Ten Top Tips for a Successful Document Review Team
Guest article by Saida Joseph – International Director, Document Review Services, Epiq Systems
Meeting tight deadlines and disclosure orders can depend on putting together the right team. In addition to selecting the right technology, project manager, vendor, and platform – selecting the right document review team can make the difference between going before the judge with the proper arguments or barely making a regulatory production deadline – with potentially privileged documents intact.
The team of people that you put together may comprise the largest single expense in any litigation or regulatory inquiry. The legal review team accounts for 80 percent of the cost of any e-disclosure exercise1 and e-disclosure takes up close to one-third of total litigation costs.2 In addition, litigation takes up 50 percent of a corporation’s legal budget.3 In sum, you do not want to stake 12 percent of a corporation’s annual legal spend on an ill conceived or prepared document review team.
1. Interview each reviewer personally
The initial interview is the best place to set expectations and goals for the project. In terms of successful project management, it is the first opportunity, not only to understand and vet the team members, but to instill in them the objectives and expectations for the successful completion of the matter.
2. Include team members with substantive industry knowledge and experience
Every industry has its own special language, jargon, acronym soup and peculiarities. By hiring lawyers with experience in that industry, you are hiring people who can cut through the slang and educate their fellow reviewers about the nuances of that business sector or industry. Again, too many lawyers with this type of experience, and you may get a team that cannot see the wood for the trees — it is all about the proper balance.
3. Don’t be afraid to move people around the review room
Sitting the Chatty Kathie next to another Chatty Kathie is a recipe for disaster. While you want the review team to discuss the merits of the case and what interesting evidence they are finding, you do not want two reviewers regaling each other with what they ate for lunch. Not only are they not working, but they are distracting the stoic sitting opposite them.
4. Provide ergonomic seating, dual monitors, natural lighting
Packing a review team into a windowless basement, sweltering attic or warehouse accommodation is the quickest way to advertise to the review team that you don’t value the work they are doing. A case can be won or lost on a single email – you want the review team to care as much about the outcome of this matter as the senior partner.
5. Insist everyone wear business attire at least once, and then business casual as appropriate
Now is not the time for sweatpants or ripped jeans. If you want people to take this job seriously and provide a quality work product, remind them that they are lawyers – and that what they think counts.
6. Allow a substantial amount of time for training, Q&A, and feedback
There is always going to be the matter where a two-page memo will suffice for training, but don’t be afraid to give the review team the entire picture. Have them read the briefs and court filings, the arguments and defences, and the background history. The more information they have, the better armed they are to make the correct analytical decision.
7. Allow time for ‘dummy’ coding
Everyone has a different learning style. Some people learn by reading and some learn better in a lecture-style environment. But most people learn best by actually doing. Ask your e-disclosure vendor to create a small set of dummy batches and have the review team work through them as a whole. Allow time for another question and answer period while the review team is actually in a dummy batch. Then have the vendor wipe the dummy sets and begin the review in earnest. The accuracy and learning curve will be that much better from the outset.
8. Engage reviewers in the process – be transparent
Set deadlines and reasonable work schedules. Professional document review lawyers know when they need to power through a matter to hit a disclosure deadline – furthermore, let them know if there is a hold up with the data and they will have an afternoon off. An open dialogue goes a long way to building a long-serving team.
9. Measure, measure, measure
The review process is just that, a process. It should be measurable, quantifiable, and repeatable. Set reasonable goals and expectations about how many documents can be reviewed per hour, per day, per reviewer and then look at the outliers for quality assurance purposes.
10. Refer to the Data as Evidence
Even though the data is just a collection of ones and zeros, it is still evidence in someone’s incredibly important matter. Don’t forget to refer to it as such – it helps crystalise the review team’s mind around the facts and issues and away from the dehumanising gigs and bytes.