October 23, 2017

Case Planning: Don’t Learn the Hard Way

There have been many instances in my life when I have learned things the hard way.  These are the most significant lessons because of the sting that keeps you from making the same mistakes again. As an adult, I wish I had the wisdom and maturity when I was younger to listen to those that were trying to steer me but some things you just have to learn on your own.  These are life lessons that usually affect us the most but when we’re talking about a lesson involving a case, we not only have to be considerate of our client but also the costs that can spiral out of control.  You don’t have to learn the hard way when you’re working a matter using technology, you can rely on us.

I want to talk about case planning and the reasons why it is essential. It sounds like something that is just another added component to your long list of things to do but in essence it’s really similar to a meet and confer meeting.  We are just establishing the rules and setting expectations for a fluid span over the life cycle of the matter.

Case planning is one of the most important pieces of setting up a case regardless of how big or how small. Case planning can be the difference between a case that is fiscally responsible or a case that is out of control with costs. At the very least case planning allows the legal team to be prepared to answer any of the issues that come up instead of facing one fire drill after another – the hardest part is getting the decision makers to sit down and talk about what’s coming? This is not unique to you; it is difficult in any organization but if you have been through the nightmares of a matter when you didn’t consider case planning, it probably will not happen again.

TEAM: Identify the team, it may be just you and an attorney or the support staff that will set up the case for you. In the event it’s bigger, associates, paralegals and even if you’re bringing in legal assistants and secretaries, they should be there and they should know the plan. How much data is expected? How long do we expect this case to stick around? Where on the network are we storing this data? We will cover all of these topics further.

Planning for Review

  • Identify timelines and dates – how long case will be there? Are there any important deadlines, any orders in place?
  • Users and permissions: who is going to work in the case and what are their responsibilities to they have?
  • Process and load data: what data, how much, what time frame, any additional details we can gather about the data?
  • Early Case Assessment – consider using ECA tools? Make a plan to ask the reviewers what they are looking for and what types of tools they want to use? We have plenty of ECA tools from filtering, visualization and predictive coding.
  • Configure review tools: simplify their review process. Have them ready and waiting for the review team. This is really where you can master the setup of the infrastructure of the case and make it sing for the review team.

We are going to look at each one of these.

Timelines and Dates

Timelines and dates: this is important to know before you create the case how long it will last? It is important because when you start processing data and setting up the case, the location on network is key. IT needs to know something about the longevity of the location of where your case is going to be created. How new is the server and how much space is on the server? If it’s a small case, maybe it’s not a problem? If it’s a case with huge amounts of data for three to five years, you should plan for the placement of the data since it has to stay there and its important to look ahead to avoid any issues in the future.

Creating a Case

You want to give thought how you organize your case list. Is there something that we need to track about the case that we can have easily accessible in this platform? Do you use matter numbers or have practice groups? Will this help you to be able to filter out all cases that don’t apply to medical malpractice for example? Do I need to track it that way or by who is the lead attorney? Maybe you have one primary client with lots of cases – their group of cases. Give some thought to the tracking information and see what’s important to you and the workflow of organizing cases. This is not so much about this tool as it is about your organization within in the tool.

Data Location

When a case is created, the system generates a random 32 character identifier and opens that matter in the Case Data folder. This is a unique identifier but does not reflect the name of your case. As an example, consider creating folders inside the case data folder that would have the name of your case. This way, when the case is created, we can point to this path and everything related to that new database will be organized in a folder with the correct naming convention. You don’t have to do this; it is just an example of how you might organize your case.

Once you have given some thought to creating the case, talk about where is the data stored. This is a big conversation since every organization is different. This platform has different pieces that can be partitioned out to different servers or to different drives on the same server. You don’t need to know details if you’re not an IT person, but you do need to know where to create it and where the evidence will reside. Talk to IT or LitSupport. When your system was installed there were likely conversations in the background about how you would be setting up these folders. You really need to know two things: 1) where the Case Data folder will reside; and 2) where is Job Data folder?

The job data folder is where the system puts reports. The system accesses this folder for you from the user interface. The system accesses the case data folder when a user goes to look at a document. You don’t need to do anything with them, it is just important to know where it will all reside for when the case is created.

The Evidence Folder is another folder that should not be moved. If you’re going to process native files they have to go somewhere on the server or somewhere on your network. You need to know where that storage location is going to be. This ties back to the original question of how long this case will be out there.

