Legal document review is often viewed as the most expensive part of eDiscovery, and many lawyers believe there is no getting around it. If you share that belief, then I have good news for you: document verification doesn’t have to come at such a high price. It is likely that many of the costs in your current “document review” process stem from costs that can be significantly reduced or even avoided.
Inefficient processes add up and increase eDiscovery bills. For example, we’ve seen cases where negotiating search terms cost more than actual document review. Costly but unnecessary actions are more common than expected. Unfortunately, they usually go unnoticed – or are noticed but ignored.
To reduce the cost of reviewing documents significantly, here are three common inefficiency traps and suggestions for eliminating these costs.
Spend too much time negotiating search terms
A common goal of eDiscovery is to check as few documents as possible. This cuts down on hosting costs and the hours lawyers spend reviewing and charging. For many years it has been completely normal for parties to go back and forth (often for many, many rounds) to work out search terms. However, these negotiations do not offer the ROI they used to have. Today’s machine learning technology can process the data faster and more effectively than search term negotiation ever could.
Advanced analysis tools can quickly sort out unresponsive documents. Therefore, it makes sense to use the technology at the beginning of the verification process – even before a human has an eye on anything. These tools make the process dynamic and dramatically lower the cost of document review, even when you factor in the costs associated with hosting, machine learning, and other review tools.
Another avoidable result of extensive search negotiations is that the rest of the eDiscovery process is unnecessarily speeded up, which increases costs. This can be a problem, especially when a tough deadline looms. In a recent case, attorneys from one company spent two months negotiating search terms with the opposing attorney, resulting in eight different iterations of search terms, each taking time for lawyers and technicians. The team couldn’t begin the review until the search terms were finalized. So instead of the expected six weeks to complete the review, they only had two weeks. The team was forced to speed up the job, work overtime, and incur extra costs on weekends.
Solution: Instead of being stuck with picky search terms, opposing parties can agree to some basic search terms and run them through an advanced analytics platform to reduce the amount of data and keep things moving according to plan. Thanks to the power of the technology, you can even start with more data than you normally use and still save money.
Many in the eDiscovery / legal industry assume that you need to extract every single item of email and collectively create families of documents (including embedded objects and attachments) regardless of the number or type of files involved. However, if you do this across the board, it can clog your database. Imagine an email that has a table attached and in the signature the company logo and social media icons. All of this information can be collected for legal purposes, but the logo and icons are not needed for verification. These types of junk files inflate your database unnecessarily and complicate the workflow. They increase the number of document reviews and thus the review and even production costs.
Solution: Many computing systems can rule out extraneous logos and symbols so these meaningless files are never promoted for review. Alternatively, the useless files can simply be removed from within the verification platform. Regardless of how it’s done, these junk attachments should be identified and eliminated as early as possible.
Excessive problem coding
Problem coding organizes documents so that they can be easily found later in a case. However, it is often taken to extremes when the attorney requests more than 50 codes for a single document. It is certainly possible to use that many tags, but we’ve found that 8-10 tags are more than enough. In order for issue codes to be effective, they must be coded consistently so that they can be searched as litigation progresses. This can mean a lot of extra work on the front end to get it right. Anything that has more than 8-10 tags slows down the rate of verification significantly, increases costs, and has very little return value.
Solution: Analytics tools (TAR and others) and review platforms are so sophisticated that finding documents within the platform is easy. With today’s technology, review platforms are often more effective than issue codes ever before.
Identifying the common inefficiency traps that weigh on your document review process and understanding how to address them is an important step in reducing the cost of legal document review. Consider partnering with an experienced review team based on analytics, modern technology, and effective workflows. Your review team should work with the client, attorney, and eDiscovery provider to ensure your document review is efficient, accurate, and defensible every time.