• Six Tips for Effective Document Review Guidelines
  • March 16, 2012
  • Law Firm: LeClairRyan - Richmond Office
  • Document review guidelines can be a key ingredient to a well-managed document review project, and they deserve time and attention throughout a document review project. Six areas to consider when developing document review guidelines for a particular matter include:

    • Content. Aim to provide the person categorizing documents a one-stop resource for document categorization rules. In addition, include reference material that is relevant to a particular case (e.g., fact summaries, organizational charts, or notes taken from interviews with document custodians) as an appendix.

    • Form. Dividing guidelines into sections can make them easier to digest. Consider breaking the guidelines into the following sections: disposition (responsive, privileged, not responsive, or unsure); confidentiality (not confidential, confidential or highly confidential); and other categories as needed. Review teams may work more efficiently if the guidelines flow chronologically through the logical decision-making process and correspond with the coding form in the database.

    • Timing. Complete as much of the guidelines as possible before beginning the document review portion of the project. This will often save resources and avoid changes that impact the review process.

    • Input. Work with members of the trial team as early as possible. Their input regarding trial themes and defenses can help shape the content and form of the review guidelines. As a result, the review team's work product will be more useful in developing case strategy and trial themes.

    • Guideline Changes. Be prepared for guidelines to change as the project moves forward. Review teams often learn valuable information in the first several weeks that can be useful in developing new trial themes, claims, and strategies as well as improvements to review guidelines.

    • Version Control. Update the document review guidelines as new information surfaces. For example, most review guidelines will instruct the reviewer to code a document as "hot" if it falls within a list of categories. Update the guidelines as the list of categories evolves during the project. Use date and version control to track which guidelines governed the document review at specific points in time.

    Reliable document review guidelines can help a review team keep pace with tight deadlines and voluminous document sets. Taking the time to compile articulate review guidelines before a review begins, and updating the criteria during the review, can help keep the review team and trial focused on the important deliverables of the project -- the protection of privilege and identification of documents that impact case strategy and defense themes.