Finally, there are a couple of other folders to consider: Exports and Productions. Only because we think it’s important to organize them and know where you are going to archive them. Remember that it doesn’t have to be like this, these are just suggested best practices. They can all be on different servers it depends on your infrastructure but you need to know about it.

Types of Data

Once you know where you’re going to create the case and where you’re going to put your evidence, you really need to consider what kind of data am I going to receive? This platform is very robust we can take just about anything. Do we have native files or a forensic image? We just need to set expectations. For example, PDF files. Does that pdf have a text layer and is searchable or do we need to OCR these files. If we are not dealing with electronically stored information then probably scanned paper? Did you get a load file and what does that look like?

Volume of Data

Once you know what types of data, the question would be how much data are you going to put in? Not a bad question and there really isn’t too much to be concerned about but the location, longevity and sustainability of that location. It has to stay there for the life of the case. The volume of the data most of the time doesn’t matter but let’s put it into perspective. We are used to talking about pages, boxes, documents, but as we move into this platform the discussion turns into bits and bytes. How much are we really talking about? A terabyte for example, is equivalent to approximately 30,000 boxes.

Custodians

Who owns that data? If you don’t have a lot of experience with native, it means who is the owner of the data or who did this belong to? That means that when you process data, you will benefit from a lot of filters that say: go get me “John Doe’s files” to just see that custodian’s records. Everything assigned to him. Having that piece of information available will continue to be a key method of filtering throughout the life of the case. Once you know how much data, what type of data, and which custodians then the next thing you want to think about is how do you want to handle de-deduplication?

De-Depulication

If you’re not familiar with it, we are talking about two different types of de-duplication. The bottom line is that we want to de-dupe or push back duplicate copies of any record. We want to compare the documents using a unique identifier, an MD5 hash and use this to identify all duplicates. Then we need to decide if we want to see one copy of the record per each custodian’s group of records that had possession of that record (Custodian Level) or one copy of that record meaning across the entire case (Case Level).

Custodian Level De-Duplication is where we would keep in display in the user interface one copy of each document for each custodian that had possession of the record. For example, if Albert Meyers has a file that is also maintained in Andrea Ring’s records, it would be published in each group of records. Further, if Kenneth Lay had that same file three times, we would put two of them aside and just show you one.

Case Level De-Duplication is when the system looks at a document with a hash value across the collection and can see all custodians that have possession of same document but now only shows the reviewers one copy of that document.

It will depend on the needs of the case and the preference of the reviewers involved to determine which approach to de-duplication is best.

Language ID

Does the matter have any foreign languages? Chinese, German, etc.? When you create the case it is necessary to set these options.

Production Requirements

You will need to talk about the productions requirements. When exchanging documents with another party, do they have a certain platform? Will they require pdf files or natives? You need to prepare the settings for when you create the case. You can work it out down the line, but again if you know in the beginning it will just smooth out the process. If they have a review platform, which one? We can generate a production set and export in anyone one of nine platforms.

Permissions

There are three different levels of permissions. The first level is who is going to work the case? Which people on each team? The second level is that once you know who then what will they be able to do in the case or matter? What are the features they will be allowed to perform, for example: Deleting a Case? Then there is the third level which pertains to what they can see in the case?

If you have 13,000 documents in the matter, do they get to or need to see all of them? It is recommended that the records be culled down just to show them what they want? This is a new way of thinking and a new approach to the review. We don’t go through the documents anymore clicking through ABC0001, ABC002, ABC003, ABC004. That is one way but you have the tools to cull them down, create a label and put those documents within that date range, key words, etc. into a file folder with a label. This way you’re actually applying ECA tools. Obtain the ECA requirements by the team and then cull down to more a more manageable set. Again, this requires some communication!

You have a lot of your answers now. We have talked about data types, volume of data, location of the data, custodians, de-duplication, language identification, and ECA tools?

Finally, we want to discuss configuration so that the review is streamlined. These configurations relate to markup sets, highlight profiles, custom fields, and tagging layouts.

Markup sets relate to redactions and highlights. Mark up sets allow users to go in and annotate a record by having different versions of the document. In other words, perhaps one version for a working copy and another that is marked up for production purposes.

Highlight profiles allows you to identify keywords in the case so the system will automatically have them highlighted on the page for the reviewers.

Custom fields
allows you to create a field for capturing information about a document specific to the case.

Tagging layouts are designed to create a short template with specific fields for tagging and review.

If you feel like these tips would help bring your team together, this presentation has been recorded for you. Please visit the Case Planning recording here: http://marketing.accessdata.com/acton/form/4390/01be:d-0001/1/index.htm

 

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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