October 21, 2014

Back to Basics

In order to be successful incorporating technology into your legal practice, we all know communication is key, but you must also take a step back and understand the workflow and how it will be applied to the new tools.  Years ago when I first introduced Summation to our legal team, I was already in the habit of summarizing discovery in an Excel spreadsheet.  I could sort the spreadsheet chronologically but, with the help of Summation, I could reach in and grab the documents from one party, sort them chronologically, and then have the related documents on my screen.  Now that was impressive!

At that point I took some time to explain that we were working in a true database.  Clearly a transition, but it was necessary to understand that unlike a spreadsheet, our documents would not remain in a static formatted display.  We could let the database do the work for us to return a variety of results.  We searched, subset searched and tallied the data.  Often we constructed a Boolean search, printed it out and placed it in a folder with a label (yes,  we printed it!).

Now, fast forward to rediscovering Summation with many new features using the very same approach.   First, understand your workflow.  Picture yourself like you have many times where you have just been handed the key to a warehouse full of documents.  Of course your case involves banker boxes of paper (that will likely not go away so long as you and I are working in the industry), but now it also involves inboxes, flash drives, hard drives and cell phones.  I’m not going to bore you with another eDiscovery scare; my point is to emphasize that we need to stick to the basics of understanding our workflow, and simply redefine our warehouse.

The early case/data assessment functionality that has been incorporated into Summation’s platform is, in my opinion, the single most significant feature affecting your workflow.  Once the data has been ingested into the platform, the ability to conduct multi-dimensional searches is only limited by your creativity to construct the query.  The process is really no different than an attorney’s current approach to conducting a search in case law; start with broad strokes and then focus on a single branch to find the case in point.  If the results turn cold, branch out again and go back for more.

Apply the same concept to your data set seventeen different ways right out of the gates, with filters like custodian, sender display name, or recipient domain.  Within the 17 filters are slivers of information known as facets that are formed dynamically based on the data that was ingested.  For example, the filter “email by date” immediately breaks down into two facets by either when the email was delivered OR submitted.  Now dive deeper, which year, then which month, or even which day.  If you like what you find, then stick a label on it and put it aside and go back for more.  If you don’t like what you find, peel back up a layer or two and start over.

The filters and facets suppress the familiar overwhelming feelings we have when facing the warehouse.  Instead of searching blindly, these tools allow you to walk into the warehouse and physically filter the discovery by date, type, witness, sender, recipient, etc.  With a little bit of thought and communication about the facts, key words, significant dates, and key witnesses I am able to take command over my warehouse.  Using the filters and facets allows you to sieve through the discovery via calculated searches and organize it without ever laying eyes on one document.  Once you have tagged the data with a label, then determine which groups of labels should be funneled into a review set.  Your review may reveal additional terms, witnesses or dates.  Applying the familiar workflow of branching back out and redefining your scope will bring it full circle.

If I were still at a firm, I would start by having my colleagues collectively assess the data within the filters.  This will not only stimulate your thought process for identifying key words but also assist the reviewers with focusing on hot spots that highlight activity in a certain time frame or between witnesses.  An attorney will not want to review every single document but also doesn’t know what to look for until they start reviewing.  These filters and associated facets provide a snap shot of the data to give you just that.  You’re not really required to have any knowledge about the case since the filters and related facets organize the data and educate you about the discovery at the onset.  Once you apply those filters and select the appropriate facets, the database is designed for you to hold that culled data set up against the wall and continue to run searches for keywords.  If you don’t find anything it’s easy to back up, remove a facet and start over.

One of the many additional dimensions that can be applied to the culled data is column filters.   Column filters replace what you may already refer to as a tally and can be performed on several columns behaving similar to excel.  Fuzzy searching has been a favorite of mine for years since I can rely on the database to assist me with searching different variations of the value I have in mind.  Fuzzy searching is now accompanied with several variations including stemming, phonic, synonyms and related, which expand the list of values by suggesting additional terms the reviewer may not have otherwise considered.

And don’t underestimate the importance of deduplication.  As Craig Ball recently posted, “few other processes allow users to reap rewards as easily, quickly or cheaply as effective deduplication,” a feature that is now included in Summation.

In summary, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  You’ve been pedaling along just fine on your bike, but now you have a brand new, shiny car with a boosted engine to get you where you need to go.  Enjoy the ride!

Michelle Kovitch

Michelle Kovitch is Director of Litigation Support Training for AccessData and is responsible for developing and presenting all AccessData legal course curricula. Michelle also manages the development of all custom courses, supporting course materials and related certifications. With over twenty years of litigation support experience, Michelle is a frequent presenter at paralegal and bar association events as well as industry conferences. Michelle is also the author of “Summ it Up”, a practical guide to using Summation. Prior to joining the e-discovery industry, Michelle managed complex document intensive litigation and provided trial support in numerous venues throughout the country.

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About Michelle Kovitch

Michelle Kovitch is Director of Litigation Support Training for AccessData and is responsible for developing and presenting all AccessData legal course curricula. Michelle also manages the development of all custom courses, supporting course materials and related certifications. With over twenty years of litigation support experience, Michelle is a frequent presenter at paralegal and bar association events as well as industry conferences. Michelle is also the author of “Summ it Up”, a practical guide to using Summation. Prior to joining the e-discovery industry, Michelle managed complex document intensive litigation and provided trial support in numerous venues throughout the country.

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