Efficient E-Discovery Through Workflow And Validation

Monday, December 6, 2010 - 01:00

Editor: We have heard a lot about document review technology for electronic discovery. Can you help our readers discern the differences among e-discovery vendors?

Guilbeau: One of the first aspects to consider is how well a vendor understands the goal of the process. It's not only about speed of processing - gigabytes per hour and such. What really counts is how efficiently a vendor helps you get through the entire process. Most of the expense of e-discovery is actually in the review of material - dollars spent on human teams. A vendor who really understands that process and offers real world tools to make it efficient is a huge differentiator. At Kiersted, we accomplish this through review workflow and validation.

Editor: In the context of e-discovery review, how do you define workflow and validation?

Guilbeau: Workflow is simply the automated movement of groups of documents from one defined review phase to the next. Validation consists of coding rules for each workflow stage, and each rule must be satisfied before a group of documents is eligible to move to the next stage.

Editor: Why is workflow so important?

Guilbeau: Automated workflow is important because it ensures that all of the steps that need to happen during the life cycle of a review get done the right way the first time. You really don't want to end up at the deadline and realize that half of the documents were never reviewed for privilege or other criteria. That can be catastrophic, or at the very least, can call for hours and hours of re-review when you can least afford it. Plus, it allows you to see how much material is in each stage of the review, so you can manage the process to meet tight deadlines.

Editor: Since it is so important in managing the process, isn't automated workflow inherently present in all review systems?

Guilbeau: Unfortunately, we see systems that cannot model even the most basic workflow without extensive project management intervention and constant monitoring. A user must run QC searches, queries, or scripts to determine how many documents are in any stage of review and also to qualitatively assess their readiness for production. This "manual approach" to ensuring review completeness is very time consuming and fraught with peril. A better approach is to define workflow stages in advance based on the client's processes, and then set milestones. Building on this automation, we assign document access according to team members' roles so they can self-administer the process.

Editor: Describe this "self-administration" aspect of electronic discovery workflow.

Guilbeau: Picture this: The clock is ticking and the meter is running, but nothing is happening.

This occurs all too often. In a typical system with 100,000 documents to review, a reviewer would either conduct a search to obtain documents to review or be assigned a pre-defined bucket of documents. When these interactions are not automated, the reviewer may just be idly sitting and waiting to be assigned documents by someone who is not immediately accessible.

Automated workflow that relies on a self-administering review process is wonderful because of the efficiency that it brings, along with speed and cost savings. Here is how it works: We might split the documents into 40 "bins" that each contain 250 documents - a manageable number to get through. When reviewers are ready for more documents, they simply grab another bin from the pool that is ready without waiting to be assigned or having to find someone to ask.

Editor: Can you explain validation a bit more, and why we need to know about it?

Guilbeau: Teams often scramble to meet the deadline, and the last thing you want is to have a huge problem at the end with no time to fix it. This is where validation comes in. It is an important feature of review that is not always apparent on the surface. Validation enforces the rules that govern the linear progression of documents from one milestone stage to the next. The number of validation rules for each workflow stage is unlimited and entirely customizable. For example, we may define the first stage as "Responsive Review," and require both a responsive call and a preliminary privilege call for all documents. If either of these rules is not satisfied, the system alerts the user who is prompted to fix the issue.

Editor: What are a few specific features that our readers should look for in the technology?

Guilbeau: It can sound complicated, but it really all comes down to a high quality review process that meets specific needs. We built our system in the trenches, sitting next to attorneys working on real cases under incredible deadlines, and came up with some cool features that make the system fast and easy to use. Programmable "hot" keys make it simple to add codes and tag groups of documents. Filters that show only documents relevant to a workflow stage or items that failed validation make them easier to fix, and reviewers can validate a bin of items with a single click. A customized user interface, along with issue codes, privilege codes and responsive codes, allow the system to fit each unique situation. Also, don't overlook the valuable powerful administration and management features that help projects run smoothly, such as the ability to generate metrics.

Editor: How important are performance metrics?

Guilbeau: You want to plan properly and use resources effectively. If you are understaffed, you need to know right away, and naturally, you don't want to waste money by overstaffing either. Unfortunately, many systems on the market today don't provide comprehensive review metrics that let you see where you are. Insist on information available at your fingertips that shows things like the number of documents in each stage, review rates, frequency of responsive hits, and individual reviewer productivity.

Editor: We've talked a lot about technology itself. In your opinion, how important is the human element?

Guilbeau: It's not only the system that keeps you out of trouble; skilled project managers are crucial. In our experience, clients rely on us to guide them through the process and recommend strategies and rules according to industry standards. Our experts are behind the scenes managing the project and making sure that it goes smoothly.

Editor: Can you summarize the main things our readers need to know?

Guilbeau: The goal is to speed up and streamline every step of the review process so you save time and money. It should all happen by design. Demand a flexible system that automates all the review stages and validation rules you need - a system that addresses real world situations faced by litigation professionals. Eliminate extra costs from waiting time and administrative delays, and avoid missed deadlines due to inconsistent coding that necessitates rework. Rely on powerful workflow and validation capabilities to catch what others miss and get it right the first time.

Please email the interviewee at aguilbeau@kiersted.com with questions about this interview.