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Collaboration in eDiscovery

Anyone who has been involved in the eDiscovery process for a case understands that it can be complicated, time consuming, and require the involvement of several people from cross-functional teams. Any lack of collaboration between the different teams can lead to severe consequences, such as additional time and cost, duplication of efforts, and potentially not communicating critical observations.Collaboration obviously plays a vital role in the eDiscovery process. It is the most expensive stage of the legal workflow, requiring constant review, processing and analysis. Depending on the source of information, the cost of the review process can be up to 80% of the total cost of eDiscovery. There are several emerging technologies that can help limit these costs and streamline the review stage.

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Introduction

Anyone who has been involved in the e-Discovery process for a case understands that it can be complicated, time-consuming and require the involvement of several people from cross-functional teams. Any lack of collaboration between the different teams can lead to severe consequences, such as additional time and cost, duplication of efforts, and potentially not communicating critical observations.

Even just a few years ago, most documents existed in the form of paper and the discovery process would involve going through that paper, along with the supplement request, to review the available electronic data. As the world has evolved, more and more documents are stored electronically and discovery now typically starts by looking at the electronically stored information.

Collaboration plays an important role in the e-Discovery process. Once the source of information has been identified, the next steps involve collecting the findings and making them presentable, easy to understand, and specific to the task. This requires constant review, processing and analysis and is also the most expensive stage of the e-Discovery workflow. Depending on the source of information, the cost of the review process can be up to 80% of the total cost of e-Discovery.

There are several emerging technologies that can help limit these costs and streamline the review stage:

 

Full-Text Extensive Search

In a full-text search, the search engine examines all of the words in every stored document as it tries to match search criteria or words supplied by a user. Full-text guided navigational search allows users to actively browse/filter the search collection by metadata and categories that have been extracted from the index. Keyword hits can then be passed to a document viewer client, enabling the team to quickly identify the context of the match, further increasing the efficiency of the file inclusion and exclusion process.

 

Document Viewing with Remote Accessibility

A unified document viewer can simplify the e-Discovery review process, allowing users to view documents directly in the browser without the need to install any additional software or ActiveX controls on the client machine. A typical legal case may involve several different types of documents to be reviewed during the examination process, which would require the use of multiple viewers for different file formats. One cost-effective strategy for corporations with an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system is to select a multi-tasking viewer that can be used as a daily document access tool for staff. The same viewer can then be used as a native viewer during e-Discovery efforts. A thin-client viewer allows remote, mobile access by anyone participating in the project, such as remote legal aids.

 

Annotations, Mark-ups and Redactions

Annotations are crucial to the e-Discovery process. A typical viewer should enable annotations such as highlighting, color coding, and text notes to be created and displayed with documents stored not only in TIFF, JPEG, or PDF formats, but in native formats as well such as MS Office or email files. An original version of the document is preserved, while annotated versions can be updated and shared throughout the e-Discovery process. A redaction module allows redactions to be ‘burned in’ to documents, effectively removing the underlying confidential text and producing an otherwise indexed and searchable PDF document. An intuitive visual interface allows a user to select text or define a region of a document to be permanently redacted from the document. A strong annotation system can be used in an automated manner to redact regions of content based on location, search results or other rules. Redacted documents can then be published to PDF, TIFF or other image formats and shared with other users. Knowing that sensitive or confidential information has been permanently stripped away from your documents, you can feel safer in sharing your content with legal services or opposing legal teams. Underlying text is not only hidden, but completely removed so that it’s not returned in search results, and can’t be highlighted or copied. Integrating redaction into your workflow in combination with Digital Rights Management reduces the risk of oversight or error, while locking redacted documents to read-only status for users.

 

Digital Rights Management

Digital Rights Management enables document permissions to be assigned at the user level. Integrating this procedure within the viewing engine simplifies the process of allowing and disallowing printing, saving, annotation and redaction based on each user’s needs, without modifying the original legal version of the document. By adding a Digital Rights Management control on the document you can render the document as read-only and control printing, navigation, pan control and saving within a work group, across departments, or with partners and suppliers outside the firewall.

 

Conclusion

The review process depends on the review workflow and protocol set up by counsel. However, the use of these emerging technologies can aid the modern electronic litigation process, save money and help enable online analytics, processing, and accelerate collaboration on the data.

 

About the Author

Prateek Kathpal is the founder of Adeptol, a software company focused on developing imaging applications, which was acquired by Accusoft in 2011. He is currently responsible for the viewing products strategy at Accusoft. Kathpal founded Adeptol to create an enterprise wide viewing platform and associated solutions, to replace traditional thick-client products. Prior to founding Adeptol, Kathpal held senior positions within the content management division of EMC.  He has also worked with EMC Documentum, NEC, Sapient, Cognizant, JPMorgan Chase and other organizations. Prateek is an Engineering graduate with an MBA in Marketing.