Five Low-Cost, Attorney-Friendly Ways to Cull Email in E-Discovery

5 Ways to Cull Email in E-Discovery

E-discovery is expensive with email and its attachments typically being the most prevalent data types. Here are five low-cost, low-tech, lawyer-friendly tools that can be used to cull emails prior to going to a final review platform. Final review platforms, while powerful, are expensive and, compared to these five low-cost tools, are time-consuming to load and administer. In addition to achieving the immediate goal of culling unresponsive content, this set of tools also familiarizes lawyers with the collection and makes substantial progress on finalizing the key term list that will be used for final production and shared with opposing counsel.

5 Ways to Cull Email in E-Discovery

Five Tools to Cull Email in E-Discovery

Here’s how to use these five tools in the e-Discovery process: Once potential custodians have been identified, collect their data and identify an initial key terms list. Before sending content off for final review, search for the key terms in the collected content and provide electronic reports of the results for attorneys to review.  Each of these five reports takes a different look at the result set and those different looks provide a perspective to the attorneys reviewing the reports. In our approach, attorneys can sort the reports several different ways (e.g., date order, by sender, or by topic) and flag emails that can be safely excluded.

The process is highly iterative, as the attorneys gain more understanding of the documents and the terms the searching and report viewing is easily repeated to refine results.

Here are the reports which are run after the emails are deduped:

  1. Low Reply Rate Emails. These are emails sent that had a very low number of replies or no replies. Example of emails that fit in this category are:
  • Internal e-mails from IT
  • Emails from automated senders
  • Spam
  • Mass marketing
  1. Large Distribution Emails. Emails that are sent to large numbers of recipients tend to be distribution lists for standardized reports or other recurring content. Identifying which of those can be eliminated can remove substantial volumes from consideration.
  2. Visually-Similar Email Payloads. When people repeatedly send attachments containing the same types of information to other people, those attachments tend to look alike, even if the key terms in them differ from attachment to attachment. Grouping visually-similar attachments and then tying the groupings back to the emails that attached them can reveal subsets of documents that are either clearly nonresponsive or responsive.
  3. Textually-Similar Emails. Grouping emails based on their textual similarities is another way to pull together items where decisions can often be made in bulk to include or exclude items from production.
  4. Key Terms List. Attorneys are provided with a word frequency list of the words occurring in the search results as a way of familiarizing them with terms they may not have considered using for searches. The word frequency list can also suggest whether terms would be useful in identifying subsets of the documents. For example, a word that occurs in all the documents won’t help in selecting a subset of the documents.

The advantages of utilizing these 5 Tools in the e-Discovery process:

  1. Low Cost. The searching and reporting can be conducted without incurring per gigabyte or per user fees. Any items excluded will not incur the large initial ingestion and monthly hosting fees for content placed in the final review platform.
  2. Low Tech. Attorneys are accustomed to reviewing reports and no special training is required to browse the reports. There are no passwords or licenses to setup or administer.
  3. Quick. The tools that generate these reports can process large volumes of data in a short time. Lawyers can be reviewing results on a TB of data within two days.
  4. Highly Iterative. As lawyers gain insight into the content and how key terms are distributed across documents and custodians, they can refine the key term list and search logic to exclude plainly irrelevant content and identify responsive content.
  5. Complementary to Other Tools. The report toolset can be used to identify where further insight would be obtained by using other tools on the collection or subsets of the collection, e.g., to perform a concept clustering analysis or find linguistically-similar content.

Using tools like these described, the volume of emails sent for final review can often be reduced by well in excess of 90% before going to the final review platform.

Founder & Principal Consultant
Quantum E-Discovery

Jeff believes in saving time and money in e-discovery by applying a variety of analytics tools early in a case, well before moving content to expensive final review platforms. Over the past 20+ years he has accumulated a variety of tools that can be applied as needed in specific situations. Learn about Jeff’s e-discovery philosophy here.