Don't Just 'Make Do' With Your Review: Why a Platform is Critical
Using an e-discovery review platform enables you to be a good steward of not only your time, but your clients’ money. As firms move away from the paper age, they are (or should be) recognizing the importance of metadata, a critical component of electronically stored evidence (ESI) that provides insight into key contextual information about a document, such as when it was created or modified.
In dealing with ESI, you want to be able to filter, sort and organize your data efficiently. Otherwise, you may catch yourself reviewing data more than once as you use the same documents for different purposes, or worse, you may overlook critical documents that you could have used for a key deposition or hearing. To avoid this inefficient and expensive trap that many attorneys fall in, a review platform is the solution.
Using an e-discovery software is critical for several reasons. First, it allows you to search and filter your data so that you can quickly retrieve information you need for your depositions and motions. For example, when filtering by custodian, you can instantly identify documents relevant for an upcoming deposition. More importantly, you are able to retrieve and use relevant documents early on in your litigation as opposed to waiting until the entire production is manually reviewed.
Next, using an e-discovery software helps control costs and reduce unnecessary spending. If you consider the time and money it takes to hire multiple document reviewers to manually review PDFs or paper, input notes and post-it’s on documents, and then manage those notes to use them in preparation for a deposition or hearing, you would be surprised. There is a stigma against using a review platform due to cost. But many review platforms have transformed over recent years to not only allow for affordable pricing, but flat fees and transparency making it user-friendly for firms. As the Commentary to Sedona Principle 11 explains: “[u]sing search methods – based on a combination of technology and process to help search for, preserve, retrieve, and produce relevant ESI – can result in cost and time savings, and should be viewed as reasonable, valuable, and often a practical necessity.”[i]
There are many features that review platforms offer to equip attorneys to cull and retrieve relevant evidence quickly and efficiently. Moreover, these platforms speed up the review process and eliminate work duplication. Some e-discovery review software features are:
Search filtering: after uploading documents into a review platform, you can run searches using specific keywords, date ranges, combinations of words, or even concepts. In preparation for a deposition for example, you can create a search to filter by custodian or all e-mails received or sent by the deponent.
Document tagging: a review platform gives you the ability to pre-define tags, by legal or factual issues for example, so that all document reviewers are consistent in tagging the documents in the review. At the completion of a document review, you can easily pull all documents tagged for a specific witness or legal issue, print, and add them to a hearing or deposition notebook, and you are ready to go.
Redacting: a review platform allows you to select words or passages of text to redact them to expedite the review and redaction process. There are also auto-redaction features that will automatically redact all instances of a word, phrase or easily identifiable “PII” (personal identifiable information).
Batching: a review platform can give you the ability to automatically divide a review set into groups, or batches, for each individual reviewer. This allows you to keep track of the review’s progress and monitor for prevalence, recall and precision.
De-Duplication: you can dramatically reduce the amount of data for review and production by “de-duping” or de-duplicating a data set based on the documents’ hash value.
AI-powered ECA: some review platforms offer an AI-powered early case assessment feature that provides you with a visualization and instant overview of your data set. For example, immediately upon receiving a production, you can see what names, keywords and even concepts are most prevalent in the data set. You have the ability, before reviewing a single document, to identify individuals who may have relevant information and are worthy to interview or depose.
Bates stamping: the Bates numbering feature automatically attaches a unique identifier to each document to allow for an easy way to reference specific documents in not only the review, but throughout the litigation, such as in depositions, hearings and even trial.
Technology Assisted Review: TAR offers dramatic time and cost savings by prioritizing and even coding a batch review based on document reviewers’ judgments and coding for relevancy.
While native production can be extremely useful, an e-discovery review tool is necessary to adequately handle such a production. What you should not do is review ESI in native forms using native applications. Doing so will not only slow down your review tremendously but will remove any ability to organize or tag your data. Years ago, I personally tried this and what a mess! When I printed e-mail messages, my name was listed at the top instead of the custodian’s. Do not do this. Instead, consider using a review platform to revolutionize how you handle all ESI in your cases. You will not regret it.
[i] The Sedona Principles, Third Edition: Best Practices, Recommendations & Principles for Addressing Electronic Document Production, 19 Sedona Conf. J. 1 (2018).