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Document Review Process, Guidelines & Best Practices: 9 Steps to Prepare Your Workflow

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Posted On Feb 26, 2021 

Many people understand what document review is and when it needs to be performed. But do you know how to prepare for a review before it begins? To make a document review successful, it’s important to proactively prepare your workflow and stick to guidelines that can inform and expedite your process.


If you are aware of the complexities involved in the document review process, then it will be easier to avoid common pitfalls. However, too many case teams ignore expert advice and take perceived “shortcuts” to the process. This can add additional expenses and lengthy delays to the review.


Document Review Process Best Practices


Here are 9 key points all legal teams should consider prior to starting the document review process:


1. Is “native review” or “image review” being performed?


Litigation review platforms have different functionalities available to reviewers. The capabilities used depend on the type of document review being performed. You need to know the difference between native file and image review functionality in your chosen review platform. This is particularly important when it comes to tasks, such as printing.


Native Review


Native review is the review of ESI content in its current native source format. Almost all software companies develop their applications and native file viewers around other technologies (ex. Oracle Stellent or QuickView Plus). End-users can view native file content in one single platform, without having to launch the original source file application.


It is important to note that PDF files are considered native files by almost all litigation review platforms, not images. This common misconception about PDF files has been known to cause challenges during review and/or production.


Native files do not have set page counts. Individual computer settings will determine page counts when a file is opened in its native source application. Page counts can change from computer to computer, which is one of the many reasons legal teams choose to convert ESI to image format.


Image Review


The process of converting ESI to image format for review is considered image review. Imaging has become a means of consistently “preserving” the formatting of a native files. Imaging all ESI prior to document review used to be a fairly standard practice. Now that data volumes have increased significantly, this practice has become outdated and costly.


Tip: Start with native review, and only request responsive images (and/or redacted documents). This is a much more cost-effective and efficient approach.


2. What is the overall goal or objective for this review?


Is it a standard document review for production? Is it a review for an investigation? Is the case team reviewing for privilege? Is the case team preparing for depositions or preparing witnesses and experts? The overall end-goal for the document review being performed will determine the workflows legal teams will need to set up.


3. How many reviewers will there be and what level of review needs to be performed?


In other words, how in-depth does the analysis of the data need to be for this particular matter? Will there be different review teams with different tasks? (i.e. first level review, second level review, QC review, attorney level review).


The level of review required will determine how many reviewer groups and access permission levels there are to set up. Some options are as follows:


  • Full administrative rights
  • Reviewer rights only with limited editing capabilities
  • Administrative rights with less restrictive permissions


Controlling user permission levels makes maintaining an organized workflow easier.


4. What specific coding information are reviewers required to capture during review?


This requires planning by legal teams ahead of time. Custom fields specific to the matter and document review can be set up prior to starting review.


Some popular items for capture include the following:


  • Issues
  • Hot doc status
  • Privilege
  • Responsiveness
  • Redactions
  • Confidentiality
  • Document request/RFP number
  • Deponent name
  • Expert name


5. Do you need custom workflows or database administration tasks to be performed?


These processes can take place prior or during a review depending on individual need. Some examples of things to consider for your workflow:


  • Batching implemented
  • Reviewer batch sets created
  • Custom quality control
  • Custom workflow searches
  • Search terms applied and search term reports created
  • Key terms highlighted


All of these tasks take additional time and should be considered as part of the workflow.


6. Will external or non-party reviewers need to access the review database?


Will the legal team need to share documents with co-counsel, experts, or consultants? If so, plan and have detailed discussions on what other parties are allowed to see, access and edit. External parties require stricter permissions, which must be managed properly. Keep this in mind when determining appropriate levels of access to the work product of the other parties sharing the database.


7. Will advanced technologies be used to expedite document review?


There are many advanced technologies available for document review. You should understand your technology options and their unique functionalities in order to determine which tool to implement. Some of these technologies to note are:


  • Near-duplicate detection
  • Email threading
  • Categorization
  • Predictive coding


Workflows must be planned and review teams trained prior to starting review. This will help keep everyone on the same page throughout the process.


8. How many documents need to be reviewed?


Document review can take hours, days, or even weeks to complete. It is typically the most expensive part of the eDiscovery process. Keep the data volume in mind before and during the review to help reduce costs along the way.


9. Have you budgeted time to accommodate for unforeseen variables?


It’s critical to do this before establishing a discovery deadline. You need to know what variables can negatively impact the process. It is common for issues like, limited client budgets, limited resources, complicated review workflows and lack of planning to derail a review. If something wasn’t properly set up or considered at the beginning of a matter, you could run into delays or missed deadlines. Ensure you remain within your timeline by keeping the big picture in mind and planning accordingly.


Document review itself is not complicated. However, it does require significant strategy, thought and preparation from legal teams. Each of these steps are critical for efficient and cost-effective workflows. Case teams should be realistic about what they need to accomplish. Ask yourself, or the legal team, the questions above to ensure you’re prepared. It is imperative for everyone involved to take a step back and look at the big picture before beginning review.


Don’t be afraid to utilize experienced Managed Document Review consultants who can provide guidance from beginning to end. Experts will help eliminate the need for deadline extensions and other inconveniences. Consultants can also help you customize your workflow to fit the needs of your case.


Check out LHH’s currently available Document Review Jobs and apply today!