A Checklist to Follow for Conducting an Efficient & Successful E-Discovery Document Review Project in Litigation

Document review can be the most demanding part of a legal case. That’s why we’ve put together a straightforward checklist and key strategies to help you through it.

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What is Document Review?

E-Discovery document review refers to the process of examining and analyzing electronic documents, emails, and other data collected, and determining the relevant documents to a legal matter. The primary goal is to identify the relevant information and evidence about the facts and issues on the case, produce the corresponding responsive documents to the opposing side, and withhold any privileged documents.

During the document review phase, attorneys and legal professionals, often assisted by technology and specialized software, go through the collected documents and emails and tag them based on their relevance and responsiveness to the issues on the case or to the discovery request. This can involve assessing and searching the content, context, and metadata of the documents to identify responsive information to produce and find any privileged attorney-client communications or work product in a case.

Due to the growing volume of electronic data, the use of hosting software, technology-assisted review (TAR), and advanced analytics has become more common in eDiscovery document processing and review. These software tools, like Nextpoint and CloudNine, which OPVEON offers, can help limit the scope and streamline the process by prioritizing documents for review based on their potential relevance. With the use of culling and filtering tools, and applying keyword searches to reduce the data volumes will ultimately help the time and costs associated with manual review.

Below is a checklist and some key strategies to consider for conducting an efficient and thorough document review project. Since document review is typically the most time-consuming part of litigation, following an effective review plan and using software is essential for managing the vast amount of ESI data involved in legal proceedings on most cases today.

Begin with the Case Background

Before thinking about a review strategy and plan, it is important to go back and refresh yourself and your legal team on the case history and discovery or production requests filed to date. If you need to organize a review team, they will need to understand the factual and legal background of the case, who the parties are, the claims by each side, and who the key client custodians are and their roles in the case.

Checklist for Document Review

  • Case Issues and Objectives: Gather key case documents, filings, and production requests. Summarize the underlying case issues and facts for the review team so they can make informed and accurate review and coding decisions.
  • Meet & Confer Discussions: Was a FRCP Rule 26(f) meeting held with opposing counsel? Were any agreements or important issues regarding the claims and disputes, preservation holds, sources of data, key custodians involved, and data collection methods discussed?
  • E-Discovery Plan or Discovery Requests: Was an E-Discovery plan discussed and agreed to between parties? What is contained in the discovery requests? Was the specific sources of ESI data to be collected and produced addressed? Was there an agreement regarding any search criteria in order to limit the scope and proportionality to the case? Was the form of production covered?
  • Data Collection: Confirm the overall volume and types of data collected to date. Who collected the data and how was it collected? Are there any potential gaps or missing data that was not collected, but should have been? Also, if there are paper documents included in discovery, consider scanning to convert to electronic images to combine with the ESI data in order to keep the review together in one database.
  • Data Processing: How was the ESI data which was collected formatted and organized? Is it in a consistent format to review? Are there any unique or unusual data types requiring special handling or processing? Videos, oversize drawings, cell phone collections, or key hyperlink email attachments are just some data types that may require special processing. Will additional software or an outside vendor be needed to further process the data before it can be reviewed?
  • Culling/Filtering to Reduce Data Size: Has any further culling or filtering of the ESI data been done to exclude system data and limit by date range for the case? Also, consider de-duplication across all of the custodians’ emails collected in order to eliminate duplicate emails for review. Limiting the volume and scope of the data to be reviewed will greatly reduce the manual review time and effort.
  • Keyword Search Criteria: Was an agreement with opposing counsel made regarding keywords to search for responsive documents? Developing such a keyword search list will significantly reduce the volume and thereby the costs to review the documents collected.
  • Develop a Review Plan: Prepare a review plan with desired results and timeframe to complete the review in order to meet the discovery request deadlines for document production.
  • Review Team Members and Training: Evaluate the review team staffing and training needed. Depending on the volume of data after filtering by date range and keywords will help determine how many review team members you may need. Having the right staff and upfront training of the review team will make the review go smoother and ensure a higher quality and more consistent review.
  • Use of Online Review Software: Consider use of online review software for targeted culling/filtering, keyword searching, and exclusion of privilege documents. Additionally, a review software tool can allow you to perform custom and bulk coding to organize the documents more efficiently and reduce manual review time. Most online software, like Nextpoint and CloudNine, have the capability of electronically bates numbering and exporting document production exports in any requested formats with applicable metadata fields and load files requested.
  • Outside Vendor Needs: Determine if an outside eDiscovery vendor is needed to assist with processing, culling/filtering/searching the data, preparing the responsive documents for production, and providing overall consulting and software support to the review team.
  • Document Coding or Tag Fields: Before starting the review, determine if any other special issue coding or tag fields are needed in addition to the typical responsive, non-responsive and privilege tags. Issue-coding can help define why documents are responsive or applicable to certain production requests, flag key issues pertaining to the case, and code for any confidentiality as well.
  • Perform Privilege Review: Develop a list of potential search terms for privilege assertion, including names and email domains of the key in-house and outside attorneys and paralegals that have worked on the case. Also, include other legal terms such as “deposition”, “subpoena”, “interrogatory” or privilege language used in email subject lines such as “Attorney-Client Privilege Communications”, etc. Conduct a potentially privileged search and tag to help identify the privileged documents even before the review team gets started.
  • Redaction Needs: If the documents contain PII (personally identifiable information) such as names with addresses or social security numbers, bank accounts, or if HIPAA health care records are involved, then plan on the time and effort it will take to perform redaction on those documents. Set-up a redaction tag or coding field to handle redactions after the review and before producing the responsive documents to opposing counsel. With AI, some software, like Nextpoint can bulk batch redact documents, which will save manual time to do so.
  • Quality Control Checks: Implementing quality control measures to verify and check the review team’s process is essential to ensure consistent and accurate document designations. Consider setting up a coding field for “Further Review Needed” for the review team to use when unsure of coding some documents. Plan on having an experienced attorney conduct a sampling to QC the review. Provide feedback to the reviewers early on as they work and find issues or have questions to improve the quality and spot issues when they arise.
  • Review Status and Tracking Progress: If you have several reviewers, you will want to have status reports on the percentage of documents reviewed to periodically check progress. With most review software, you can also set-up review set document groupings and assign to each reviewer to organize the review project and track progress better. Both Nextpoint and CloudNine software contain analytics and metric tracking to check your reviewers’ progress.
  • Production Format: Finally, after the review is completed, the responsive documents will need to be produced. Confirm the final document output formats and production parameters which were agreed to with the opposing party. Will native format or converted image format to TIFF or PDF be needed with load files and metadata fields provided? Within some review software, such as Nextpoint or with Opveon’s Citrix Sharefile application, you can securely send large productions to other parties. With the right software, you can also track and verify who and when they accessed or downloaded the documents too.

By following this checklist and implementing best practices, legal teams can enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and defensibility of the e-discovery document review process.


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