ECA Options and Planning Considerations – Data Targeting Series, Part 3

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A multi-part series on targeting the right data to reduce your downstream review costs

In the first Part of this series, we reviewed the relationship between data volumes and eDiscovery cost – particularly for review, and we reviewed data targeting steps you can take before litigation arises.  In the second Part, we continued our discussion of data targeting with a review of targeting options during collection and processing.  In this final Part, we will review data targeting options during early case assessment and considerations for overall strategy.

Data Targeting During Early Case Assessment

During early case assessment (ECA), in almost any modern document review platform (e.g., Relativity), case teams have a powerful set of tools at their disposal for data targeting prior to review, including: keyword searching tools; email threading and filtering tools; conceptual analysis tools; and random sampling tools.

Keyword Searching

As we noted in the prior Parts, keyword filtering may be available at several points over the course of your project, but early case assessment is the best time to do it.  Compared to the options available during collection and processing, the keyword search options available in the review platform during ECA offer more choices for search customization, variation, and iteration.  Moreover, the features in the review platform are directly-accessible by the case team, whereas earlier features must be used for them by others.  Commonly available features include:

  • Search term reporting, frequent word/phrase reporting
  • Searching of and filtering by metadata and custom fields
  • Proximity searching, stemming, and fuzzy searching
  • Saved searches, search history, and search reporting

Using these features in combination enables you to rapidly test a whole range of potential search terms and phrases, evaluate different potential search limiters, discover additional potential search terms to use or add, and save a record of your process for future reference.

Email Threading and Filtering

After keyword searching, the next most-used data targeting tool during ECA is email threading.  Email threading features allow you to group all of the individual emails that make up an ongoing conversation thread, automatically identify the most complete one (which contains the others within it), and thereby, avoid reviewing redundant elements and messages.

Beyond just threading emails to avoid review of the component emails, emails can also be further filtered by senders, recipients, dates, email domain names, subject lines, and other properties to target the right materials.  Domain name filtering can be especially effective for isolating and eliminating irrelevant emails from online businesses and organizations.

Conceptual Tools

Beyond the basic searching and filtering tools identified above, you also often have the option during ECA of leveraging conceptual indexing and the features it enables.  Conceptual indexing builds a different kind of index that documents the relationships between words rather than just words’ presence.  This enables features that operate based on the topics and meanings of documents rather than just their vocabulary.  Commonly available features include:

  • Conceptual searching – searches that return results based on related concepts or similar language rather than on strict linguistic matches
  • Conceptual clustering – automated grouping of records with similar conceptual and linguistic content
  • Computer-assisted review – iterative process of document classification leveraging conceptual analysis, human decisions, and machine learning

Depending on your platform, the conceptual features may be powered by Latent Semantic Indexing or Probabilistic Latent Semantic Analysis, and the computer-assisted review may also be referred to as technology-assisted review or predictive coding.

Random Sampling

Finally, you can also choose during ECA to leverage random sampling to aid you in targeting the right materials for review.  Although the tools described so far are very good at helping you find what you are looking for, they do not do as much to help you find what you don’t know to look for.  One of the best ways to find those unknown unknowns is by taking statistically-significant simple random samples for review and assessment.  Even modest samples (e.g., 2,400 records) can provide reliable information about the make-up of large data sets, reveal unknown types of relevant or irrelevant materials, and help inform your other search and filtering activities.

Considerations for Making a Data Targeting Plan

As we have reviewed in these three Parts, there are many tools and options available to you for targeting the right data in each project phase prior to review.  Leveraging these many options successfully is not about using as many as you possibly can.  Instead, your goal should be to understand the specifics of the options available in your source systems and your discovery tools so that you can assess which ones will be most useful to you in each specific project and how aggressive you should be in your overall targeting efforts.  Considerations that will go into that assessment include:

  • Available time and budget for the overall project
  • Any technical limitations imposed by collection sources
  • Any process limitations imposed by available staff or review tools
  • Potential cost/time for doing additional collection or processing later
  • Reasonableness and proportionality of the plan for the specific matter

And, of course, any scope limitations or process specifics that you negotiate with the opposing party will also be a factor in determining what tools you employ and how narrowly you target in a given matter.

For Assistance or More Information

Xact Data Discovery (XDD) is a leading international provider of eDiscovery, data management and managed review services for law firms and corporations.  XDD helps clients optimize their eDiscovery matters by orchestrating pristine communication between people, processes, technology and data.  XDD services include forensicseDiscovery processingRelativity hosting and managed review.

XDD offers exceptional customer service with a commitment to responsive, transparent and timely communication to ensure clients remain informed throughout the entire discovery life cycle.  At XDD, communication is everything – because you need to know.  Engage with XDD, we’re ready to listen.

About the Author

Matthew Verga

Director of Education

Matthew Verga is an electronic discovery expert proficient at leveraging his legal experience as an attorney, his technical knowledge as a practitioner, and his skills as a communicator to make complex eDiscovery topics accessible to diverse audiences. A fourteen-year industry veteran, Matthew has worked across every phase of the EDRM and at every level from the project trenches to enterprise program design. He leverages this background to produce engaging educational content to empower practitioners at all levels with knowledge they can use to improve their projects, their careers, and their organizations.

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