Legal document review is often viewed as the most expensive part of eDiscovery, and many attorneys believe that there’s no way around it. If you hold that belief too, then I have good news for you: Document review doesn’t have to come with such a high price tag. It’s likely that many of the costs in your current “document review” process stem from costs that can be vastly reduced or even avoided entirely.
Inefficient processes tend to add up and increase eDiscovery bills. For example, we’ve seen cases where the search term negotiations cost more than the actual document review. Costly but unnecessary actions are more common than you might expect. Unfortunately, they typically go unnoticed — or noticed, but ignored.
To significantly reduce your document review costs, here are three common inefficiency traps, with suggestions for how to eradicate them.
Spending Too Much Time on Search Term Negotiations
A common goal in eDiscovery is to review as few documents as possible, which cuts hosting costs and the hours attorneys spend on and bill for review. For many years, it has been perfectly normal for parties to go back and forth (often for many, many rounds) to work out search terms. However, those negotiations don’t provide the ROI that they used to. Today’s machine learning technology can work through the data faster and more effectively than search term negotiations ever could.
Advanced analytics tools can quickly weed out non-responsive documents, so it makes sense to use the technology at the beginning of the review process — even before a human puts eyes on anything. These tools make the process dynamic and reduce document review costs drastically, even when taking into account the costs associated with hosting, machine learning and other review tools.
Another avoidable outcome of extended search negotiations is that the rest of the eDiscovery process becomes unnecessarily rushed, increasing costs. That can be a problem, especially when there is a hard deadline looming. In a recent case, a corporation’s attorneys spent two months negotiating search terms with the opposing counsel, resulting in eight different search term iterations — each of which took up attorney and technician time. The team couldn’t begin its review until search terms were finalized. So, instead of the expected six weeks to complete the review, they had only two weeks. The team was forced to rush the job, working overtime and on weekends, racking up additional costs along the way.
Solution: Rather than getting bogged down by nit-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 schedule. Thanks to the technology’s power, you can even start with a larger data population than you typically use and still save money.
Many in the eDiscovery/legal industry are under the assumption that you must extract every single email element and produce document “families” (including embedded objects as well as attachments) together, no matter the number or types of files involved. However, doing that across the board can clog up your database. Consider an email that contains an attached spreadsheet and, in the signature, the company’s logo and social media icons. All of that information may be collected for the legal matter, but the logo and icons will not be needed for review. Those kinds of “junk” files inflate your database unnecessarily and complicate the workflow. They increase document review counts, and thereby review and even production costs.
Solution: Many data processing systems can exclude things like irrelevant logos and icons so that those meaningless files are never promoted to review. Alternatively, the useless files can easily be removed within the review platform. Regardless of how it’s done, these junk “attachments” should be identified and eliminated as early in the process as is feasible.
Excessive Issue Coding
Issue coding is the process of organizing documents so they’re easy to find later in a case. However, it’s often taken to the extreme, with counsel requesting upwards of 50 codes on a single document. While it’s certainly possible to use that many tags, we’ve found that 8-10 tags are more than enough. For issue codes to be effective, they must be coded in a consistent manner so that they’re searchable throughout the course of litigation. This can mean a lot of added work on the front end to get it right. Anything more than 8-10 tags significantly slows down the pace of review and increases costs while offering very little return value.
Solution: Analytics tools (TAR and others) and review platforms have become so sophisticated that it’s easy to search for documents within the platform. With today’s technology, review platforms are often more effective than issue codes ever were.
Recognizing the common inefficiency traps plaguing your document review process – and understanding how to combat them – is one giant step toward reducing legal document review costs. Consider partnering with an experienced review team that’s powered by analytics, modern technology, and effective workflows. Your review team should work together with the client, counsel, and eDiscovery vendor to ensure that your document review is efficient, accurate, and defensible every time.