For some time now, ediscovery and legal support companies have been experimenting with the idea of remote document review projects, to varying degrees of success. In light of COVID-19, remote everything is the new normal, and as we’ve all seen, necessity is indeed the mother of invention. 

Many firms have managed to adapt, quickly launching virtual review offerings. However, security remains a serious concern, and in fact, when it comes to remote review, security means more than just secure IT. It also involves a range of non-technical elements in the people and process domain. 

Whether you’ve been  offering virtual reviews for years or only for the last three months, it pays to take a step back and think about the bigger picture. If secure, cost-effective, defensible reviews are what we’re after, what should be top of mind?

 

  1. Secure review technologies. Comparatively speaking, getting the technology right is the easy part. You can adopt a platform specifically designed for the purpose, or you can provide your own solution via a combined implementation of virtual desktops, multi-factor authentication, and robust logging and auditing systems. Either way, make sure your solution prevents metadata and documents from being downloaded, and consider implementations that integrate video conferencing tools to enhance both oversight and collaboration. Finally, in the absence of face-to-face status meetings and training sessions, you need a secure means of communication and collaboration. Whether it’s built into the remote review platform or a stand-alone tool like Slack, be sure you have a process in place to provide a secure communication platform for the team. 

  2. Recruiting. For most organizations, initiating a  remote, secure review offering implies a significant shift in the recruiting process.Recruiters will need to leverage video as a substitute for in-person meetings, and ask the right questions that range far beyond the candidate’s ediscovery credentials to appropriately evaluate the candidate’s fit for projects. Do they have a computer and a workspace that aren’t shared with other family members? How about a consistently reliable internet connection to avoid latency? Are they self-directed, with good time management skills? Will they be able to stay focused even while working in isolation? For candidates who  make the first cut, reference checks are critical, soliciting deeper conversations with more people to support a thorough assessment of each candidate’s temperament and character.  The primary function of the recruitment process is to properly scope out the requirements of each project, and then to source and match candidates who best meet these requirements.

  3. Policies and procedures. Documentation is typically one of the most overlooked aspects of business management, and yet it’s incredibly important, especially when a firm finds itself in uncharted territory. Clearly defined goals, rules, and processes will make it easier for everyone to succeed. Further, if expectations and behaviors are thoroughly documented and clearly communicated, you’ll be in a much better position to handle training and performance evaluations.

  4. Technical support. In a virtual review, you’ll need to support a much broader range of technology and connectivity issues. The goal is to minimize variations on the end-user desktop as much as possible, and make sure your support teams have the resources they need to address and resolve these issues. A knowledge base and a remote support tool are must-haves, and a well-tested escalation path will help you keep especially difficult problems in hand. Remember that technical support is stressful for everyone, even in the best of circumstances, and encourage both reviewers and technicians to be kind to one another.

  5. Targeted post mortems. Because reviewers are geographically dispersed, it’s more important than ever to develop and implement a comprehensive post mortem process. When everyone was in the same location, it was easier to gather feedback about what worked, what was difficult, and what we should have done differently. In a completely virtual scenario, you need to be more deliberate about project follow-up. To improve best practices and implement process changes, we need to consider using a structured questionnaire for both review attorneys and the client, as a means of gathering information and documenting the workflow.

Like most things that are new and different, remote review will likely be uncomfortable at first.  But if there’s one thing that the ediscovery industry has proven time and again, it’s that we’re a highly adaptable bunch. Many firms are still figuring it out as they go along, but Trustpoint has been fortunate in that we already had much of the necessary technology and operational infrastructure in place. Building on that foundation, we were able to transition all of our ongoing projects, with few hiccups. In most cases, we retained the existing project management and review teams to ensure minimal interruption to the project. 

