Law firms of all sizes have been experiencing an increase in eDiscovery as digital documents have become the majority of the documents gathered in any court case.
Larger law firms may set aside legal teams dedicated to just digital document review. These teams have a hierarchy of people from a project manager and reviewers that are going through all of the digital data. Other law firms cannot afford this type of undertaking. The firm may not have the space, employees with the correct training, or advanced software needed to process eDiscovery at a fast yet accurate pace. These firms rely on legal services and review providers to handle a majority of their document reviews.
Suppose your law firm is part of the majority that relies on outsourcing document review for your cases. In that case, there are five things that you must consider when evaluating a company to manage your cases.
Level of Quality
When a law firm is evaluating a company to use for document review, there are two areas that you must review for quality standards. The first is the employees of the company, and the second is the process they use to manage documents.
Companies that have a regular, consistent staff that they use for document review projects will have standards in place for those employees to follow. These employees know that their work is contingent upon meeting these standards, and the level of service will be higher.
Even if these regular employees use remote review to review these documents from outside of the office, there is a standard of quality that you will not get if the company relies solely on temporary workers for their staff.
The next issue that you must address under quality is the quality of their work. Every company will have a different set of standards. You will want to review their daily goal for processing documents, what review processes they have in place for documents selected and not selected, and what QC process they follow to ensure that the work is accurate.
It will also be helpful to find out what method they use to determine what documents are relevant. Do they only use a keyword search? Do they use key phrases? Do they use associated words or phrase searches? Do they perform some searches manually, or are they all digital searches? Are they looking at metadata and other document information to determine the origination of these documents? All of these questions are very relevant to the outcome of your case. If they are only performing a single type of search on your documents, you could miss a lot of relevant information for your case.
Level of Security
All law firms recognize the importance of digital information security. When you are interviewing the prospective company to conduct your document searches, you need to know what level of security they use to protect the data in the files as well as protecting the information from leaving their environment.
Part of your vetting process will also be to determine if the company is using offshore reviewers and what security protocols are in place for their staff and the review facility.
Digital documents are a gold mine of information for international hackers and corporate spies. Your firm must verify that all collection of data is protected and that the distribution of data to your firm is also protected.
The final thing to check when it comes to security is the policies in place for non-disclosure. Employees must be under strict non-disclosure rules about the information that they read and see in general. Information cannot be shared with friends or family and cannot be posted anywhere on the Internet.
Technology Used and Fail-Safe measures
You are going to want a company that has expertise with technology that incorporates advanced search capabilities. These programs will search for not only keywords but key phrases and associated phrases.
For example, if you were looking for the word “tent” in the documents, an advanced program can also be used to search for words like “camping: “glamping,” “sleeping outdoors,” “under the stars,” “sleeping bag” and “campground.” All of these phrases can be related to a tent and may provide necessary information pertaining to the tent in question.
You will want advanced technology that can detect unusual patterns in sentences and detect excessive abbreviations and “codes” within a sentence structure. For example, the technology should be able to detect the following sentence: Tell B.S. to MAUP for DN. (Tell Bob Smith to meet at the usual place for date night.) Many people that are trying to hide activities write in code, so that keyword searches do not pick up the information.
You will need to inquire about the workflow and how many times the documents are reviewed before they are determined unnecessary. Does the company only review the documents once and pull only the tagged material? Or is any remaining material reviewed again to ensure that nothing is missed and that all relevant documents have been tagged for physical review?
Areas of Expertise
With so many document review companies offering their services, it is crucial for law firms to know the area of expertise that the company provides.
A firm that has experience in your clients’ industry or sector will understand the jargon and know what types of information to look for within a document. If they are given instructions by the attorney or firm, they will have a good understanding of what to look for and why.
If a specific case has to do with an industry like health care or financial services, it may also be beneficial to seek out a firm that has particular understandings of these specific industries. They will have the technology and the expertise to help you locate the relevant documents within the case.
You should make sure that you are very clear on what the pricing structure is for the service you select. Some review companies charge a flat rate for the job based on the overall number of documents to be initially reviewed, while some companies charge a per-document price.
If there is an extensive number of documents to review, there are companies that add additional billable hours to the price of their services. If extra employees are needed to meet deadlines, additional costs will be added. If you need high-security employees to review the documents, this can also increase the price.
Since every legal firm must remain within budget for their cases and be accountable to their clients for their expenses, it is crucial to know up-front the charges for this service and any potential extra charges that may occur.
Additional Questions You May Want To Ask Your Potential Service Provider:
- What is the average number of documents you process daily?
- How often do you check in with the lead attorney about the progress of the review?
- How many documents do you provide in each batch that is delivered to the firm?
- Do you have the ability to meet tight deadlines?
- do you have certain types of data files that cannot be read by your program?
- What do you do about corrupted files?
- What do you do about files that cannot be opened?
- Can different keywords or phrases be added after the scanning begins?
- Are there any stop points where you review what has been done with the attorney and make plans for future documents?
- What types of programs will be necessary to open your final document scans?
- What is your security protocol for managing in-house documents that are high-security?
You may also have questions that are specific to your type of firm or a specific case.
The Need For This Service Will Continue To Increase
Firms of all sizes must come to terms with the need for document review services. The thought that this service is only for mega-firms with large corporate clients is a thought from the past. Even small cases can require digital discovery, so legal firms must be prepared.
Twenty years ago, lawyers believed that electronic mail would never catch on and that it would not be necessary to have to interact with clients. Now, 95 percent of all interactions by attorneys are conducted via email. The same thought process is applied to eDiscovery. It may not seem like a large deal now, but within a few years, it will be over 95 percent of what attorneys review for their cases.
Establishing a relationship with legal services and review provider now will place your firm ahead of other firms that are slow to comply with these changes. You will be able to represent more clients more aggressively when you have access to all of the information you need from eDiscovery.
Digital discovery is not a thing that will go away. In fact, it is something that will continue to increase as the entire world transforms into a truly digital age. If your firm is ready to move forward with this type of discovery process, now is the time to find a review partner.
Conor Looney is also an advisor to the Electronic Discovery Reference Model’s (EDRM) Global Advisory Council.
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