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November 1, 2021

4 Trends Causing a Seismic Shift in the Document Review Industry

A major paradigm shift is taking place in both the scale and depth of the document review industry. The shift—spurred by the pandemic and evolutions in legal technologies—is causing legal professionals and law firms alike to look at doc review with fresh eyes.

Specialists in document review 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. Along with the ability to adhere to quality-control standards, attention to detail is critical. As technologies evolve, law firms may need to consider adding new criteria to this list, such as the ability and willingness to 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 characterization of doc review as “more complex, interesting, flexible, stable, and desirable” than ever before. Perhaps more importantly though, doc review specialists are being seen through a lens of creativity and innovation.

Here are four doc review trends that are changing the shape of the industry.

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

Since the pandemic, the use of artificial intelligence (a.k.a. cognitive computing) has skyrocketed. In a recent PwC study of U.S. companies, 86% of respondents said that A.I. would be a “mainstream technology” at their company in 2021.

In the legal industry, A.I. can be used to sift through huge data chunks and pinpoint the pertinent information for doc review. In one case, 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. A.I. 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 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 can link all relevant documents to control costs and maintain uniform litigation or defense across teams.

According to the 2021 Legal Trends Report, the year that ushered in the pandemic also moved legal professionals to show a level of technology adoption never seen in the industry. Now, 85% of law firms are using software to manage their practice and 79% of lawyers rely on cloud technology to store their firm’s data. Law firms that implement the appropriate platforms will be in a strong position to hire and retain top legal talent moving forward, and legal professionals interested in taking on the challenging work of doc review should become familiar with these tools.

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 for smooth access and implementation. 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

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 and retainer budgets are decreasing, the pool of available attorneys is shrinking and the legal market is having to get creative in sourcing some of its understaffed roles.

Document review and e-discovery are considered 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—all great news for detail-oriented legal professionals who want to take on challenging work.

As the COVID crisis continues and the legal industry grapples with an unprecedented surge in off-site document review, companies are having to revisit their cybersecurity protocols and their perceptions of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). The ALSP market is becoming less “alternative” as it provides a source of reliable partnership and expertise, especially during the pandemic.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a seasoned legal professional or 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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