Tips for Streamlining Your Document Review
It is widely known that document review is often the most expensive part of a litigated matter. Everyone wants to reduce review costs. The adoption of technology-assisted review (TAR) is growing, and it is a great tool to reduce data volumes by eliminating nonrelevant material. Even so, most document review projects are still not fully utilizing TAR technology, instead relying on a more traditional process, and even in TAR workflows there is a need to have eyes-on review of those documents the computer cannot categorize, or at least to validate the categorization results. So how can one make the linear review process more efficient and, thus, less expensive?
Here are a few tips for streamlining a review project:
Appropriate Training and Materials
Too much information can bog down a review; too little can leave too many questions unanswered. The goal should be to give the reviewers the information they need to do the job – nothing more, nothing less. While you may think all 5 of your amended complaints and 12 sets of interrogatories will be useful background information, this can just hamper the reviewers with irrelevant information. Try to limit substantive information and pleadings to that which directly impacts their work. Focus instead on other useful information, like names and descriptions of the important players, explanation of third parties and their roles, the structure of the company or the transaction or a more thorough breakdown of a tangible product at issue.
Having a homogenized data set will decrease the number of technical issues. Where possible, this can be extremely powerful. Developing a standardized set can often start as early as the collection phase. If there are multiple data sources with a multitude of nonstandard file types, work with your data processing team to ensure that all the data will be easily viewable through the tool. Documents that require the use of specialized software or that need to be reviewed natively, such as certain CAD files, should be given special attention or set aside. The goal is to create a set of documents that a reviewer can move through quickly while reducing the need to make viewer changes.
This is where a lot of attorneys struggle. If cost or time is a concern – and it usually is – the goal should be to allow the reviewer to complete a document with the least amount of work possible while still capturing the information you need. The work of a reviewer typically comes in the form of clicks and typing; the goal should be to reduce the number of clicks and lessen or eliminate the need to type anything. Many attorneys want to create an abundance of issue codes to establish very narrow categories of documents; if their number gets too high, it will be difficult for reviewers to draw those distinctions, and the categories won’t be properly populated. Use restraint while leveraging the review to gain important insight. Another common simplification technique is to eliminate the use of negatives – a checkbox for nonprivileged, for example. If nonprivileged documents are in the majority, only create a checkbox for privileged and then assume no check equates to a nonprivileged document.
Prioritize the Data
Use available tools, technological and otherwise, to create priorities. For example, there may be one custodian who will be most likely to have responsive data, or perhaps reviewing a client’s database program may be more useful to prepare for an upcoming hearing than combing through email. Any review that could potentially bolster settlement talks should also be placed at the front of the queue, if there is a chance to end the review early due to settlement.
Stratify the Team
The review manager can also use some talent management techniques to best leverage reviewers’ skill sets. Create stratified review subteams that can tackle individual tasks and establish a meaningful division of labor. Some reviewers may be particularly skilled at privilege review, while others are strong when analyzing technically dense documents. Know your reviewers and play to their strengths.
Keep an open mind and consider available technologies to increase efficiency. Data analytics tools like clustering, which creates groups of conceptually similar documents, could be leveraged to speed up the review rate. Also, be sure you are using a stable database tool, a properly configured environment and a reliable and fast connection to confirm you are not being held back by your own technology.
Strategies like these are employed every day by experienced review managers. Whether you are supervising a review internally or working with a managed review service provider, do your best to incorporate some of these tips in your next review project in order to finish with a solid work product in a more efficient time frame.