5 Steps to Fixing the eDiscovery Search Mistakes Your Small Law Firm Might Be Making

27 August 2018 by Anith Mathai eDiscovery search small-law-firm

Here’s how to fix common eDiscovery search mistakes: (1) Fine-tune keyword-searches, (2) Make Advanced Searches, (3) Test your searches, (4) Focus on the ‘story’ of your case, and (5) Cooperate with opposing counsel.

Nowadays, searching your eDiscovery case is quick and easy

Because your software comes with a powerful search engine that can sift through thousands of files in seconds. But even with the best software, there’s still a skill to searching. So, here are some tips to get the most out of your eDiscovery application:

Step 1: Fine-tune your basic ‘keyword’ searches

A keyword search is the simplest type of search you can make. Here, you search for a specific keyword or phrase. Like a name, date, or topic. But keep these things in mind:

  • 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.
  • Search for keyword variations: Especially for names. So ‘Robert’ could also be Rob, Bob, Bobby, etc.
  • 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) narrows the results to only files where they appear as a phrase.

Step 2: Start making more advanced searches

With simple searches, you enter a single keyword. With an advanced search, you use many keywords to give your software a complex command. Like, ‘Find all emails from John Anderson to Sally Nedry about a severance package, but not those from 2015.’ Here, you’re connecting the keywords ‘John Anderson,’Sally Nedry,’ ‘severance package,’ and ‘2015.’ And you’re doing it through a complex equation. But the best eDiscovery applications simplify this process and make it intuitive. Learn more about advanced searches.

Step 3: Start testing your searches

Say you searched the 8000 files in your case for a particular phrase. And say you get 400 results. How many of those results are relevant? And how much time will it take to figure that out? Instead, what if you used the same search term — as a test — on the files from just one computer? Say the computer has 50 files and you get 10 results. Now it takes much less time to figure out if your search term is pulling up too much irrelevant material. That’s why it pays to test your searches. Use them on small samples of data, and keep tweaking them till you get more relevant files than irrelevant ones. Only then use them on the thousands of files in your case.

Step 4: Start paying attention to the ‘story’ of your case

The point of any search is to help you build a compelling case. And for that, you need to stay with the story of your case. That is: What happened? When and how? Who is involved? What did they do? How are they connected to each other? Why did things happen the way they did? And what were the motives? The story isn’t something you finish with and then move on. As you explore your case and speak to clients and opposing counsel, you’ll get new information that might change the story. So, keep refining it and use it to stay on track. If you let the technicalities of ‘searching’ hijack your attention, you’ll often end up looking for the wrong things. And will realize this too late—when you’re preparing for trial. Learn more about the ‘story’ of your case.

Step 5: Start cooperating with opposing counsel – early and often

Want to review fewer irrelevant files? The trick is to sit down with opposing counsel early and go over the scope of eDiscovery. That way they’re guaranteed to be less aggressive about the amount of data they expect you to produce. And you’ll avoid producing hundreds (or thousands) of clearly irrelevant files. Plus, if you’ve shown eDiscovery competence up front (by being direct and open), courts are less likely to listen to objections from opposing counsel later on.

Remember that however good you get, eDiscovery search engines will always have quirks.

For example:

  • They ignore commonly used words like ‘it,’ ‘the,’ ‘by.’ To reduce irrelevant results.
  • They ignore (potentially useful) files if they’re corrupt, unreadable, or encrypted.
  • They can’t read ‘images’ of text. For example, PDFs and other scanned documents that haven’t been run through OCR to become ‘searchable.’
  • They’ll often waste your time by pulling up exact copies of the same file if those copies are in different formats. I.e., Your eDiscovery software’s deduplication isn’t foolproof.
  • Or they’ll pull up ‘false positives,’ like hundreds of irrelevant documents that happen to have in their footer a keyword you’re searching for.

Need help searching your case? Try out GoldFynch for free!

GoldFynch is eDiscovery software that makes searching quick and easy:

  • Use simple drop-down boxes to build even the most advanced search.
  • Troubleshoot search-errors quickly, with a syntax checker.
  • Use automatic OCR to convert scanned images into machine-readable text.
  • Save and share searches. So you and your team won’t need to keep rebuilding them.

GoldFynch is cool for other reasons too!

It prioritizes things that matter to small law firms.

  • Pay just $27 per month for a basic 3 GB case. That’s much less—every month—than the nearest comparable software. And hundreds of dollars cheaper than many others. GoldFynch’s pricing is transparent and readily available on the website.
  • It’s a flat, prorated rate. So it’s simple to budget for it. With legacy software, the billing is complicated and opaque, and your bill changes depending on how much data you use.
  • Got a small case that might become a large one later? GoldFynch scales from small to large. So, choose from a range of case sizes (3 GB to 150 GB, and more) and don’t waste money on space you don’t need. Plus, you don’t need to pay to ‘unlock’ premium features. You’ll have the full power of GoldFynch even with a starter case.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. It runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free, fully-functional trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • You get the best technical support: It’s designed, developed and run by the same team. So, the technical support isn’t outsourced. Which means prompt and reliable service.

Want to find out more?

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