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Working smarter to reduce the cost and burden of the discovery process

09 November 2018 - By Andrew King

Today’s increasing data volumes and the subsequent cost of managing this data require us to work smarter and make better use of technology.

Technology Assisted Review (TAR) is a proven method to effectively get through large volumes of information. It is considerably faster, cheaper and more accurate than any human review method.

Surely this cannot be a bad thing?

It has simply become too expensive to ‘eyeball’ every potentially relevant document. At the same time the review exercise is still the most time consuming and expensive part of the discovery process, but it doesn’t have to be.

We need to work smarter to find new ways that enable us to get to the most important information quickly and cost effectively.

Largely due to the ineffectiveness of traditional approaches like using keyword search terms, new tools like TAR have emerged to more accurately isolate the most important documents.

How does TAR work?

Put simply, TAR is when lawyers train the software in areas of relevance, with the computer using algorithms to learn these calls and applying the calls to a wider set of documents. It is an iterative process that continues with the lawyer reviewing further documents until they are happy with the results.

Lawyers are at the forefront of the TAR process.

The software does not make the final calls on documents, but instead helps prioritise the information for lawyers to review. The legal team can then concentrate on reviewing the most important information, instead of trawling through large volumes of irrelevant material.

Much of the information in discovery exercises can be irrelevant, and we do not want lawyers investing their time (and the clients’ money), manually looking at information that may be totally irrelevant for what you are after. By grouping similar documents together, the technology enables a more consistent and accurate document review. The irrelevant documents can quickly and easily be removed from the review set.

Simplifying how to deploy TAR

TAR has been around for many years, although it is only now starting to become mainstream.

Often what restricted TAR adoption was the work required upfront with training and protocols, whilst also justifying its use. The shift to more continuous active learning, whereby the technology continues to learn as the review progresses has helped simplify the use and adoption of TAR.

As TAR is always running in the background, you can choose if or when to use it.

This is beneficial as the legal team may not be certain about deploying TAR at the outset, but know that they can utilise it later if they choose. Often the onerous nature of a discovery exercise is only fully realised once the review is well underway. The advantage is it is easy to quickly deploy TAR, which has been working in the background, fully utilising your existing review work.

When to use TAR?

The use of TAR is most commonly used on large volume matters.

Usually anything with over 100,000 initial documents should consider the use of TAR. With document volumes increasing on all matters, a couple of email mailboxes can easily equate to 100,000 documents.

It is not just a case of document volumes.

Empowering those with limited resources and budgets

TAR is often thought of as a tool primarily for large firms working with high document volumes, however TAR can be just as valuable for smaller firms that may have limited resources and budgets. Smaller firms often need to look for smarter ways to work to compete with larger firms on matters with large document volumes.

TAR also helps firms with less resources manage a matter that may otherwise have been too vast and costly for them to manage. By working smarter and embracing options like TAR, firms that have limited resources can help produce faster, cheaper and better results than competitors that use more traditional methods.

Deploying TAR can enable firms to maximise the expertise of maybe just one or two lawyers. This assists them to conduct the discovery exercise quicker and cheaper, so they can devote their energies into progressing the rest of the matter post the discovery process.

TAR is being used, and by more than you might think…

TAR is frequently being used in New Zealand.

Not all of these instances of using TAR make headlines or court decisions, but there is an increasing number that are using TAR in one form or another. Not everyone is using TAR in its fullest sense, but the adoption of TAR is increasing all of the time.

Typically once TAR has been used, the more likely it will be used on the next matter.

For many it is just taking that first step.

The objective of the discovery process should be to get only what you need and do so in a way that is quick and cost effective. We should all be looking at smarter ways to tackle the discovery process. Any option that facilitates getting to the most important information quicker and cheaper, whilst helping to isolate irrelevant material, cannot be a bad thing.

If you are finding eDiscovery both challenging and expensive, then Technology Assisted Review could be your answer.

TAR will not be right for every matter, although it should be one of the options you consider if you want to work smarter to reduce the cost and burden of the discovery process.


Andrew King andrew.king@e-discovery.co.nz is the founder of E-Discovery Consulting. Andrew also organises LawFest, New Zealand’s legal innovation and technology event.

Last updated on the 9th November 2018