How to Use Email Threading and Near-Duplication Workflows to Review Less Data

In the last three years, Data Analytics has been one of the hot topics in eDiscovery and Litigation Support circles, but analytics has been around for much longer. Analytics first arrived in the form of Email Threads (ET) and Near-Duplication (ND). Built on textual analysis, ET and ND software compares the text of a collection of documents against one another. In doing so, the software creates groupings of similar documents that can be viewed as email chains or near-duplicate families. Because it is based on text only, ET and ND does have some limitations, but software developers are working to reduce those. One of the more common problems is repeated content. Repeated content refers to blocks of identical text found within a document population. This includes, email footers and disclaimers, boiler plate text from marketing materials, and instruction blocks for forms. Software companies are finding ways to filter out this repeated content and keep it from being included in the text analysis; doing so generally leads to more precise groupings.

While most review tools offer some form of Email Threading and Near-Duplication, few review teams are really leveraging its full power. These analytics tools can expedite and prioritize your review, enhance quality control, and may even help you find your hot documents in your opponent’s production.

4 Workflows to Optimize Your Near-Duplication and Email Threading Tools

Below are four workflows that case teams can use to get the most from their Email Threading and Near-Duplication purchase, saving both time and money spent on review.

WORKFLOW #1 Review in Email Thread Order

It is common practice to arrange a document review by custodian. This allows for teams to prioritize their key custodians and get those productions out the door quickly. Among the issues with this methodology is consistency. Some review workflows take weeks, even months, to complete. Review by custodian means that two emails in the same chain can be reviewed by different attorneys in different months. Under these circumstances consistency is fleeting. A document review batched in the order of the email threads allows review teams to group emails together based on actual conversations. A single reviewer then can review the whole conversation in context. This promotes speed because as the reviewer becomes more familiar with the documents she will likely not need to read them in their entirety. In addition to speed, review by ET increases consistency. By looking at the same set of emails and their attachments, reviewers are able to more accurately code. No longer does the reviewer need to rely on recollection of a document from the other day or last week.

WORKFLOW #2 Review and Produce Only the Last Email

In any litigation, an agreed to production protocol is always a best practice, and when entering into a meet and confer, D4 recommends that the two sides agree to produce only the last email in any email conversation. Understanding that all previous, related emails are included in this one last email, the production does, in fact, represent a complete review of all emails.

Last year, we had a client with more than 600,000 emails and attachments requiring review. The contract review was going to cost more than $500,000.00. After discussing options with the other side, they agreed to produce only the last emails in each thread. The email threading process identified that only about 55 percent of the collection was made up of final emails, bringing the cost of review down to just over $300,000.00, including the cost of running email threading. While not all email collections see a similar reduction, it is clear that with a little planning and communication this workflow can yield tremendous cost and time savings.

WORKFLOW #3 Near-Dupe Quality Control

Over the years I have seen a number of different Quality Control processes employed by review teams, including sampling, batching, searching, and full second-pass QC. A second-pass, or QC review arranged by the Near-Duplication group, can still use the above QC processes, while allowing for a quick review of presumably similar documents to ensure that like documents are coded consistently. Near-Duplication Quality Control provides an easy visual to see where similar documents are not coded alike. You can then dive into the discrepancies and confirm whether the coding is accurate or if it needs to be corrected. This process has applications not just for possible production docs, but also for creation of privilege logs and redaction reviews.

WORKFLOW #4 Near-Dupe Comparison of Opposition Productions

Depending on the interaction between two parties in litigation, Email Threading and Near-Duplication can be a useful tool when reviewing the opposing party’s documents. One of the more useful applications is to compare your key documents against the received production using near-duplication. Once near-duplication has been run across the collection, you will be able to compare the two document sets and gain insight into what the opposition knows about your documents prior to reviewing your production. This information can be extremely helpful in making strategic decisions.

Email Threading and Near-Duplication can be powerful tools in helping to limit the scope of review, ensuring more consistency across a review, and identifying similar documents in opposing productions. The workflows described above are easy to execute and are widely accepted in the legal world. When embarking on your next review, consult with your team to employ these strategies and let the power of Email Threading and Near-Duplication work for you.

Do you find yourself constantly putting out fires and managing litigation-based crises? If so, your eDiscovery and litigation support workflows could use an efficiency boost. Contact the D4 Consulting Group for a complimentary consultation today. They can help trim long term costs associated with litigation by using tested and proven best practices to streamline your current workflow or assist in creating one.

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