Document review is often seen as the unwanted and unappreciated, but necessary, activity of the discovery process. Those legal professionals who must engage in document review often feel as if they are hastily thrown into the middle of a data jungle, with only the most rudimentary instructions for working themselves out of that jungle. On the other hand, those who manage document reviews often believe that the document reviewers fail to grasp their larger role in the case. These managers lose sleep with thoughts of a document reviewer failing to accurately tag a very significant document, resulting in the inadvertent disclosure of a privileged document, or the litigation team being caught by surprise by a significant document at a deposition or other hearing.
Statistics show that these feelings are justified in many respects. Accounting firm KPMG estimates that first-level document review encompasses anywhere between 58 percent and 90 percent of total litigation costs, a large amount by any standards. Studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the error rate of document review can be 50 percent or higher, a troubling number indeed from the perspective of those who recognize the importance of having a quality discovery process.
Given the increasing amount of electronic information that must be reviewed for litigation and government investigations, it is critical that those managing a document review, and those engaging in document review, be equipped with proper training and guidelines in order to ensure that the document review is proceeding effectively and efficiently. After discussing general legal issues related to document review, this article sets forth principles to assist counsel with the selection and management of a document review vendor and an electronically stored information (ESI) vendor, training of reviewers, and quality control of the document review. With an organized and methodical approach for management of the document review process, communication between all key parties, and steps along the way to evaluate the efficiency and accuracy of the review, the document review process can be improved, and the risks to clients and counsel from errors in the document review process can be minimized.