Document review, the most expensive part of the eDiscovery process, often poses a formidable challenge for litigation professionals, especially in large-scale, complex cases. This task is further complicated by the need to juggle other responsibilities simultaneously. This also includes the introduction of new data types, ever increasing volumes of data, heightened cost pressure and, of course, the multifaceted discussion around the evolution of “AI” and technology. It’s fair to say, this can often be overwhelming. As such, careful planning, smart solutioning, and using the right expert at the right time is more critical than ever.

Litigants expect their law firm litigators to focus on strategic legal advice and litigation strategy. Most law firm litigators do not want to spend extensive time assessing the legal tech landscape, developing workflows, managing the review process (and teams of review attorneys) while also balancing their client’s expectations, costs, and strict timelines. Firms should forge relationships with service providers that understand the technology landscape and have established workflows, processes, and a demonstrated track-record of quality.

In this article, we delve into three of the main issues law firms face during document review and provide practical strategies to overcome them.

1. Volume and Complexity of Data

The obligation to include electronically stored information (ESI) in discovery/disclosure came into force in the US just under 20 years ago (the UK followed suit a few years later). Since then, we have seen data types diversify and global data volumes increase significantly, and these trends in divergence and expansion of data do not show any sign of slowing down.

Evolving Data Types

New and nuanced data types can overwhelm traditional review methods. Fortunately, there is technology and skilled resources experienced in these types of data. Smartphone collections giving you a headache? Ask providers who specialize in targeted remote personal device collection to help. Struggling with short message or collaboration tool data? Consider outside-the-box solutions. There is technology out there that will help tackle unwieldy chat messages littered with images/videos (tools with near-native capabilities, for example) and ways to structure your review workflow to ensure maximum efficiency and consistency. It can help to utilize a small core team, so the full context is understood as the same individual is responsible for review of each conversation.

Early Case Assessment/Early Data Assessment (ECA/EDA)

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

While there may be an argument about whether this is a Benjamin Franklin quote or not, its meaning extends across many aspects of our personal and professional lives, particularly for those living in the world of eDiscovery and litigation.

By identifying key information and potential issues early on, legal teams can create a focused and efficient case strategy. This not only saves time and resources but also increases the chances of a favorable outcome for all parties involved. As such, it is critical to take the time to get it right but at the same time the process itself needs to be time efficient and cost effective. The power of ECA is further enhanced by advancements in technology. With the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics, attorneys can quickly and efficiently analyze large volumes of data to uncover relevant insights and patterns.

However, none of this is possible without first conducting a robust early data assessment (EDA). EDA involves identifying, collecting, analyzing, and organizing relevant information early in the litigation process so that informed decisions can be made during the ECA process. If the right data is not identified and collected, the merits assessment undertaken as part of the ECA workflow is flawed and this can lead to considerable difficulty later in the process.

Again, service providers with specialized skill sets and advanced technologies, are a viable solution to address and resolve issues faced during the EDA and ECA processes. They are experienced in managing vast volumes of data efficiently and processing them using the latest technology including AI and predictive analytics tools. This not only streamlines the overall approach but also ensures a higher level of accuracy in data interpretation. With their technical expertise, they can ensure the proper functioning of these tools, eliminating the need for additional training or external hires within the firm.

2. Gen AI can shift the focus of the legal profession from reactive to proactive

Legal proceedings operate within strict timelines and deadlines. Law firms should look to streamline workflows, adopt efficient review methodologies, and prioritize tasks to ensure timely completion without compromising accuracy or thoroughness. Service providers can help litigators to leverage technology and craft the right delivery model to maintain quality and timeliness, at scale. This could include a multi-shore approach leveraging teams working round-the-clock.

For law firm clients, document review is a notoriously costly phase of litigation. As such, firms are facing increased pressure to manage this expense while maintaining quality standards. Conversely, the firm is focused on profitability. Both sides of the coin can be satisfied through establishing a delivery model that also includes specialized cost-effective resources, and advanced technologies without the overhead costs associated with in-house review.

3. Document Review Process – Defensible, Adaptable Workflows are Critical

Quality and Consistency

Holding high standards of quality and consistency in document review is paramount for legal credibility and client satisfaction.

A lack of methodology, misinterpretations, or insufficient review expertise can undermine reliability and accuracy. Law firms should collaborate with review process experts to establish a standardized, repeatable review process underpinned by three core pillars to ensure success – Training, Calibration, and Validation. Once that core process is in place, it may be necessary to flex and adapt to address the specific nuances of each particular matter. This is another instance where it is beneficial to work in partnership with a review expert to ensure the bespoke and adapted workflow remains efficient, proportionate, robust, and defensible.

Technology Enabled Review Efficiency

Integrating technology, such as AI, machine learning, and analytics, into document review workflows offers significant efficiency gains. However, litigators may encounter challenges such as resistance to change, concerns about the reliability of AI-driven tools, or industry-specific regulation. Partnering with a specialist in document review can alleviate these challenges by providing expertise in selecting and implementing the right technology and workflow utilizing a combination of technology-enabled efficiency techniques.

What about genAI? Strategic planning, pilot testing of genAI tools, and ongoing evaluation are essential to ensure alignment with firm objectives and client expectations. So, how can law firms carve out sufficient time to test and evaluate new or enhanced tools? By extending the team through partnership. Alternative Legal Service Providers have long been the drivers of innovation and they also have expert resources dedicated to assessing and testing new and evolving technology. Leveraging those resources helps law firms maximize the benefits of technological integration.

While document review poses increased challenges for law firms, proactive management and strategic initiatives can mitigate risks and optimize outcomes. Embracing technological advancements and leveraging the right expert at the right time is crucial to overcome these challenges.

By addressing these issues head-on, law firms can enhance their document review capabilities, deliver superior client service, increase profitability, and effectively navigate the complexities of modern legal practice, leading to increased client satisfaction and business growth.