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Workflow Design Considerations, Review Fundamentals Series Part 4

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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 “Who Does the Reviewing,” we discussed your options for review staffing.  In this Part, we turn our attention to review workflow design considerations.


In the last Part, we reviewed your options for who does the reviewing: internal resources (i.e., the case team, existing corporate or firm staff), external resources (i.e., contract reviewers, managed review services), or a combination.  Once you know what you’re reviewing, for what you’re reviewing it, and who’s doing the reviewing, you can plan the actual workflow by which the review work will be executed.

Document Flow Considerations

Designing an effective document review workflow is a project-specific exercise that requires consideration of a wide range of options and factors, including the features and functions available to you in your chosen document review platform, the volumes and types of materials being reviewed, the number and nuance of things for which the materials must be reviewed, the number and skill level of the chosen reviewers, and the available time for completion of the review.

Smaller, simpler projects may require only a simple workflow, with just a traditional first level review checking for both relevance and privilege and a second level quality control review double-checking some of that work prior to production.  More complex projects may call for multi-level, multi-path workflows with specialized teams handling specific tasks.  For example:

  • Projects with numerous, nuanced responsiveness determinations to make might call for separating initial relevance review from subsequent issue responsiveness coding. Each additional determination a reviewer must make on a document decreases their review speed, and having too many determinations to make will increase their error rate.
  • Projects with high volumes or with nuanced privilege issues might call for separating privilege review from relevance/responsiveness review, having it performed by particularly skilled reviewers only for the materials deemed responsive.
  • Projects with materials in multiple languages or highly technical or scientific materials might also be broken into paths based on the need for specialized reviewers, creating a special path for each foreign language or for the technical and scientific materials.
  • Projects with a high volume of materials requiring redaction (for privilege, confidentiality, etc.) may separate redaction into its own step, handled by a dedicated team, rather than asking the first-level reviewers to complete redactions as they find them.

To some extent, the range of workflows you can create will be dictated by the review management tools available to you in your chosen document review platform.  Obviously, all manner of workflows can be executed and tracked manually – as they were in the days before sophisticated review platforms were available, but the manual management and documentation burden is (and was) much greater.  Thankfully, most document review platforms have now evolved to offer a great deal of review management, workflow customization, and progress monitoring functionality.  

Tagging Palette Considerations

As we note above, there is a tension in document review between speed, accuracy, and nuance: the more determinations a reviewer must make, the longer it will take them, and the more mistakes they will make.  This is reflected in the creation of the tagging palette you create for reviewers to annotate documents with their determinations.

Reviewers only working with tags for simple relevance, potential privilege, and “hot” documents will be able to work more quickly and consistently than those who must also apply tags for specific issues, specific privilege types, and other nuances.  When thinking about what tagging should happen in each phase of your review workflow, a good rule of thumb is to try to keep each reviewer from having to make more than about five determinations at a time about each document.  Some platforms allow for the creation of multiple, separate tagging palettes to support complex workflows involving multiple teams.

Depending on your workflow and your chosen platform’s built-in review tracking features, you may also need to include tags designed to aid you in:

  • Tracking documents’ progress through your workflow’s paths and levels,
  • Tracking who’s reviewed them at each step in the workflow
  • Tracking whether tagging changes have been made during QC
  • Tracking whether documents require special endorsements for production (e.g., those subject to a protective order)
  • Tracking what’s been produced so far

Ideally, you should rely as much as possible on the review tracking functions built into your platform to minimize complexity in the tagging palette (or palettes) being used.


Upcoming in this Series

In the next Part, we will continue our discussion of review fundamentals with a look at some additional workflow design considerations regarding batch creation, tracking, reporting, and documentation.


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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