With demanding timelines and increasing nuances of document review, a certain number of mistaken review calls should be expected. However, many of these mistakes can be avoided with smarter planning, defensible review processes, sound technology and management controls.
LDM Global’s Legal Services Director Rashmi Kishore advises on how you can avoid the most common document review mistakes, including jumping in to a straight linear review, making quality control an afterthought and more.
Below are some common pitfalls to avoid for a smooth and successful document review project.
1. Not putting in the time upfront: Failing to formulate a robust strategy and a comprehensive review manual can quickly derail a document review project. Do not begin the review without a proper project implementation plan with due consideration to workflow, staffing, training, quality control methodology and communication methods. Ensure the correct infrastructure is in place: a quiet and dedicated work space with comfortable seats, dual monitor computers, a good IT network and connectivity for smooth functioning of the project.
2. Jumping in to a pure linear review: Take advantage of the document review platform’s features and design an optimized workflow. Don’t jump headfirst into a document set and begin a pure linear review. Identify priority custodians and potentially privileged documents and assign those to higher level attorneys. Identify documents needing special care, for instance, those needing redaction, documents with technical issues or documents needing translation. Confirm upfront precisely what actions should be taken when encountering such documents.
Configure the review platform to enforce specific coding rules such as preventing certain coding conflicts or requiring population of mandatory fields before moving on to the next document. This will save on QC time and costs.
An improper workflow can lead to sloppy execution and unneeded time and expense. For instance, many times new issues are identified after a review is completed, leading to additional reviews for exclusive issues, wasted time when reviewers are waiting for additional work, and documents that are handled two or three times.
3. Not providing proper training to reviewers: Reviewers are often hastily thrown into the middle of a data jungle, with only the most rudimentary instructions for handling that data. Investing sufficient time in training will not only help in avoiding many inconsistent and improper review calls but will also lead to cost savings.
Provide sufficient time for your review team to familiarize itself with the details of the case and any new review platform. Remember that every reviewer working on a pharmaceutical review is not a scientist and every reviewer looking at financial documents is not a financial advisor. Wherever possible, allow the team to go through a set of sample documents before beginning live review. Each member of the team must have a clear idea of the purpose, expectations, nuances and timelines of the review. It is beneficial to prepare a memorandum and checklists for the reviewers to use to help them make determinations during the review.
4. Making quality control an afterthought: Quality control, or QC, should be embedded in the process rather than only at the end of the project. Consistent quality audits over the corpus of reviewed documents ensure correct designations are applied per counsel’s instructions. For successful QC, use statistical sampling to identify potential issues early on and determine whether each issue identified is a systemic problem or an issue isolated to a certain reviewer. It is a good idea to maintain and share the metrics with all reviewers. Make your QC process interactive and dynamic to improve the performance. Some aspects that can help build up a good QC regime are as follows:
- Employ a team of dedicated quality controllers;
- Dedicate a team for trend analysis based on individual and collective error rates;
- Provide swift communication of the analysis to the review team; and
- Incorporate the errors and analysis into training modules.
5. Being too general with search terms. While using keywords, it is helpful to review, analyze, and even sample hit results. Simply running term searches may not give the “right review set.” Many times, high volume or problematic terms can be tweaked or modified, simply by changing an AND or WITHIN search. Additionally, it is important to keep the search term lists dynamic.
Technical searches can be designed to identify documents that violate coding rules of the Review Guidelines, have general coding conflicts or have an inconsistent family relationship. Run a series of “canned objective and subjective metadata searches” to eliminate inaccurate and inconsistent coding designations.
Last but not least, create “privilege search terms” for the final quality screen of documents coded “Not Privileged” to ensure that no potentially privileged documents become a part of the final set of documents to be produced.
While each document review project comes with its own challenges, the above best practices will help you navigate through the common pitfalls with more ease and confidence, ensuring the best outcome for your document review project.
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