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6 Document Review Metrics Every Lawyer Should Know

Document review can oftentimes be one of the most cumbersome parts of discovery. Separating relevant from irrelevant in a timely manner not only requires humans with specialized legal expertise, but someone at the helm who can keep track of it all. Whether you’re managing review internally or paying for outside managed review services, there are certain numbers regarding a matter’s progress that the attorney in charge should know at any given time.

1. How many documents do I have?

Yes, this seems pretty obvious but it’s still worth mentioning. The total number of documents in discovery is the metric that all other metrics are measured by. Oftentimes, countless other decisions stem from this number. How much will discovery cost? Should I settle because discovery is too expensive? How many reviewers need to be on this project to meet our deadline? There’s plenty of other variables that come into such equations, but there’s virtually no decision where the total number of documents isn’t part of that equation.

2. How many dupes do I have?

As important as the total number of documents is, it can’t be the only number you look at. That’s largely because it can sometimes be misleading thanks to dupes and near dupes.

A near-dupe dashboard within Contact Discovery’s Vu™ solution

Imagine we collect the phones belonging to both Jack and Jill. If Jack and Jill ever had correspondence with each other, then it’s likely those same threads exist on both devices. It’s a waste of resources to make reviewers read that twice.

Luckily, most eDiscovery platforms have gotten pretty good at recognizing dupes. In some cases, de-duping can make your pile of documents significantly smaller than what you initially thought. Since so many other strategic decisions will hinge on how costly review could be, you need to know this dupe number to have an accurate read on the scope of review.

3. What kinds of documents do I have?

Long gone are the days where discovery strategies were limited to emails and their attachments. Well at least, long gone are the days when good discovery strategies were limited to emails and their attachments.

Nowadays, “documents” can take the form of emails, text messages, Slack threads, and more. Those different communication channels can each pose different review challenges that hinder review progress if you’re unprepared.

For example, reviewing text messages can involve spreadsheets where iChat, SMS, and MMS are broken into different pages, and any attached images are another page. Reviewing communication this way without mobile-specific solutions to help can be significantly more time-consuming than reviewing the exact same conversation in email form.

Now, imagine 60% of your documents that need reviewing are text messages, but you’ve budgeted your time and money as though they were emails. This will cause major problems downstream when review progress isn’t happening at the pace you expected, and perhaps you need to hire a lot of extra reviewers at the last minute to meet your deadline. Your client is mad because the case is costing more than they initially thought. This could’ve been prevented if you’d known what kinds of data you had at the onset and how long it generally takes to review different data types.

4. How many documents are in other languages?

Documents in foreign languages are another curveball that can trip up large review projects. It’s hard enough to find attorneys with the right legal experience to be helpful to your case, but finding that attorney who’s also fluent in another language often proves even more difficult. Any precious time you spend tracking down qualified reviewers is time you could’ve spent reviewing documents.

Maybe non-English documents only make up a tiny portion of your total data, in which case you only need 1-2 reviewers who speak that other language, and the rest of your review team can review the English documents as usual. In other cases, you might need a team composed almost entirely of bilingual attorneys.

It’s also highly dependent on what languages you need your team to know. Reviewers fluent in Spanish are probably going to be easier to find than reviewers fluent in Bulgarian. Either way, the sooner you figure out that you have documents in other languages, the better you can plan for that added challenge and manage your client’s expectations.

5. How many documents still need to be reviewed?

This is another one that might seem obvious, but it’s not necessarily important for the reasons you might think. “Can I get through X documents by my deadline?” is a pressing question on any lawyer’s mind, but an equally important question is “do I have enough information to make good decisions about what to do next?”

The Master Summary screen within Contact Discovery’s Vu™ solution

Ultimately, the reason we do discovery in the first place is so that lawyers and their clients can reach a positive outcome. What lawyers consider “positive” can vary widely depending on the truth that lies in those discovery documents. Sometimes there’s enough exonerating evidence to win a trial; other times, there’s enough incriminating data that a “positive outcome” is a favorable settlement.

If your team has only gotten through 10% of their documents, it’s probably not wise to make any major decision regarding the case. You just don’t have enough information yet to make a good decision, and you don’t want to close yourself off to other potential strategies that might become evident later.

If you’ve gotten through 80% of the documents, you still don’t have ALL the information, but you might have enough to be a little more strategic about how you approach that last 20%. What other information would be helpful to the case? Can you make educated guesses about which documents might hold that information?

Knowing how many documents still need to be reviewed is a lot bigger than just “Am I on track to meet a deadline?” It’s a number that tells you whether it makes more sense to start building a specific case strategy, or more sense to hang tight and wait for more information before you commit to a strategy.

6. How fast are reviewers getting through documents?

Most lawyers already want to know how many documents are still in review. What not as many lawyers worry about is the pace of specific reviewers. 

It’s important to know the current pace of progress, but it’s also important to know if you should just accept that pace or if other changes could accelerate things. Knowing how many documents one reviewer is getting through on a given day is a massive help for gauging whether or not progress could be happening faster.

There’s all sorts of reasons why Reviewer A might get through 20 documents a day, and Reviewer B might get through 10 documents a day. Maybe one reviewer is dealing with longer documents or that time-consuming mobile data we mentioned above. In that case, there might not be much to change that, your data is what it is.

Maybe Reviewer A is more familiar with the review platform you’re using, and an hour or two of extra training for Reviewer B would have them reviewing their docs just as quickly. Maybe you’ll see that reviewers are doing the best they can, but they’re still not working at a fast enough pace to meet your deadline and you’ll need to expand the review team to make it. It’s hard to glean these kinds of insights if all your vendor is giving you is one collective “documents left to review” number.

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Knowing the numbers behind document review affects your ability to make good decisions quickly. Contact Discovery’s solution, Vu™, is designed to put these metrics back in the hands of the attorneys who need them most. You can schedule a demo to learn more.

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