LegalTech NY: Review Less Data - and Do It Faster

Themes from 2008 and before: Review data faster
Theme for 2009: Review less data

After a jam-packed three days of meetings, panel discussions, and visiting with software vendors from across the country at LegalTech New York, it wasn't difficult to discern the two primary objectives for cost savings in the e-discovery realm: (1) Review the data faster and (2) Review less data. These topics aren't new, of course, but in particular the level of discussion about reviewing less data has clearly reached a new level. 

Reviewing Data Faster

For the past few years, the latest technology trends were utilizing content analytic tools when reviewing data. Leaders in this area include Attenex, Stratify, Metalincs, and Cataphora. In our experience, content analytical tools have proven to be three to five times faster than traditional linear tools. The result: hundreds or thousands of attorney hours saved and thousands or millions of dollars saved in performing the review of electronic data.

The benefits of content analytical tools is now well accepted, so much so that traditional linear software tools have upgraded their platforms to include content analytical capabalities. Indeed, over the past year Content Analyst Company has announced strategic alliances with KCura's Relativity, Onsite's eView, and most recently iCONECTnXT.

Why is this so important, other than the obvious benefits of getting the review done faster? Because it makes the hourly rate of the attorneys less relevant. For a company deciding to conduct a review with an LPO and its low hourly rate, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be less expensive if an onshore company's attorneys can produce review rates that are two or three times faster, even if the hourly rate is double. So when considering this type of work, it's always good to ask the e-discovery company about the review rates their attorneys typically achieve -- it makes it easier to compare apples to apples. 

Reviewing Less Data

In addition to software platforms adding content analytical capacity to their arsenal, the major players are also focusing on the next-largest cost associated with e-discovery: the amount of data collected for review. In the majority of our visits with software review vendors, the common theme was that either their tool now had early case assessment features or they were in the process of adding to their platform. To that end, we had a chance to visit with representatives of Clearwell, Metalincs, Planet Data, and Inference, just to name a few.

In utilizing the technology for our corporate clients, we have seen the benefits first-hand. We have found that by processing through an Early Case Assessment tool that one or two attorneys can quickly and dramatically cull down the data to be reviewed (see our previous posts). In an instant, you can eliminate all e-mails that do not fall within the relevant time periods by performing advanced date searches and filtering those results.

The next step is to identify all sender and recipient domains related to the particular custodian’s files that you are reviewing. With this feature, the attorney reviewer can eliminate thousands of e-mails that clearly have no relevance to a particular matter based upon the sender or recipient information. For example, all e-mails sent from eBay, Travelocity, newspapers and other subscription-type services provide fertile ground to eliminate thousands of irrelevant e-mails across all custodians collected. The ability to search across all data, based upon domain names, also provides opportunity to quickly and comprehensively identify all communications to and from legal counsel. With one click of the button, a single reviewer can segregate as “potentially privileged” all of the documents originating from or involving legal counsel into a separate workflow for a second-level determination of privilege. In addition, by typing in the law firm name you can quickly and comprehensively identify all attorneys associated with that law firm and all e-mail accounts associated with that attorney that have been collected. This feature adds an extra layer of confidence that you are capturing all attorneys involved in a particular matter.

By spending a small amount of time on the front end with these early case assessment tools, it is very achievable to reduce the amount of data that requires review by an additional 25-50% over the initial 20-30% filtered through traditional automated culling processes (de-duplication, file-type suppression). The net result – huge savings with a potential total reduction of 50-80% of files that require review.

One of the most popular drivers of visitors to this blog are searches for 'early case assessment tools,' which on a much smaller scale illustrates how much this issue is in the collective consciousness of the profession. And why wouldn't it be? If there's less data to review -- and we can review it faster -- it's going to make achieving significant cost savings a lot more realistic.
 

Early Case Assessment + Content Analytics = True Savings

We often hear about the most important factor in creating a cost-effective e-discovery review: the review rate of the attorneys. Without question, the use of a content analytic review tool has greatly enhanced the ability to increase review rates for attorneys who know how to use these tools -- by 3 to 10 times versus a linear tool.

This improved productivity goes directly to the bottom line and dramatically reduces the largest component of the e-discovery cost structure: the attorney reviewer expense. Content analytic tools also greatly reduce the manpower and duration required for review.

Here’s where people often get stuck: The upfront cost of using a content analytic tool is (usually) significantly higher than that of a linear review tool. But as many have discovered, those upfront costs are typically recouped many times over by the end of a case because of the efficiencies that are gained in using a content analytic tool. The additional good news is that there’s a way to decrease the upfront costs by culling the amount of data needed for the review. These early case assessment tools are equally, if not more important, to the bottom line.

Early case assessment software platforms (such as Clearwell, Metalincs, and Autonomy’s Aungate Investigator & ECA, among others) enable corporations and law firms to dramatically and intelligently reduce the amount of data that needs to be reviewed. These programs offer a sneak peak at the data at a fraction of the cost of loading for review with a typical content analytic tool. In addition to standard culling methods like de-duplication and file-type extractions, early case assessment tools provide a means to develop legally defensible keyword searches, identify key players in the litigation (or more importantly identify non-players), and allow for bulk coding of clearly non-relevant materials or potentially privileged documents prior to loading into the review platform.

A quick example: A company's initial collection totals 300,000 documents for review. Using an early assessment tool, that number is dramatically reduced through de-duplication (20%), excluding privileged documents eliminates (another 10%), performing a multi-phrase keyword search (25%) and identifying the responsive data set (70%). The final number of documents to be loaded into the content analytic tool: 48,600 (or just 16% of the original collected documents).

Common volume reduction achieved through an early case assessment tool is 70-80% (the companies mentioned above have case studies on their respective websites that detail even greater reductions). The point is clear: reducing the volume of data, combined with the increased speed in which it can be reviewed via a content analytic tool, is a winning combination for corporations and law firms seeking to better manage e-discovery matters.

It’s always fun to be part of a meeting in which the realization sinks in that not only will the work product be better, but it will save hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars.