How to Search Your eDiscovery Case. Pro Tips Every Small Law Firm Needs to Know

15 February 2018 by Anith Mathai eDiscovery search advanced-search keywords metadata document-review

Your eDiscovery app’s ‘search’ feature is a powerful tool. You can find documents that have a keyword you’re after, and you can combine keywords for a more thorough search. Here’s what you need to know to make the best searches.

The basic ‘keyword’ search is a powerful eDiscovery tool.

Say you’re working a case about a car accident. You’ve been given hundreds (or thousands) of files to review-emails, scanned documents, Word files, PDFs, etc. You don’t know which ones are relevant, and it’ll take days to read through them all. But it’ll take your eDiscovery app just seconds to pull up files with the keyword ‘accident.’ And now you’ve got something to work with.

Here’s what to keep in mind with basic searches:

  • Use long keywords. At least five characters long. Otherwise, you’ll get a lot of unwanted hits. For example, if you search for ‘car,’ you’ll also get files with ‘carpet,’ ‘carbonated,’ and miscarriage,’ which aren’t relevant to your case.
  • Numbers can get tricky. If you search for 100, you’ll also get 10000, 1.0000, 1001, etc.
  • Special characters can get tricky. ‘*@#$%&**’ are all seen as ‘spaces,’ by your eDiscovery app. So, “Sally@lawfirm.com” is the same as “Sally lawfirm com.” And that could skew your results.
  • Apps ignore some commonly used words. Words like ‘it,’ ‘the,’ ‘by,’ and single-digit numbers. Otherwise, you’d get too many irrelevant hits.
  • ‘Wildcards’ comes at a price. One cool feature of keyword searches is that you can use an asterisk (*) to find variations of a word. So, searching for “risk*” gets you “risk,” “risks,” “risky,” “risked,” “riskier” and so on, which are all useful. But wildcards can bring up a lot of irrelevant material too. If you know what word-variations you’re looking for, search for them directly instead of using a wildcard.
  • Use quotation marks to find an exact match. Searching for ‘Ferguson report’ gets you documents with the words ‘Ferguson’ and ‘report’ anywhere in them. But searching “Ferguson report” (with quotes) will find you only files where they appear as a phrase.

In an advanced search, you combine keywords. For example, searching for ‘car AND accident AND February’ is more specific than just ‘accident.’ It gets you only the documents where all those keywords appear. And this saves you a lot of time. Otherwise, you’d have to do three ‘basic’ searches to find the same documents.

Advanced searches use three ‘operators’-AND, OR, and NOT.

  • ‘AND’ finds you document with all the keywords. So, ‘car AND accident.’
  • ‘OR’ finds you documents with any of your keywords. So, ‘car OR automobile.’
  • ‘NOT’ keeps out documents with your keyword. So, “accident NOT motorcycle” helps you find car-accident files by keeping out motorcycle accidents.

For example, if you search for ‘car AND automobile NOT motorcycle AND accident,’ things get confusing-unless you prioritize the search terms. Let’s use (brackets) to do that.

  • (Car AND automobile NOT motorcycle) AND accident,’ gets you files with ‘accident’ in them, but only ones with ‘car’ and ‘automobile’ too. Not ones with ‘motorcycle.’ This is what you want.
  • ‘Car AND automobile NOT (motorcycle AND accident),’ **gets you files with ‘car’ and ‘automobile’ in them, but not ones with ‘motorcycle’ and ‘accident.’ Keeping ‘accident’ out ruins your search.

Luckily, good eDiscovery apps do the prioritizing (i.e. ‘nesting’) for you.

You won’t need to worry about writing out an extended instruction, or bracketing. You’ll use simple ‘drop-down’ boxes and text boxes, like in the image below.

The best eDiscovery apps make advanced searches easy. No math. No equations. For example, here's what advanced searching with GoldFynch looks like. Just simple text boxes and 'drop-down' boxes.

Advanced searches are great for metadata.

Computers store information about documents that aren’t in the documents. For example, when they were created, or who created them. This information is called ‘metadata.’ Advanced searches help you search metadata faster.

For example, you’re looking for your client Sally’s email.

You know she sent it to you in August, but you’ve forgotten when exactly. What do you do? Well, metadata to the rescue. You’ll search the ‘from’ email metadata field for ‘Sally’ and the ‘sent on’ field for ‘August.’ And an advanced search lets you do both in one shot.

Want to search your case faster? Try GoldFynch, for free!

GoldFynch is eDiscovery software that makes it easy to find the documents you need. And the best thing is your starter case is free! So, test it without having to pay anything.

Here’s why GoldFynch has been getting a lot of attention:

  • It can handle complex ‘nested’ searches, like the ones we looked at above.
  • It’s very user-friendly. Its graphical search builder lets you use simple drop-down menus and text boxes, while GoldFynch handles all the complex math.
  • You get to experiment with search terms. Undo/redo changes with a click, and ask GoldFynch’s syntax checker for help when you’re stuck.
  • You can save and share searches. So, you don’t have to build them again next time.

Here’s a closer look at GoldFynch’s Advanced Search system

GoldFynch is cool for other reasons too!

  • You don’t have to install anything. It runs off the internet, and you use it through your web browser. So you can start working immediately. No sales calls or emails. And no credit card.
  • It’s easy to use. It’s highly intuitive, and you’ll learn how to use it in minutes.
  • It lets you do eDiscovery essentials, like tagging files and redacting privileged information. ‘Producing’ files takes just a few clicks.
  • Most importantly, it’s affordable. Just $10 a month for a basic case. That’s $25 less-every month-than the nearest comparable software. And hundreds of dollars cheaper than many others.

Want to learn more about GoldFynch?

For more about eDiscovery for small law firms, check out these articles.