Avoiding your own "Oscars moment" in eDiscovery

Raise your hand if you saw (or read about) the Academy Award for Best Picture gaffe and thought: That has totally happened to me.

It’s such a small thing – someone picks up the wrong envelope. Someone else passes it along. Another person doesn’t read past the first two lines. And the next thing you know, it’s a public disaster.

Raise your hand again if you work in the legal industry, heard about the Oscars, and had a flashback to the time you had to claw back an email that had @lawfirm.com right in the recipient field.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with attorneys, some of whom were new to the use of analytics in eDiscovery. In fact, some of my clients were using eDiscovery software for the first time. There is always an adjustment period where you must explain what the various buttons do, and (sometimes) explain the concepts underlying the technology itself.

And, undoubtedly, there usually comes a moment where confusion, frustration and a looming deadline combine to raise the question: why are we using this software in the first place? What’s wrong with linear review? For that matter, what’s wrong with simply reviewing paper documents? You can use color-coded post-its and highlighters, and you know exactly which document you’ve reviewed, because it’s the one that’s lightly smudged with blood from your paper-cut.

But then we remember what makes the technology worth the cost and the learning curve worth the time: the technology gives you the opportunity to leverage your best and sharpest self, while hedging against your moments of human weakness. No – the machine won’t perform your review for you, and there is no electronic substitute for an alert, informed mind.

The machine won’t “find the smoking gun” and it won’t “sweep in privileged documents.” But once you – at 10 a.m., freshly caffeinated and fully focused – have created your privilege search terms, the machine might just rescue you at 10 p.m., when you are exhausted and distracted, and are ready to hit “Produce” when you shouldn’t.

This is, obviously, one of the most simplistic examples of eDiscovery technology saving the day. Consider how a few clicks of your mouse can “sweep” the results of work done across several months and multiple locations. Consider how you can pull in near-duplicates and review 20 documents in the time it took to review just one. Consider how concept and phrase analytics can suggest search terms before you’ve reviewed a single document.

Technology will never make discovery foolproof, but it can help avoid many human errors before they even happen. It doesn’t mean you will never make the wrong call. (Lin-Manuel was robbed!) But it does mean you’ll be less likely to read from the wrong envelope.

Renata Bystritsky is a Client Experience Manager for Prometheus, and is responsible for all aspect of client engagements. Renata is a former practicing lawyer and has worked in both the software and services sides of the eDiscovery industry. She can be reached directly at renata.bystritsky@prometheus-discovery.com.

#analytics #ESI #discovery