Eliminating Barriers to Full-Workflow E-Discovery

Predictive coding shows us where e-discovery technology wishes it could go: total automation. Encode a complete legal mind into a software program, load up the discovery portfolio, count to 10, and out pop coded, annotated, redacted production files.

It’s a seductive concept, but such technology is a very long way off, and its broad acceptance by courts—which have yet to really say yea or nay even on predictive coding—is farther away still.

In the meantime, legal document workflows will require expert reviewers. And given the state of most current legal technology, those reviewers rarely get the tools and support they require to perform their full-workflow function thoroughly, accurately and efficiently.

Go Full or Go Home

Research shows that when users can’t perform every required task of their workflow within the designated application, they start working around the application. They begin performing some tasks on hardcopy or through email attachments, or engage in oral discussions that really should be documented within the workflow.

And then they begin losing track of document versions and the discussion flow, on top of exposing sensitive legal documents to greater risk or theft or misuse.

Given the current state of most legal document review technology, reviewers often run up against the following obstructions that may send them running outside their applications:

  • Limited support for native file formats. “Petrification” of legal documents to TIFF format for discovery review was aptly named—the practice is officially a fossil. Effective review demands access to documents in their native file formats, but the viewer technology in many applications still constrains the user to a short list of supported file formats. Reviewers wind up having to convert files just to review them, wasting costly time and potentially reducing the document’s discovery value in the process.
  • Mobile device support that’s nonresponsive…or nonexistent. When reviewers can perform review tasks at client sites, the courthouse, or wherever else they may find themselves, they’re more productive. But not just any mobile support gets the job done. Unless the viewer responsively adapts both the document display and the review toolset to optimize the experience for the device size, users may decide that trying to review on their phones and tablets is more hassle than it’s worth.
  • Insufficient document safeguards. The downside of mobile access is that it exposes documents to greater risk of misuse. Documents must be encrypted both on the server and in transit to devices, and administrators should have the option to stamp a watermark on every page. But more importantly, documents must be displayed in a way that does not require that an actual copy of the source document be sent through the Internet. HTML5 viewing technology can reduce the risk by transmitting only a high-fidelity copy that’s useful to the reviewer but useless to anyone who might try to steal it.
  • Skimpy annotation toolsets. Careful document review is a multiuser process, a conversation. At base, legal reviewers need to be able to insert comments in a document. But for the level of engagement a full review demands, they also need to insert comments in comments, to  include comment text in searches, and to customize annotation types to match the unique needs of their firm, company or case.
  • Primitive redaction capabilities. The essential ability to black out nonresponsive and nonrelevant content is the beginning of a useful redaction function, not its end. Reviewers also need to be able to embed a reason in a redaction, and to include redaction reasons in simple and complex searches.
  • No approval/signature functionality. The review workflow isn’t complete until approval, so full-workflow legal review must include a way to sign documents electronically.

Look to the Viewer

Ensuring that legal review technology addresses the full workflow lies mostly in the application’s viewing component. It’s the platform and enabler for the search, annotation and redaction tools. But more importantly, the viewer component defines the architecture that enables superior security protections and mobile responsiveness.

Developers of legal software are finding that HTML5 document viewing technology supplies a secure, adaptable platform for the full range of document review tools that can keep legal staff productive within applications that meet their full-workflow requirements.

Accusoft provides document viewing, content and imaging solutions as client-server applications, mobile apps, cloud services, and software development kits (SDKs). 813-875-7575, http://www.accusoft.com.

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