Defining the document review
phase of ediscovery

What is document review? Also known as simply review, document review is the stage of the EDRM in which organizations examine documents connected to a litigation matter to determine if they are relevant, responsive, or privileged.

Document review is the final stage before production, in which a litigant provides discoverable information to its opponent. The purpose of document review, then, is to identify what information falls within the scope of discovery. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), that includes “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.”

This is achieved today through a combination of human review teams and technology. Reviewing lawyers must examine individual documents one at a time to determine what type of information they contain. They generally designate documents, at a minimum, as privileged, relevant, or responsive. These designations are referred to as “tags.” Depending on the review protocol, reviewers may also apply case-specific tags concerning issues, sensitivity tags to indicate particularly “hot,” or “smoking gun,” documents, or helpfulness tags such as positive, neutral, or negative. Tags represent valuable attorney work product and should be retained whenever possible for documents that may be involved in multiple litigation matters.

Due to outsourcing and the high cost of using lawyers, document review is the most expensive stage of ediscovery. It is generally responsible for 70% to 80% of the total cost of ediscovery. The RAND Corporation has estimated that the median cost of document review is $13,600 per gigabyte.

To control those extravagant costs, litigants strive to narrow the field of documents that they must review. The processing stage of ediscovery is intended in large part to eliminate redundant information and to organize the remaining information for efficient, cost-effective document review.

Document review can be used in more than just ediscovery. It may also be used in regulatory investigations and in due diligence assessments for mergers and acquisitions. Wherever it is employed, it serves the same purpose of designating information for production and requires a similar approach.

Glossary definition

Document review is the stage of ediscovery prior to production, in which lawyers examine documents to determine if they are relevant, responsive, or privileged.