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What is Technology Assisted Review?

With digital data production increasing exponentially, how do you find the time to review and process so much information? Even the most talented review teams can be overwhelmed in the face of millions of documents and ESI.

TAR (technology-assisted review), also known as predictive coding, enables you to prioritize the most relevant documents and find them quickly so your legal team can build its strategy more accurately and efficiently. The benefits of applying TAR capabilities across the managed review process range from completing projects quickly and thoroughly, to passing cost savings on to your clients. TAR can help your team create workflows that reduce your e-discovery review time by as much as 80%.

How Does it Work?

The beauty of TAR is its adaptability—it will always be a little different depending on an individual project and its documentation. While predictive coding takes advantage of technological efficiencies, it still requires human direction.

You start with subject matter experts, who review a small cross-section of the documents and make a series of determinations about relevance for each one. Those determinations are used to code the documents, which are then fed into the predictive coding software. The software analyzes the document population’s analytics, content, and underlying metadata, and applies an algorithm for predicting the relevance of other documents in the review population. From here, the predictive coding engine can add weighted relevancy scores to all documents in the project, more quickly bringing to the reveiwers’ attention those documents that might be more relevant and impactful to the case.

By combining human decisions about documents with the advanced technical algorithms, the predictive coding system will continue to refine its results for greater accuracy until it achieves the desired results. Once it is fully dialed in, it can review and score all documents in a timely manner while assuring accuracy and cost efficiency.

After the predictive coding system successfully understands document relevance, it can sort through potentially millions of documents and ESI, organizing them in order of interest. This prevents important metadata from being lost in a digital heap and enables the human review team to focus on documents that are most likely to be significant, while those that are not likely to be of interest may not need to be reviewed by people at all.

What are the Benefits?

As you might imagine, the benefits of using analytics to identify relevant and important documents early in the review process compound over time. Not only can litigators quickly determine the potential merits of a case, but if they are preparing for depositions, motions practice, and trial, they will quickly have a set of documents they can review by level of relevance.

Depending on how TAR is set up, litigators can achieve an early command of key facts that offer important tactical advantages in structuring a case, such as who to depose, which documents to seek from the opposing party, or what affirmative defenses may exist.

Saving time with TAR comes in many forms. For example, because you can review and analyze documents on a rolling basis, your legal team does not have to wait for all relevant data to be collected before they begin to analyze how significant certain documents will be. And of course, there’s also the other side of the review, when the case team receives documents produced by other parties. Applying predictive coding to the opposition’s documentation can help your legal team quickly decide whether any additional motions should be filed.

Of course, such impactful time savings carry through to cost savings as well. Thanks to a study by Maura R. Grossman and Gordon V. Cormack, we know that TAR can produce a fifty-fold savings in cost over manual review.

Best Practices

While you don’t need to be a technology expert to take advantage of tools like TAR, it’s important to have a sense of how the system fundamentally works. You might ask your e-discovery vendor about whether their predictive coding software requires a sample set of documents coded by subject matter experts, and if so, how large should that sample set be? Does it assign documents a relevancy score? What does its refinement process entail? It’s best to be ask these questions early than be caught by surprise if a judge or opposing party asks for specifics about the TAR process you used.

Today, judges agree that predictive coding is a well-established part of e-discovery. However, there are still disputes over how transparent each party should be about how they use the technology, particularly how they construct and code their sample documents that train the algorithm. It helps if you establish a consistent, systematic approach to determine which documents will be reviewed by human experts after the coding process.

Residual Hesitancy to Adopt TAR

We know that TAR yields results that are more accurate and more complete than exhaustive manual review. Still, some people are skeptical or uncomfortable with bringing this technology to their case. Generally, this attitude comes from a lingering sense that human reviewers will catch something that the algorithm cannot, or fears of complicated technology. While it’s true that the legal profession can be slow to embrace emerging technology, most of the complexities of predictive coding are hidden from its actual users, and you can always ask your discovery vendor for assistance if needed.

Predictive coding has been proven to drastically decrease the time and expense of document review and metadata collection, but it does require upfront expenditure and implementation of a new tool. Yet because the savings and benefits far outweigh initial setup costs, this is an opportunity for your Operations and IT teams to work together to improve the document review process for the whole office.

TAR streamlines the document review process by enabling case teams to establish efficient strategies both before and during the review. It’s important to remember that it is a tool that does not replace human review, but instead augments the process to your advantage.

If you need discovery services or have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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