With so many passionate—and deadline-driven—professionals in the e-discovery world, many are eager to jump into review quickly in the interest of getting down to business. Some fail to take advantage of a crucial step that can reduce the amount of data for review, identify potential errors, and provide additional insight into their matter: early case assessment (ECA).
At Relativity Fest 2018, John Koss, E-Discovery Counsel, and Ryan Schwalbe, Technical Operations Manager, from Mintz Levin shared some of their favorite secrets to make the most of ECA in their session, A Bazooka to a Knife Fight: Practical Technology to Enhance Your ECA Workflow.
Here are some of their motivators for getting ahead of your review.
#1: Validating Data After Processing (But Before Review)
Following processing, everyone’s eager to start running searches right way, but skipping validation techniques can be problematic. Koss and Schwalbe recommend inspecting the foundation before you get started.
This includes running a gap analysis to make sure the item counts appear as you'd expect. You can use pivot tables to cross-check document counts against client logs. You can also incorporate your custodian tracking log into your workspace using Relativity Dynamic Objects (RDOs) and investigate any gaps or abnormalities.
The team notes that it’s also important to log discrepancies as you spot them. If you find issues with your data later, it's so much harder to go back and unravel.
#2: Gathering Information for a Better Understanding of Your Data
Another step to take before starting to analyze the data is examining the context of your data. Such analysis might include considerations of custodian primacy or specific document/data types that might be relevant. Looking into this information from the beginning can better equip teams to strategize and plan their cases.
And because project managers and technical teams are the ones working with the data, Koss recommends providing the contextual background to these teams as well, so they can better review gaps and patterns.
“If we’re looking at data at a high level, having context is helpful because we can spot patterns more efficiently. Having that information allows us to determine what to bring to the case team more proactively,” says Schwalbe.
#3: Advanced Search Term Hit Reporting and Refinement
The duo’s next tip is to know your search terms. If you don’t put the time in to consider the context, you can end up with discrepancies. On the flip side, if you have a comprehensive search term analysis, attorneys can use it as a negotiation tool and be more strategic.
Schwalbe suggests using the Search Term Counts script for Relativity to get a better idea of your results. He also recommends leveraging structured analytics to identify repeated content. This can help remove false positives, such as irrelevant email footers, coming up in a privilege search.
Koss also recommended running search terms before using analytics—especially technology-assisted review—when permissible. He said, “If you haven’t done any culling before you run analytics, it can be harder to create useful seed sets.”
#4: Smarter Communications and Identity Analysis Methods
When searching for a specific custodian’s email address, you may find discrepancies. Koss and Schwalbe pointed out that you can’t rely on the email address or alias alone; typos, name changes, and other complications make that impossible—at least without the help of name normalization (which will be available in RelativityOne early in the new year). To look for different variations of your custodian’s email address, you can run a partial match search.
You can also run a list of the Am Law 200 email domains across your email data to find privilege. It’s possible that the organization has worked with other firms in the past.
Running these types of analyses helps catch things you might otherwise be missing. If something unexpected comes back, you can have someone take a deeper look, especially if it might be privileged.
#5: Removing Junk from Your Review Set
Another tip from the Mintz Levin team that we should all implement right away: take out the trash. Schwalbe highlights how important it is to handle your potential “junk” proactively. Here are a few simple ways to cull irrelevant emails:
- If you have recurring duplicates with individual attachments, take a look at the attachments to identify what’s junk or potentially junk. If they aren’t relevant, designate documents as “responsive by family only” or “potentially junk” and suppress them.
- To get a better idea of what’s junk email, use pivot tables to identify and remove irrelevant documents. You can search subject lines for terms such as “marketing” or “newsletter.” You can also search for terms such as “subscribe” or “unsubscribe,” which are in the footer of most marketing emails that likely don’t need to be included in your review.
- The recipient count analysis is another way to identify emails that are likely mass communications that might not be relevant to your case.
- Slight differences in email metadata can cause problems with de-duplication, so make sure to run email threading and use the custom email message ID to cut down on any remaining duplicates.
These types of irrelevant documents are low hanging fruit. Getting rid of them early reduces the number of documents your team needs to review.
All of these tips can set teams up for a more efficient and effective review. By bringing together attorneys and technical teams early on in the discovery process, firms are able to better strategize and plan their case.