eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Trends: Deadly Sins of Document Review

With all of the attention on Technology Assisted Review (TAR) during the LegalTech New York (LTNY) show, you would think that no one is conducting manual review anymore.  However, even the staunchest advocates of TAR that I spoke to last week indicated that manual review is still a key part of an effective review process where technology is used to identify potentially responsive and privileged ESI before the manual review process enables the final determinations to be made.

There are “dos” and “don’ts” for conducting an effective manual review.  There was an interesting article in Texas Lawyer (via Law Technology News) entitled The 7 Deadly Sins of Document Review by Dalton Young that focuses on the “don’ts”.  As review is the most expensive phase of the eDiscovery process and legal budgets are stretched to the limit, it’s important to get the most out of your spend on manual review.  With that in mind, here are the seven deadly sins of document review (along with a few of my observations):

  1. Hiring overqualified reviewers: Although there are many qualified lawyers available due to the recent recession, those lawyers often don’t have as much experience as seasoned review paralegals, who are also less expensive and less likely to leave for another offer.
  2. Failing to establish a firm time commitment: If lead counsel doesn’t clearly establish the expected review timeline up front and expect reviewers to commit to that time frame, turnover of reviewers can drive up costs and delay project completion.
  3. Failing to provide reviewers with thorough training on the review tools: Train beyond just the basics so that reviewers can take advantage of advanced software features and training starts with lead counsel.  I would adjust this point a bit: Lead counsel needs to become fully proficient on the review tools, then develop a workflow that manages the efficiency of the reviewers and train the reviewers according to that workflow.  While it may be nice for reviewers to know all of the advanced search features, full understanding of searching best practices isn’t something that can be accomplished in a single training session and should be managed by someone with considerable experience using advanced searching capabilities in an efficient and defensible manner.
  4. Failing to empower reviewers with sufficient background on the case: Providing reviewers with not just a list of expected key words, but also an understanding of the issues of the case enables them to recognize important documents that might not fit within the key words identified.  I would also add that it’s important to have regular “huddles” so that learned knowledge by selected reviewers can be shared with the entire team to maximize review effectiveness.
  5. Failing to foster bonds within the review team: Just like any other team member, reviewers like to know that they’re an important part of the cause and that their work is appreciated, so treating them to lunch or an occasional happy hour can foster a more enjoyable work environment and increase reviewer retention.
  6. Failing to predetermine tags and codes before the project begins: A lead member of the law firm should complete an overview of the discovery to identify the process and establish tags up front instead of “on the fly” as review progresses (even though that tag list will often need to be supplemented regardless how well the upfront overview is conducted).  I would add inclusion of one or more subject matter experts in that upfront process to help identify those tags.
  7. Providing reviewers with a too-structured work environment: The author indicates that counsel should “consider providing a relaxed, somewhat self-directed work environment”.  The key here is “somewhat”, but flexibility in start and stop work times and break/lunch times can enable you to keep good reviewers who may need some flexibility.  Regular monitoring of reviewer metrics will enable the review manager to confirm that reviewer performance is not adversely affected by increased flexibility, or adjust accordingly if the review environment becomes too lax.

So, what do you think?  Are there other “deadly sins” that the author doesn’t mention?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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