Why Legal Teams Need to Reduce Repeated Document Review

September 8, 2023



Sarah Moran
Sarah Moran

Similar matters often pull in the same documents for review during eDiscovery. Many legal teams default to manually reviewing these documents for each matter, but this is quickly becoming untenable.

Legal teams can reduce the burden of repeated review through the application of advanced technology and proactive review strategies. They may encounter barriers, from limitations of their current tools to concerns about defensibility. But legal teams can take small steps now that overcome these barriers and prepare them to meet the time, budget, and other pressures they face today.

Repeated review exacerbates today’s challenges

We're approaching a time when legal teams simply can’t afford to review the same documents multiple times across matters. The size of modern datasets requires teams to reduce eyes-on review wherever possible. Meanwhile, repeated review of the same documents opens the door to inconsistency, error, and risk.

When teams succeed in reducing repeated review, they turn their most common pain points into new sources of value. They get more out of their review spend, help review teams work faster, and achieve the accuracy that they expect and the courts demand.

In an earlier post, we dig more deeply into when repeated review happens, what it costs, and how technology can support a different approach. If you’re eager to explore solutions, that’s a great place to start.

But many legal professionals are unable to think about solutions yet. They face a range of internal and external barriers that make it hard to move or even see past the status quo of repeated review.

If that’s the boat you’re in, keep reading.

Changing your approach may appear daunting

Legal teams often have solid reasons for persisting with repeated review. These include:

Feasibility concerns

  • Every matter is unique, and teams may assume this means nothing of value carries over from one matter to another.
  • Attorneys may distrust the decisions or data practices associated with prior matters. They prefer starting over from scratch, even if it means repeating work.

Technology barriers

  • Legacy tools and software lack the advanced AI necessary to save work product and apply learnings from matter to matter, but adopting new technology takes time and money that legal teams are wary of spending.
  • Companies who use multiple vendors and eDiscovery review teams may store their data in multiple places, making it hard to reuse past work product.

It’s true that no two matters are exactly alike, adopting new technology can be challenging, and it’s hard to trust the reliability of something you’ve never used before. But this doesn’t mean that repeated review is still the best option. As shown above, the costs are simply too high.

So, what do we do about these barriers? How are teams supposed to move past them?

The answer: One step at a time.

Explore what’s possible by starting small

These barriers are most formidable when you imagine rethinking your entire review approach. The idea of looking for potential document overlap across a huge portfolio, or finding and implementing a whole new technology suite, may be too overwhelming to put into action.

So don’t think of it that way. Take small steps that explore the potential for reducing repeated review and chip away at the barriers holding you back. Instead of “all or nothing,” think “test and learn.”

Look ahead to future matters, perform hybrid QC on past decisions

To explore the feasibility of reducing repeated review, look at one matter with an eye on overlap. Does it share fundamental topics or custodians with any recent or future matters? Is it likely to have spin-off litigations, such as cases in other jurisdictions or a civil suit that follows a federal one?

To build trust in decisions made during prior matters, try performing QC with attorneys and technology working in tandem. This can provide a quick and informative assessment of past decisions and calibrate your parameters for review going forward.

Find a technology partner who meets you where you are

If your team lacks the technology to reuse work product, the right partner can right-size a solution for your needs and appetite. The hybrid QC example above applies here too. Many legal teams find that QC is an ideal venue for assessing the performance of advanced AI and getting a taste for how it works, because it’s focused, confined, and accompanied by human reviewers. From there, your team might expand to using advanced AI on a single matter, and eventually, on multiple matters.

In all cases, your partner can do the heavy lifting of operating the technology, while explaining each step along the way, with enough detail that you can articulate its use and merits in court (or can “tag in” to present that explanation for you). “The right partner” in this context is someone with the data science expertise to apply the technology in the ways you need, along with the legal experience to speak to your questions and need for defensibility.

Likewise, when data or case work are spread across multiple teams and locations, a savvy partner can still find ways to avoid duplicate work. This story about coordinating review across 9 jurisdictions is a great example.

Take your time—but do take action

The beauty of starting small is how it respects both the need to improve and the difficulty of making improvements. Changing something as intricate and important as your document review strategy won’t happen overnight. That’s okay. Take your time.

But don’t take repeated review as a given. It threatens timelines, budgets, and quality. And it’s not your only option.

For more on the subject, including specific scenarios where teams can reduce repeated review, see our in-depth primer.

About the Author

Sarah Moran

Sarah is a Director of Marketing at Lighthouse. Before coming to Lighthouse, she worked for a decade as a practicing attorney at a global law firm, specializing in eDiscovery counseling and case management, data privacy, and information governance. At Lighthouse, she happily utilizes her eDiscovery expertise to help our clients understand and leverage the ever-changing world of legal technology and data governance. She is a problem solver and a collaborator and welcomes any chance to discuss customer pain points in eDiscovery. Sarah earned her B.A. in English from Penn State University and her J.D. from Delaware Law School.