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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.

Before Litigation
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

During Collection
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

During Processing
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.

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How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

Whereas the party of the first part, also known as “Lawyer”, and the party of the second part, also known as “Light Bulb”, do hereby and forthwith agree to a transaction wherein the party of the second part (Light Bulb) shall be removed from the current position as a result of failure to perform previously agreed upon duties, i. e., the lighting, elucidation, and otherwise illumination of the area ranging from the front (north) door, through the entryway, terminating at an area just inside the primary living area, demarcated by the beginning of the carpet, any spillover illumination being at the option of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and not required by the aforementioned agreement between the parties.

The aforementioned removal transaction shall include, but not be limited to, the following steps:

1.) The party of the first part (Lawyer) shall, with or without elevation at his option, by means of a chair, stepstool, ladder or any other means of elevation, grasp the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and rotate the party of the second part (Light Bulb) in a counter-clockwise direction, this point being non-negotiable.


Q: How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Three, One to climb the ladder, one to shake it and one to sue the ladder company.


Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
A1: It only takes one lawyer to change your light bulb to his light bulb.
A2: You won’t find a lawyer who can change a light bulb. Now, if you’re looking for a lawyer to screw a light bulb…
A3: How many can you afford?


How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

54. Eight to argue, one to get a continuance, one to object, one to demur, two to research precedents, one to dictate a letter, one to stipulate, five to turn in their time cards, one to depose, one to write interrogatories, two to settle, one to order a secretary to change the bulb, and twenty-eight to bill for professional services.

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