Document Review: Where to Begin?

By: J. Wes Kiplinger, Director of Review Services

Discovery is generally the most expensive phase of litigation and document review often carries the largest price tag within the EDRM lifecycle. Firms generally hold off on beginning review until the last possible moment in the hope matters are resolved prior to committing their clients to a potentially expensive document review process. This dynamic causes price and discovery deadlines to be the foremost considerations when beginning a review project.

When I am brought into a matter the first question I am always asked is – how many reviewers will it take to complete this project by X date and how much will it cost? This calculation is straightforward. Number of documents divided by anticipated rate of review, divided by number of days before the production deadline, divided by 8 hours per day equals the number of reviewers required. For example, a review of 5,000 documents with an anticipated rate of review of 40 documents an hour will require 125 reviewer hours (not including training time, meetings, etc.). If the production deadline requires the review to be completed in 5 days, 125 hours divided by 5 requires 25 reviewer hours each day divided by 8 working hours in a day equals 3.13 reviewers. To ensure enough buffer time I would suggest engaging 4 reviewers. The cost of the review is calculated as 125 reviewer hours times the reviewer’s hourly rate plus the cost of the managing attorney’s time.

Per doc pricing can also be employed for greater cost certainty. The cost to review each document is heavily dependent on the complexity of the matter but the amount billed will not be in doubt. If the cost is $1.20 per document, a review of 5,000 documents will be $6,000 regardless of how much time it takes to review them or how many reviewers are staffed on the matter.

Too often this is the end of the inquiry. A myriad of additional cost and timesaving tools exist – as well as other considerations – need to be explored prior to beginning a review.

What is the purpose of the review and how can this be leveraged for efficiency? How can the coding panel be optimized for speed and clarity for the review team as well as usefulness to the case team in depositions and fact development? Has the data set been robustly culled? Can Technology Assisted Review (TAR) or predictive coding be employed? What about inclusive email threading? Will redaction or privilege logging be required? What Quality Control processes are in place? Will there be rolling productions or just one production?

In the next blog post – What is the purpose of the review and how can this be leveraged for efficiency.