Fifteen years have passed since I reviewed documents as a paralegal for an AM Law 100 firm. In a toxic tort matter for one of our clients, literally hundreds of boxes of documents were subject to first pass review, focused on identifying documents with chemical names. We reviewed documents page-by-page in a large conference room reserved for the task, using colored post-its to note relevancy or hold a doc for questions. Attorneys stacked piles of paper everywhere for second pass review, QC, privilege and non-relevant documents processes.
It was, at best, organized chaos in our war room. Billing costs ranged from low to high, with no less than ten people reviewing at all times. Concordance was cutting-edge technology at the time and, at most, it only helped us identify the content of a single box. Was this really how review was going to be on every case? It became painfully clear, even then, that we needed a solution to help us be more efficient with our time.
Within five years, companies like Kroll Ontrack, Fios, iConect, Lextranet, DiscoveryReady, and KPMG gained traction in the market with new technology to help review documents. These new review platforms introduced the ability to ingest documents into a database, run keyword searches, tag documents for responsiveness, privilege, or with issue codes, and finally, produce them electronically. They eliminated reviewing physical paper and provided faster access to critical documents, but the need to have several people reviewing documents at computers persisted.
Fast-forward another five years and the industry began testing analytics to group documents together by similar content, providing us with richer sets of documents for review teams. Meanwhile, discussions emerged around the idea of automating first pass review. Enter predictive coding, machine-learning technology that takes decisions made by a human on documents, and applies this logic to an entire document population. It eliminates the need to review every single document and opens the door to a new concept, Technology-Assisted Review (TAR).
Present day, TAR is accepted and adopted on many ediscovery matters, but some professionals are not yet comfortable with this approach. Some think review still means people looking at every single document to make decisions. As review has evolved, though, so too must the definition of “review.” It is our obligation to make the ediscovery process as efficient as possible, and that includes making the most expensive part of any case, review, a part of this evolution.
Today’s review should mean applying technology ranging from simple keyword and date search culling, all the way to leveraging predictive coding tools to dramatically lessen the number of documents for eyes-on review in a given matter. This reduces the need for rooms full of people moving page to page, reduces cost, and more importantly, gets the client the most critical information and documents to the forefront - fast.
Review has come a long way in the past fifteen years and I believe it will continue to reach new heights. Its evolution means there are always new ways to leverage technology within your company to save costs and drive efficiencies. It also means it’s important to know your options, and be strategic when deciding which platforms to utilize.
In order to assist you in this process, here are a few tips and best practices to stay up-to-date and well-informed when it comes to the evolution of document review:
- Follow judicial decisions on well-known blogs such as Complex Discovery and Bow Tie Law Blog.
- Stay up-to-date by reading and engaging in social media conversations related to the legal and ediscovery industries.
- If you are not already leveraging technology within in your company, be sure to look at the different options and discuss with your team.
- When looking at the different ways to leverage technology within the legal space make sure that the applications have been vetted for risk, and that they are reliable and reputable.
- Finally, if you want to implement a new technology processes into your workflow, create a solid adoption plan with your team, and a precise method for measuring your results.
If you have additional questions or comments about the evolution of review and what that means for you, please feel free to reach out. You can contact me at: email@example.com.