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Three Steps to Simplifying Discovery

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper E-Discovery [February 2009]


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Whether shopping online, browsing the corporate intranet or conducting legal research, end users typically call upon a search engine for one of three reasons: to find, discover or explore information. When it comes to carrying out discovery work, where rapid access and intuitive insight are paramount, it’s clear the future of search is "finding it now."

Nowhere is this more apparent than in legal applications of discovery. Attorneys and the clients they represent face two separate challenges as they relate to electronic discovery, both requiring tools that deliver speed, efficiency and 100% accuracy.

In one scenario, you must be able to respond almost immediately when opposing counsel shows up at your door with a discovery request for specific documents. Conversely, your legal team must have complete confidence in their abilities to sift and sort through the boundless materials collected from their own discovery requests. The price for faltering at either step can be unquestionably steep.

More than a few corporations and their legal partners have felt the sting for either failing to produce the requested information, not responding fast enough or missing the key details that often make or break a case. Heavy fines have been levied, careers have been ruined and, some would even say, justice has not prevailed as a result of faulty e-discovery.

Make no mistake—e-discovery work is a complex, process-driven endeavor, and no single piece of software or hardware will guarantee success. However, enterprise search technology is making a real impact in the early and middle stages of e-discovery and helping drive a more thorough and efficient approach to taming this beast. Lawyers and general counsel rely on search for a variety of purposes, but the following "Three Steps to Simplifying Discovery" outline the key functions search is playing in e-discovery.

1. Realization through classification. Whether responding to a discovery request or trying to make sense of the discovery information you’ve received, you’re often dealing with a collection of content that is largely unknown. By calling upon your enterprise search solution’s classification engine, you gain immediate insight into your documents before typing even a single query.

Take the infamous Enron hearings, where more than 450,000 emails were collected. Cutting through this mass with speed and accuracy would be nearly impossible if relying solely on keyword search iteration. Setting a classification engine loose on the emails instead produces a navigable interface that clearly highlights vital insight into the collection, including email account names, email folders, the "To:" and "From:" entities and, most importantly, the relative prevalence (number of hits) of each entry.

By delivering these capabilities out of the box, your enterprise search engine saves you considerable culling time and offers you a level of pre-query insight and accuracy not easily attained without classification.

2. Cull with confidence. With the classification engine handling a significant portion of the heavy lifting, you can now cull efficiently and confidently through reliable refinement options and advanced query precision.

Recalling the Enron example, let’s assume you’re the attorney representing Vince Kaminski, a managing director tasked with risk assessment. In part, your job is to defend Kaminski and build a case that illustrates how he cautioned against Enron’s financial practices.

Through classification, you were instantly informed that Kaminski sent more than 14,000 of the total emails collected for discovery. Before typing a single query, you’ve refined the set of responsive documents from 450,000 to 14,000. By clicking on Kaminski’s name, your enterprise search engine has returned a results list complemented by a series of helpful contextual elements. These include drill-down categories like email recipients, folder names and entities such as people and organizations.

What’s most notable about these facets is that your search engine built them using absolute methods, versus making fuzzy judgment calls on what it thinks your query or documents "mean." As such, you can cull with confidence, knowing your search engine hasn’t left critical information out of your results. In our example, you want to focus on a subset of emails sent by Kaminski to Shirley Crenshaw, so you simply click on Crenshaw in the "To:" category to refine to just these emails.

3. Pinpoint and proceed.You’ve now gone from nearly a half-million emails down to just 339, and you’ve done so without having to rely solely on keywords. These 339 emails form the basis of responsive documents ready for analysis and review. At this stage, you can pinpoint key documents that support your positions. Once again reviewing Kaminski, we can begin performing keyword queries on the subset of 339 emails.

You need to establish Kaminski’s risk management role, so logically we perform a keyword query on "risk management." The search engine returns a manageable 17 documents, a subset you achieved in just three steps. Should you wish to explore even further, your enterprise search engine should also provide you with contextually relevant alternatives to your "risk management" query. In this example, you would see options for "pricing and risk management" and "enterprisewide risk management," among others.

At the end of the day, your search engine should deliver speed, efficiency and 100% accuracy by providing you with instant insight into your content, intuitive culling and advanced query precision.


Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of information access and discovery solutions for mining intelligence and corporate knowledge. The company’s award-winning software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded search applications.

ISYS offers customers several ways to engage with the company. You can visit our website at www.isys-search.com to learn more about our e-discovery work or watch a multimedia demonstration of ISYS in action. You can also request an evaluation version of our software or an executive briefing with our team to find out how ISYS can help you solve your discovery needs.


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