First, the corporation had archived their emails in an antiquated system with limited search capability. Second, unlike most multi-district litigation, this case didn’t come with a high-dollar value, making cost control more important than ever.
In over their head, the law firm brought in their longtime solution provider, Gulfstream Legal Group, for help.
“This Seems Like a Whole Lot of Documents”
The law firm and corporation had performed some preliminary keyword searches in their antiquated system, exported the emails and attachments, and provided them to Gulfstream to process into Relativity—but there was a problem.
"We got all the files and suddenly both counsel and in-house counsel think, ‘this seems like a whole lot of documents. Something isn’t right,’" says Ari Mandel, vice president of discovery services for Gulfstream. In total, the group was looking at 1.1 million records.
The corporation handed off their list of search terms to Ari’s team, who, using the dashboards in Relativity ECA & Investigation, was able to get a good view of the types of documents being returned from those terms. For example, using one of Relativity’s templated dashboards, they could break down all emails returned from the search terms list by domain, send date, custodian, and more.
Immediately, the client noticed that most of the domains, dates, and custodians from these emails were irrelevant to the matter. It turns out corporate counsel, using their antiquated system, had applied the search terms verbatim without combining the correct words—explaining why so many non-responsive documents were returned.
"Without the dashboards in Relativity for them to visualize how their data fit together, the client would have never seen that most of the documents were unresponsive," says Ari. "But when you can visualize your data in the way the dashboards present it, the modern user experience lets a case team, who may not be as mature technically, perform advanced work with very little training."
In-house counsel was then able to exclude big groups of documents based on person, time frame, and email domain and, with Gulfstream’s help, reapply their key terms across the population, cutting the data set down from 1.1 million documents to 500,000 documents.
"Instead of looking through the 1.1 million documents, they were able to use the dashboards—where all the information is presented right in front of you, side-by-side—and start adjusting the different filters," says Ari.
Proving Their Defense
With the data set drastically reduced, it was time to start analyzing what was left.
Ari and team started with a keyword validation workflow, where they pulled a statistical sample of the documents they were going to promote to review to ensure everything looked okay—and they found something unexpected.
"There was one document that was clearly relevant, but didn’t have any of our keyword hits," says Ari. The team decided to apply keywords to a cluster visualization of their documents to discover additional relevant key terms to add to their list.
"With clustering, we were able to find other key terms based on their appearance in the same cluster with documents that did contain a key term," says Ari. "For example, if the term was baseball, we would have also discovered words like glove, batter, pitcher in documents in proximity. Cluster visualization helped us identify documents that were relevant to our case but would have never been caught," he says.
Those documents included key conversations from a third party—conversations that were not part of their original document set.
Next, the team used email thread visualization to group emails together and help them avoid reviewing redundant documents in their data set. In the end, they pushed 80,000 documents to review—less than eight percent of the 1.1 million the client started with. More importantly, the additional documents uncovered through clustering were the very documents needed to prove their defense.
"The visualizations in Relativity helped us quickly troubleshoot a searching error and identify key data the search terms missed—it was absolutely essential to our case," says Ari. "The corporate client flat out said that there was no way they could have done this without the ECA dashboards and visualizations. They would have never been able to apply the filters correctly to be compliant with the discovery request."