What is Document Review?

Document review, also known as legal discovery work, has likely never been called anybody’s favorite activity. This is the highly laborious process in which each side of a legal case sorts through, labels, and then turns over the documents that are relevant to the other party’s discovery questions.

This is easily the most expensive part of a case; accounting firm KPMG estimated that first-level document review can cost anywhere between 58% – 90% of a case’s litigation budget. It is labor-intensive and mentally taxing for the lawyers involved, and it takes an entire team working together to achieve.

Who handles the discovery process? 

Many newly minted attorneys get their start in discovery work if they can’t find associate positions in law firms. Others pick up document review jobs as a way to earn extra money. These attorneys are normally joined by paralegals and litigation support personnel who are specially trained in new e-discovery programs. They work together to parse through innumerable files to find the pertinent records that they must hand over to the other side.

How is discovery accomplished?

Document review takes place over several stages. The legal team will first decide what is relevant, trying to narrow down the enormous stacks of documents by what pertains to the issues of the case at hand. Then, once they decide what information is relevant, they will ascertain whether the information is responsive to the specific questions that the other party has asked in discovery. For instance, even if a document referring to spinal surgery procedures at Saint Vincent’s Hospital is relevant to Jane Smith’s claim of a botched procedure and nerve damage, it probably isn’t relevant to her specific surgery.

The legal team must also tag and code documents that are privileged or confidential so that they do not leave the office. Anything between the attorneys and the client must be kept privileged, and that cannot be divulged to the other side during the discovery process. Client communications, trade secrets, and the like must be kept in-house.

The discovery team will also have to redact in whole or in part information that is confidential. They’ll have to keep logs of this data, all of which will be coded and tagged for internal reference and later perusal.

Much of this is still traditionally done in a basement room of a law firm, surrounded by boxes in an almost comically depressing fashion. However, with the advent of e-discovery, a good portion of document review has now been cataloged onto servers and can be done much more efficiently. Data can be batched, sorted, and compartmentalized far easier when there are tags and categories, so it is very likely that the future of the profession will continue in this direction.

Starting in document review is a great way for new attorneys to stretch their wings after law school. Contact SuitsOn Staffing to be put in contact with one of our legal recruiters to begin your legal career search. Also, subscribe to our newsletter and receive great news, open positions, and updates from SuitsOn Staffing and the legal world!

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