By Alika Cooper
Legal document review is a very crucial part of any legal proceedings. It is the process where every party to a case sorts through and analyses all the relevant documents and data and determines whether they are applicable to the case. The work is carried out by trained attorneys on behalf of their clients but it is now increasingly common for law firms to take external help of professional and expert document review services to help them in this activity.
Given the importance of document review, it is important that systems and methods be followed that optimizes this activity and gets the most value from a dollar spent by clients in this field.
Here are a few ways to do so.
Systemize the review by subject and not by batch:
Reviews are usually sorted in batches like 1-100, 101-200 and so on. This sequential batching makes it difficult to look for the actual issue when the need arises. Instead, it will be easier if the reviews are systematized by issues and subjects to get a clear understanding of the case. Sort by issue, further sub-divide into sub-items and then club all these together by issue. You can also tag the main bulk of the review by docs batched by other variables of your choice such as date of drafting legal documents.
It is quite possible that you might not get it right the first time around that is, all the review documents might not get batched by issue but you will at least make a start in educating your review team on the finer intricacies of following this procedure. You will know that they have picked up the ropes when they can provide you a summary of the main issues at stake backed by the necessary documents tagged under relevance, privilege and issues heads.
Hire trained reviewers and guide them:
Once you have decided to carry out legal document review by issues instead of sequentially, you have to ensure that your review team understands fully the core issues at stake. For this, you have to hire the best from your review provider. Get those with an in-depth knowledge of the subject on hand. Speed of review should not be your concern at all as you could have in that case easily opted for the standard first pass review only.
At this stage, focus on training your reviewers well. Provide them with a written document of custodians with their general descriptions and then outline to them the general issues and tagging structure that you desire. The key to good output from the review team is to train them optimally until they acquire the necessary skill sets. However, if you feel that this process is eating into your precious time and diverting your attention away from more crucial and pressing core legal matters, outsource it to expert and professional document review services.
Encourage interaction with the review team:
Remember that your review team consists of a set of trained lawyers and hence to get the best out of the review process you should encourage peer-to-peer interaction with them. Get feedback on the issues, clarify tags and be open to any question. After all, they are there to help you. You can do it in a variety of ways. Instant messaging and using specialized software that enables tagging of people for instant access are just two of the many possibilities. It all speeds up the review process as the software tool can identify bulk tags for issues and re-run sets for reviews on the go.
Keep a tag on what is coming up during review:
Push your review team to note down what they are seeing during reviews. You will have a thorough knowledge of the points being highlighted during the review. Start right from the first pass review so that nothing important ever gets sidelined. Since your review team consists of lawyers, they will be more than capable of preparing a rock solid overview of the case they are handling. This will come to your benefit at some time or the other.
How they jot down their findings is not important. It can be either in a separate document or jottings on the same document or even short noting in bullet forms. Spare some time at the end of day to sit with the team and review the work as per their memos. This consultation and interaction will help better refine your review and also a great way to start off work next day without any break in continuity.
Drafting legal documents and review by teams of trained lawyers will never fade into oblivion regardless of the advent of Computer Assisted or Technology Assisted review. The human touch will always be desired by clients and it is up to you how best you provide them with value for money spent on document review.
Alika Cooper is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow her on Twitter.