Document Review: A Complete Guide to One of the Most Challenging Parts of eDiscovery


If you’ve ever asked someone why they decided to become a lawyer, we’re betting you didn’t hear that they were dying to do document review. That’s because document review process can be extremely tedious. It’s certainly not work that Hollywood depicts in the average legal drama.

Organizations often don’t like document review any more than legal professionals do. Generally speaking, it’s the most time-consuming and costly part of eDiscovery. That’s why it benefits corporations to reduce the volume of document review as much as possible and leave it to their in-house teams to handle to the extent that they can. Luckily, technological advances are making it feasible for corporations to manage their own document review process.

In this post, we’ll define document review and talk about who is involved in the process. We’ll then outline the steps of the document review process and set out five best practices. We’ll wrap up by explaining how technology can help an in-house review team expedite and improve their document review processes.


What is document review?

Who is involved in document review?

The 3 steps of document review

5 best practices for performing document review

End-to-end eDiscovery platforms make document review a breeze

Modern technology will help you optimize your document review process

What is document review?

Document review is the sixth stage of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) process, in which a review team evaluate documents to determine whether they are relevant to and discoverable in a legal matter. Legal teams perform document review before analyzing ESI more thoroughly (the analysis stage) and sharing it with the opposing party (the production stage), although the review process involves a great deal of analysis on its own.

The scope of discoverable information is set out by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), which notes that the parties in a legal matter are entitled to non-privileged information that is “relevant to any party’s claim or defence and proportional to the needs of the case.” Therefore, in the litigation context, the purpose of document review is to determine what information is relevant, proportional, and non-privileged under Rule 26(b)(1).

But litigation isn’t the only reason that an organization may need to complete the review process. Document review may also happen at other times, such as:

·       in an internal investigation,

·       in a regulatory investigation,

·       during a due diligence review for a merger or acquisition,

·       in response to a subpoena, or

·       in response to another outside inquiry.

Regardless of its purpose, document review takes knowledge, time, and effort to complete. Rarely will it be practicable for one person to do it alone. Let’s take a closer look at who conducts document review.

Who is involved in document review?

Corporations may use in-house resources or outside counsel to perform or assist with document review. Both in-house and at law firms, document review tends to be handled by a mix of attorneys, paralegals, and other support staff.

Support staff may be used to help legal teams identify, collect, and categorize the correct set of relevant documents or other electronically stored information (ESI). These individuals can give legal teams valuable information, from search terms to custodian names, and help them lay a solid foundation upon which eDiscovery software can build.

So, how does a legal team perform document review?

The 3 steps of document review

Document review is a methodical process that can be broken down into three steps.

1.     Determine goals and strategize.

You can focus your efforts and achieve better results by defining the reason for the document reviews and outlining your strategic objectives at the outset. If you’re performing document review as part of eDiscovery in a legal case, your purpose is to determine what information is discoverable and how you can use that information to your advantage. If you’re performing document review as part of an investigation, due diligence review, or something else, you should first decide exactly what you hope to gain from document review.

2.     Analyze and categorize documents.

This is the key stage of document review, in which attorneys analyze and categorize those review documents as relevant, responsive, and/or privileged. In this process, reviewers can also identify information that contains a “smoking gun” or good, bad, or neutral facts for the organization. The process of adding these descriptive labels is known as “tagging.”

3.     Extract relevant information.

The point of document review—and eDiscovery more broadly—isn’t just to identify documents for production to your litigation opponent. You also want to gather information that can help your case, whether by informing your strategy or supporting your arguments. As you identify and tag helpful documents, extract the key information from those sources and put it to use.

While the process of document review may be simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Let’s look at a few best practices that can help your in-house team master document review.

5 best practices for efficiently reviewing documents

Document review—for whatever purpose—is serious business. Doing it improperly can have dire consequences, from hurting your legal case to preventing a merger or acquisition.

Here are five best practices for effectively and efficiently performing document review.

1.     Reduce data volumes.

The expense of document review is driven by data volume. The less ESI you collect, the less there is to review, and the less expensive the overall project is. But you can’t just refuse to collect potentially relevant and discoverable information to save money. So, how do you determine what data is important before spending the time and money to review documents? New eDiscovery technologies can help.

For example, IPRO’s Live Early Data Assessment (Live EDA) platform can quickly search and review vast amounts of data across multiple repositories from a single interface—before any data collection begins. With the help of Live EDA, you can identify the relevant data that you actually need to review and avoid over-collection, saving both time and money in document review.

2.     Establish a protocol.

Ensure accuracy and consistency by establishing a clear, consistent document review protocol in the form of a memorandum or other directive that guides reviewers. Your protocol should give an overview of the litigation matter or other event that triggered the review, define the review’s purpose and objectives, and outline instructions for manual tagging documents.

3.     Conduct a pilot review.

A pilot review is a test run that allows you to make sure reviewers understand the process and demands of the case. To conduct a pilot review, set aside a limited number of documents, have an experienced attorney analyze and categorize them, and then ask the rest of your reviewers to evaluate that same sample set. Compare the results from each reviewer and let your team know if they mischaracterized or missed anything before proceeding with the full review.

4.     Collaborate with a team.

For large matters, document review is much more manageable when you share the workload with a team of reviewers. You can collaborate with others more easily by using an eDiscovery tool like ZyLAB ONE that allows you to securely share documents. ZyLAB ONE also allows reviewers to leave comments for one another, simplifying communications and improving consistency.

5.     Perform quality control.

To err is, as they say, human. Plan for reviewers to make mistakes, from missing relevant documents to mistakenly marking information as privileged. Build in quality control measures to prevent errors such as these from evading detection. Establish different groups within your team and instruct them to check each other’s work, perform sample reviews of specific categories of documents to verify that they are accurately categorized, or re-review a certain percentage of documents for mistakes.

Another way to avoid mistakes in document review is to use modern eDiscovery technology.

End-to-end eDiscovery platforms make document review a breeze

Document review doesn’t have to be the most difficult and costly part of eDiscovery. End-to-end e discovery platforms can help legal teams quickly and efficiently complete document review with fewer mistakes and a lower overall price tag.

When choosing an eDiscovery platform, make sure it has the following features:

·       smart search and filtering capabilities,

·       customized document tagging,

·       automatic redaction of sensitive information, and

·       secure file sharing.  

With the right eDiscovery technology, you can complete more accurate document review in less time.

Modern technology will help you optimize your document review process

IPRO offers industry-leading document review solutions that help corporate legal teams reduce data volumes and automate eDiscovery workflows, accelerating the document review process from start to finish. These proven tools use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to find critical data faster, sort documents based on relevance, facilitate speedy review, and perform necessary quality control.

Whatever your reasons for completing a document review project, IPRO platforms can significantly lower your organization’s costs by allowing you to perform more of the process in house.

For more information about IPRO and its proven solutions, contact us or schedule a demonstration today.