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Who Does the Reviewing, Review Fundamentals Series Part 3

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A multi-part series on the fundamentals eDiscovery practitioners need to know about document review planning and execution

In “The Main Event,” we reviewed the costs and significance of review, as well as the question of what gets reviewed.  In “For What It Gets Reviewed,” we discussed the range of determinations that you might want reviewers to be making.  In this Part, we turn our attention to who’s doing that reviewing.


Now that you have made decisions about what you are going to review and for what you are going to review it, you need to make decisions about who is going to perform that review.  Broadly speaking, your choices are internal resources (i.e., the case team, existing corporate or firm staff) and external resources (i.e., contract reviewers, managed review services).

Internal Resources

For smaller discovery efforts, it is common for the case team to do most or all of the review themselves, or to do it themselves in conjunction with help from additional paralegals or attorneys already on staff inside the organization or at the primary outside law firm for the matter.  Case team members working on the review have the advantage of direct knowledge of the overall matter, its legal issues, etc., and existing staff helping them have the advantages of having already been evaluated as effective team members and of already knowing the organization.

On the other hand, it may eat up a significant amount of the case team members’ time engaging directly in review and review management – time that may be more costly per hour than external resources would be.  Additionally, it can be disruptive or infeasible to tie up multiple existing employees, for an extended period of time to conduct review, and experienced team members may still be inexperienced document reviewers unable to effectively leverage review tool efficiencies.

External Resources

For all larger discovery efforts, some form of external review resources need to be utilized to supplement or replace the internal review resources described above.  Broadly speaking, external review resources come in two types: contract review staff and managed review services.

A variety of discovery services providers and staffing agencies provide document review attorneys on a contract basis, at an hourly rate.  The hiring organization or law firm can typically specify required experience levels, required language skills, required knowledge (e.g., a chemistry background), and more.  This can facilitate supplementation of an internal team for scale or specialization.  Once hired, however, the hiring organization or firm is then responsible for providing these contract reviewers with space in which to work, workstations and systems access, and assignments and oversight.  You are being provided with reviewers rather than with review, which limits the overall scalability of this approach.

Managed review services, on the other hand, provide review rather than reviewers.  Such services, whether onshore or offshore, maintain their own pools of reviewers and review managers, usually a mixture of permanent staff and experienced, pre-vetted contract review staff.  They also maintain secure environments in which the reviewers work, and standardized review processes, quality control processes, and process documentation.  Case teams still dictate review goals, assist in review team training, resolve review questions as needed, and evaluate review results, but most of the actual review and the management of the review are handled by the service provider.

Reviewer Training

More important, perhaps, than which reviewers you ultimately choose to conduct the review is how effectively those reviewers are trained.  Whether your team is internal only, internal plus contract, or entirely external, it is important that the reviewers have a clear and consistent understanding of what things they are looking for, what standards they are applying, and what processes they are following.  For example:

  • What is the scope of relevance for the case?
    • What are the meanings of any specific requests?
    • What qualifies as a “hot” document?
  • What context do they need to know?
    • About the organization?
    • About the underlying events?
    • About the primary legal issues?
  • Are they checking for privileges?
    • Which ones?
    • Using what standards?
    • What about HIPAA, CBI, PII, etc.?

It is common to provide review teams with a written review protocol document that provides answers to all of these questions and more, along with relevant background information and example documents from the collection.  This protocol and the associated examples are typically reviewed with the team during an initial training and question session, and then follow-up questions are addressed by the case team as needed throughout the review.


Upcoming in this Series

In the next Part, we will continue our discussion of review fundamentals with a look at some workflow design considerations.


About the Author

Matthew Verga

Director, Education and Content Marketing

Matthew Verga is an electronic discovery expert proficient at leveraging his legal experience as an attorney, his technical knowledge as a practitioner, and his skills as a communicator to make complex eDiscovery topics accessible to diverse audiences. An twelve-year industry veteran, Matthew has worked across every phase of the EDRM and at every level from the project trenches to enterprise program design. He leverages this background to produce engaging educational content to empower practitioners at all levels with knowledge they can use to improve their projects, their careers, and their organizations.

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