The document review process has vastly changed over the last 20 years as a result of voluminous electronically stored information (ESI) and eDiscovery software. A document review attorney typically didn’t need much experience to be hired, but with the increasing use of electronic document review platforms, attorneys wanting to enter the document review field should consider what kind of training and expertise is needed to navigate document review technology.
Document review is an essential part of mergers and acquisitions, litigation, and government and internal investigations. Document review attorneys and document review paralegals look over records and data like memos, emails, spreadsheets and presentations to determine whether the information should be produced to or withheld from an opposing party in response to discovery requests. Documents are typically examined page-by-page in different phases or levels of review for relevance, privilege, confidentiality and responsiveness to requests. Higher-level attorneys review the most vital records, and junior-level attorneys and paralegals review the less important ones. The document review process is critical for legal teams to form a legal strategy and gain insight into the facts of a case.
Law school does not prepare attorneys for legal document review jobs. Document review attorneys should have a broad understanding of the situation they are reviewing documents for (e.g., litigation) and a thorough understanding of the key players, legal issues and factual issues involved. It’s also imperative that document review lawyers follow instructions and be consistent in classifying or tagging documents.
Document review projects are typically short-term, so law firms and corporations either outsource reviewers from legal staffing agencies or hire temp attorneys. A document review lawyer is given a specific numbered range of documents and are usually paid an hourly rate, and they’re expected to act both quickly and meticulously to avoid high costs. Documents review attorneys used to have to examine documents manually, but with more documents in the digital space than in the paper world, it’s unrealistic and impractical to print such a high volume of documents for manual review. Document review of ESI can be a labor-intensive and expensive process, but there are now technologies that assist with and/or automate the review process to minimize time and costs. Nowadays, document review can be expedited with software that helps manage, review and produce electronic documents. Documents can be reviewed as native files – records that were originally created electronically – or as electronic copies that were originally hard copies.
Technology Assisted Review (TAR), or Computer Assisted Review, improves accuracy of document review; the software can “learn” the relevancy of documents based on how attorneys tag or code a sample of documents. TAR can reduce irrelevant documents, rank the most substantive documents and control the quality of attorney reviewers. With TAR, records can also be grouped together into similar document bundles for review, which can help speed up the review process. There are a lot of ESI software providers to choose from, but the platforms generally allow users to run keyword searches, catch duplicate documents, auto-redact words of phrases and give documents unique number identifiers.
With the growth of eDiscovery, document review work is becoming more substantive and complex. Although technology facilitates the process, attorneys are still needed to achieve the best results. Moreover, with the use of eDiscovery software, document review lawyers have to know the general trends in electronic document review. Attorneys can receive training for document review software on the job or take online courses on TAR. Attorneys that have advanced training and certifications in different document review platforms can reduce costs, while attorneys with expert knowledge on a particular subject matter can maximize time. Even with the technology of eDiscovery software and platforms, document review attorneys are still in demand.
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