April 5, 2019

Document Review: 4 Trends Causing a Seismic Shift

Thanks to recent evolutions in legal technologies and software, a major paradigm shift is taking place in both the scale and depth of the document review industry. The shift is causing legal professionals and law firms alike to look at doc review with fresh eyes. It’s clearly time—experts anticipate the e-discovery market to grow from $10 billion in 2019 to roughly $24 billion by 2023, according to MarketWatch.

Doc review specialists bring a certain skillset to the table, namely a clear understanding of the discovery process. They must be well-versed in nuances such as key words or phrases and have a clear understanding of how information fits into the overall strategy of a case. Attention to detail is critical, as is the ability to adhere to quality control standards. As technologies evolve, law firms may need to consider adding new criteria to this list, such as the ability and willingness to learn and work with new platforms and software. Despite having a reputation for being menial work, those who’ve built a career in this specialty likely agree with the American Bar Association Journal’s recent assessment of doc review being seen as “more complex, interesting, flexible, stable and desirable” than ever before. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the fact that doc review specialists are being seen through a modern lens of creativity and innovation.

Here are four doc review trends that are changing the shape of the industry, and what they mean for law firms and legal professionals.

Doc Review Trend #1: A.I.-Driven Automation

The goal of artificial intelligence (a.k.a. cognitive computing) is to simulate human thought processes by using a computerized model. It’s no different for the legal industry. With regard to doc review, A.I. can be used to sift through huge data chunks and pinpoint the pertinent information. In one case, for example, A.I. software was used to analyze 33,000 hours of audio recordings and then consolidate the applicable data to just 140 hours, saving the defendant millions of dollars and decreasing review hours by 99%.

But make no mistake: results like these aren’t realized simply by downloading a program and sending it charging into massive amounts of data. Whether a firm chooses to use high-level associates to review electronic documents, contract attorneys, or cognitive computing, legal professionals are still a necessity. AI requires savvy legal professionals to teach these programs to identify useful patterns. Firms that want to integrate A.I. into their doc review process will need to teach the software how to operate under their existing processes. Even law firms that eventually integrate A.I. technology will still require attorney-supervised doc review strategies to offer the most efficient and cost-effective service for their clients.

Doc Review Trend #2: Simplified Storage

Document review and e-discovery involve a large volume of documents going through different processes to reach a conclusion (withholding, information governance, the end of an internal investigation, etc.). According to OpenText, documents per case range from 250,000 on the low end to well over 2 million for big cases. These documents can include exhibits, transcripts, pleadings, case/trial info, and case contact lists, just to name a few. A great deal of work goes into finding the most essential iterations of each.

Tracking and storing all of this information in a single, easy-to-access location allows case teams to save work already completed. This way they can access and reuse the data for a future case. Redundant case work can be detrimental to cost, effort and scale. An integrated case management platform can make a big difference in a law firm’s bottom line. Platforms such as Relativity, Summation, Concordance and Ringtail are able to link all relevant documents in order to control costs and maintain uniform litigation or defense across teams. Legal professionals interested in taking on the challenging work of doc review should become familiar with these platforms. And law firms that implement these platforms will be in a strong position to hire and retain top legal talent.

Doc Review Trend #3: Clearer Analytics

One of the most time-consuming aspects of doc review is simply sorting and organizing massive amounts of data. But the more data is accumulated and deemed admissible, the greater the need for a creative way to arrange it all so that it can be smoothly accessed and implemented. Enter data visualization.

Data visualization is the term for combining graphics, concepts, and math so that people can quickly process large datasets. For example, a visual map might group keyword results together so that if you searched a database for a term like “mail,” relevant hits would be clustered together based on subject matter: first-class mail, e-mail, local mail, etc. Rather than individually searching and classifying, visualization makes it easy to analyze data and identify trends at a glance. Data viz allows legal professionals to focus on what they do best and gives law firms a clearer understanding of the big picture.

Doc Review Trend #4: Smarter Sourcing

Also referred to as “alternative legal sourcing,” smart sourcing is the use of non-attorneys for certain legal tasks, and it’s continuing to rise in popularity and acceptance with both in-house legal counsel and law firms. Since fewer people are going to law school today compared to 10 years ago, the pool of available attorneys is shrinking. In addition, retainer budgets are decreasing, so the legal market as a whole is having to get creative in sourcing some of its understaffed roles.

Document review and e-discovery are considered to be part of this outsourceable group, which means that more law firms are using paralegals, legal admins, law students and litigation support personnel to take on this work, which is great news for detail oriented legal professionals who want to take on challenging work. In addition, high-speed internet and the rise of telecommuting means that remote work is an option for some, and they are able to carry out their duties from the comfort of their own home.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a seasoned legal professional or are just beginning your legal career, doc review is a growing field with exciting changes that call for the best of both traditional and emerging skillsets. JurisTemps is an industry leader in matching legal professionals at every stage of their career with law firms and helping law firms find and hire document review specialists. We also offer staffing for paralegals with document review experience, newly licensed attorneys, and more. Contact us today – we look forward to assisting you!

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