eDiscovery Daily Blog

Don’t Get “Wild” with Wildcards: eDiscovery Throwback Thursdays

Here’s our latest blog post in our Throwback Thursdays series where we are revisiting some of the eDiscovery best practice posts we have covered over the years and discuss whether any of those recommended best practices have changed since we originally covered them.

This post was originally published on September 20, 2010 – which was the day eDiscovery Daily was launched!  We launched that day with an announcement post, this post and our first case law post where Judge Paul Grimm actually ordered the defendant to be imprisoned for up to two years or until he paid the plaintiff “the attorney’s fees and costs that will be awarded to Plaintiff as the prevailing party pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(C).”  (Spoiler alert – the defendant didn’t ultimately go to jail, but was ordered to pay over 1 million dollars to the plaintiff)…

Even before the 2015 Federal Rules changes, we didn’t see any other cases where the parties were threatened with jail time.  But I personally have seen several instances where parties still want to get “wild” with wildcards.  We even covered a case where the parties negotiated terms that included the wildcard for “app*” because they were looking for phone applications or apps (an even more extreme example than the one I detail below).  Check it out too.  And, enjoy this one as well!  It’s as relevant today as it was (almost) nine years ago!

A while ago, I provided search strategy assistance to a client that had already agreed upon several searches with opposing counsel.  One search related to mining activities, so the attorney decided to use a wildcard of “min*” to retrieve variations like “mine”, “mines” and “mining”.

That one search retrieved over 300,000 files with hits.

Why?  Because there are 269 words in the English language that begin with the letters “min”.  Words like “mink”, “mind”, “mint” and “minion” were all being retrieved in this search for files related to “mining”.  We ultimately had to go back to opposing counsel and negotiate a revised search that was more appropriate.

How do you ensure that you’re retrieving all variations of your search term?

Stem Searches

One way to capture the variations is with stem searching.  Applications that support stem searching give you an ability to enter the root word (e.g., mine) and it will locate that word and its variations.  Stem searching provides the ability to find all variations of a word without having to use wildcards.

Other Methods

If your application doesn’t support stem searches, Morewords.com shows list of words that begin with your search string (e.g., to get all 269 words beginning with “min”, go here – simply substitute any characters for “min” to see the words that start with those characters).  Choose the variations you want and incorporate them into the search instead of the wildcard – i.e., use “(mine or “mines or mining)” instead of “min*” to retrieve a more relevant result set.

Many applications let you preview the wildcard variations you wish to use before running them.  For example, our CloudNine Review solution (shameless plug warning!) performs a preview when you start to type in a search term to show you words within the collection that begin with that string.  As a result, you can identify an overbroad term before you agree to it.

So, what do you think?  Have you ever been “burned” by wildcard searching?  Do you have any other suggested methods for effectively handling them?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.