At the same time, we successfully launched many new review engagements that leveraged our secure virtual workspaces, including a 300+ attorney review that required contract attorneys in multiple cities and different time zones. By providing skilled project managers, offering timely support, and soliciting client and reviewer feedback, we’ve been able to refine new workflows to start projects on time and support successful outcomes for dozens of clients.

Remote work implies a unique set of challenges that must be overcome, but as more firms become more adept at functioning in fully virtual scenarios, less tangible benefits like improved work-life balance and greater client satisfaction are likely to emerge. For those who can bring the right pieces together, what started out as an uncomfortable necessity might just turn out to be a bit of a sea change.

Our Client, the defendant in a putative class action litigation, asked for our help to deal with a burdensome Request for Production. We were presented with roughly 500 gigabytes of data, or almost a million documents to review. We were able to reduce the review set size to less than 80,000 using traditional search term methodology in conjunction with Relativity Analytics, a 90% reduction. This is a respectable data reduction, but we didn’t stop there.

A Holistic Approach
Trustpoint approaches early case assessment with a mindset of achieving defensible data reduction. We do not set our sights on any preconceived number of documents or an arbitrary finish line. Instead, we operate with the mindset that we should reduce the attorney review set as much as is safely defensible. Working from that basic principle, we continued to analyze the 80,000 document attorney review set for further reduction opportunities. What we noticed was the review set was inordinately rich in spreadsheets. Deeper analysis of these documents’ family structure and the nature by which traditional search terms captured them showed that they may be redundant to in-house counsel’s separate production efforts. After approaching the Client with our observation and confirming that they had already produced such information, we realized that these documents could be defensibly eliminated as duplicative. After the Client confirmed as much through null set validation, the review set was effectively reduced from about 80,000 documents to about 12,000 documents. This was an additional 85% reduction for a final cull rate of 99%.

This solution was made possible by our holistic approach to data analysis, and would not have been solved by relying on traditional search term methodology, predictive coding/machine learning, or Relativity Analytics alone. Our initial data reduction efforts using traditional methodology took this review from a $1M+ budget to somewhere between $100K and $200K. This represented a significant cost-savings that many clients would have been pleased with and “green lighted”. However, we consider data reduction to be an on-going process, and so we identify and present all of our Client’s available options. By continuing to press for data reduction options, we ultimately billed our Client less than $40,000 (and that included a complete privilege log, extensive custom redactions, and all early case assessment consulting costs). While we cannot guarantee similar results for all matters and data sets, we can provide our clients ease of mind knowing that if there is an available solution to avoid unnecessary review costs, we will find and present it.

If you have a project you’d like to discuss, you can get in touch with our review team here.

1) Improved Communication.

The simple back and forth of team communication is often the biggest factor in slowing down the process. We’ve been part of every side of this equation. We’ve done just eDiscovery, just Review, and we’ve done both. There is no comparison. When the eDiscovery and Review teams are literally on the same team, it makes every aspect of communication easier. By having a single point of contact between technology, review, outside & internal counsel, everything gets simpler. Questions get answered quickly, issues get resolved, and the process moves along without friction.

2) Core Team Speed.

By having a core team responsible for the whole process, they get to know the specifics of your business. This fosters the accumulation and retention of institutional knowledge. By gaining familiarity with your business and data custodians, it also allows them to ramp up faster, under tighter deadlines. 

3) Improved Defensibility.

A standardized process between Discovery and Review makes the operational history and process more complete and easier to obtain. The result is simple, tried and true defensibility documentation.

4) Better Product.

We’ve found that having everyone on the same team fosters the development of innovative workflows. It should come as no surprise, as the core team becomes more familiar with the data it naturally leads to greater insight. They can reuse previously processed data, streamline privilege screens, integrate guidelines from outside counsel, company acronym lists, etc.

5) Less Cost.

If cost tends to come down to one thing in Review and Discovery, it’s efficiency. Improved efficiency means less time, less hours, and less cost.  We’ve found that having a single team responsible for both is one of the most reliable methods to keep costs down.