Target More, Spend Less: Reducing Document Review Costs for Discovery.
Numerous analyses have established that document review is far and away the most expensive discovery activity:
• One study estimated that 73% of the total costs to produce materials in discovery are attributable to document review;
• Another study estimated that 58% of the total costs to produce materials in discovery are attributable to document review;
• A market commentary estimated that approximately $5 are spent on review for every $1 spent on processing;
• A survey found that “discovery costs for attorney review alone were roughly one-fourth of the total outside legal fees” [emphasis added].
The reason for these significant costs is the irreducible need for qualified people to spend time looking at a significant number of documents to make nuanced determinations about their relevance, their privilege, and much more. Thus, if you want to reduce the cost of discovery, reducing the volume of documents that make it through to the review phase – by targeting the right ones in each prior phase – should be your first priority.
Targeting Tools You Can Use
To more-narrowly target the right data prior to review, there are a range of tools and techniques available to you in each prior phase: before litigation, during collection, during processing, and during early case assessment. To leverage these tools and techniques effectively, you will need to think about discovery as more than just a legal activity: you will need to think about it as an information management and retrieval exercise as well. Each project is a funnel that begins with preserved data and ends with produced data, with various filters and screens used to reduce the volume during each phase as it descends.
o Data Retention – implementing retention schedules reduces starting volume
o Data Remediation – enforcing retention schedules reduces starting volume
o Data Mapping – the more you know, the more effectively you can target
o Custodian Interviews – learn what really matters and where it really is
o Searching and Sampling – test sources for relevance before collection
o Targeted Collection – opt for logical collections rather than full images
o Directory or Custodian Filtering – target the right sources
o File-Type Filtering – target the right kinds of ESI
o Date Range Filtering – target materials from the right time
During Early Case Assessment
o Keyword Searching – develop searches to weed out the irrelevant
o Email Filtering and Threading – limit duplicative review of email
o Advanced Analytics – find the right clusters of relevant materials
o Random Sampling – find out exactly what you have and how much
Considerations for Making a Data Targeting Plan
Leveraging these many options successfully is not about using as many as you possibly can. Instead, your goal should be to understand the specifics of the options available in your source systems and your discovery tools, so that you can assess which ones will be most useful to you in each specific project and how aggressive you should be in your overall targeting efforts, given your time, budget, and resources.