"IM" Reviewing That Data

All the discussion in e-discovery typically revolves around e-mails, and obviously that’s where the bulk of electronic communication takes place. But we can uncover some very helpful information from Instant Messaging, too.

Yes, that’s correct – all IM conversations can be collected and processed for review when using the right review software tool (and there are many good ones out there). That means all those employees who keep their Yahoo or AOL messaging open all day represent another significant source of data than can be classified as electronically stored information (ESI).

While there’s been a moderate amount of discussion about this issue, in many industries it has flown under the radar screen or been pushed to the side because it was seemingly too difficult of a matter to deal with properly. That’s not the case. A recent example: I managed a team of five attorneys that utilized Attenex software to review the e-mails and IMs of a corporate client. As a content analytic review tool, the challenge with IMs is that the slang used in texting is very distinct from normal communications and offers a different type of challenge when trying to organize these files by their concept. However, by segregating the IMs and combining them with advanced timeline and keyword searches, we were able to review the universe of IMs in context and with great efficiency. In fact, each reviewer averaged more than 3,000 document decisions per day (e-mails and IMs), which resulted in dramatic cost savings in reviewer expense for the client.

There are certainly some very robust tools that can make the IM part of the review go smoothly; the point is that it should not be forgotten (or avoided) in the process and to make sure your project manager is asking the right questions on the subject.