5 Tips For A Better Document Review

Does the idea of starting a document review make your eyes roll into the back of your head?


No need to fret, it is really not that complicated. All you need to do to ensure timeliness, efficiency and consistency in a document review is to manage the process.


There is no magic formula but if you follow these simple tips consistently, you will consistently get excellent results on your reviews.


Provide solid written instructions and train your review team

Sounds like a no brainer but you’d be surprised at the number of folks that do not provide written instructions (aka review protocol) to their review team. This applies whether you are working with external or internal teams. Write down a set of instructions to tell your team how to treat each document they review. This set of instructions should contain:

  • An introduction (including case background)

  • A list of key players

  • Document coding guidelines (what documents are considered relevant/responsive, privileged, confidential, hot, issue applicability, etc.)

  • A description/refresher on privilege, the rules for coding families of documents

  • A list of acronyms/terms of art/technical jargon that apply to the case/matter

Use this protocol as your map to train the review team, which can be done in person or over a conference call. This is your chance to tell the team what is important to the review, explain what you are looking for and answer questions/clarify concerns.


Make sure your coding layout matches your review protocol

Once you have developed a review protocol, make sure that the coding layout in the review database follows that protocol. Make sure any required fields have been set up properly (i.e. if relevance/responsiveness, privilege tags are required, ensure that a reviewer cannot move to the next document without making those coding decisions). This will help the review team dive right in without any distractions and prevent frustrations that arise when things do not show up as expected.


Encourage questions and share the answers with the entire review team

Document review is an iterative process and the review team should be encouraged to send questions to the substantive expert, especially at the beginning of a review where the team is becoming familiar with the matter. Write down the questions and share the responses/guidance with the entire team. This will ensure consistency throughout the review process and provides a defensible process for decisions on the coding.


QC and provide feedback at the onset

Get involved with the document review by reviewing a subset (sample) of the initial documents reviewed by your team. Provide feedback and tell the team what trends you see, provide feedback on things that are not properly identified and provide samples. Keep track of the documents that you are checking.


Manage your team - check outliers and implement plans for corrective action

Always manage your team. This means checking their rate of review, their coding accuracy and coding consistency. Understand that outliers usually indicate a need for corrective action. For example, a reviewer whose rate of relevance/responsiveness far exceeds that of the group generally should be checked more closely to ensure they have a proper understanding of the review protocol and goals.


These tips will help you (and your review team) have a smooth experience and solid work product.


Zully Vergel is the founder of Mint Legal Solutions

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