eDiscovery Technology-Assisted Review (TAR): Is It Worth the Cost?

26 January 2020 by Ross eDiscovery TAR review

Takeaway: TARs are efficient and can save time. But there’s a huge upfront expense that isn’t worth it, unless you’re a large law firm with deep pockets and thousands of GB worth of data. Instead, small- and medium-sized law firms should focus on finding eDiscovery software with the few key features they’ll really need.

With a technology-assisted review (TAR), your eDiscovery software learns which kinds of case files you want to see more of.

New technology regularly transforms the discovery process. With older ‘paper’ discovery, reviewers would have to read through each case document to find the ones they wanted. With electronic discovery (eDiscovery or e-discovery), your eDiscovery software’s search engine finds the files for you instead. You still have to spend time crafting the perfect search term, though. Technology-assisted reviews (TAR) or computer-assisted reviews (CAR) change this. Here, your software learns which files interest you and then starts pulling up other similar ones. We see this kind of ‘machine learning’ with apps like Netflix – where your software figures out your taste and suggests movies you might like. With eDiscovery, machine learning is applied as ‘predictive coding,’ which means you can review thousands of GBs of documents quickly, accurately and efficiently.

So, how do you train your software to figure out what you’re interested in?

Here’s a list of the steps involved:

  1. You choose a sample set of files. It’s called a ‘seed set’ and has a variety of files from your case.
  2. You start tagging the sample files. You’ll mark them as ‘responsive’ or ‘unresponsive.’
  3. Your eDiscovery software detects patterns in how you tag files. It analyzes your choices and creates an algorithm to spot other responsive files.
  4. It then starts tagging responsive files using the algorithm.
  5. You give it feedback. You’ll test the new algorithm on other documents and correct tagging errors. And you’ll keep doing this till your software gets the algorithm just right.
  6. Your software uses this finished predictive coding algorithm on the rest of your set.

Sometimes, your software can learn ‘on the job’ too.

With predictive coding, your software is only as good as the initial training session. A sloppy training session means you get an inaccurate algorithm. That’s why we now have a more advanced option: ‘Continuous active learning.’ Here, you don’t need a ‘seed set.’ You just start coding files and your computer learns as you go. It suggests what it thinks is important, you correct it, it suggests other files based on your feedback, and the cycle continues. Obviously, you get much more accurate results this way.

What are the benefits of a technology-assisted review?

Here’s what’s appealing about TAR:

  1. You can get work done faster. The artificial intelligence behind predictive coding is essentially an assistant. It learns what you need and finds the files faster than you ever could. This means you’ll be able to work much quicker than if you were on your own.
  2. Your review can be more accurate. You might find a lot of responsive files by using your eDiscovery software’s search engine. But many in the eDiscovery world argue that with a TAR, you’ll find more. Also, they point out that humans make more mistakes than computers – especially when reviewing thousands of documents day after day.
  3. TAR can be cheaper than a regular review. It costs a lot to train and pay for people to review your cases. Training and maintaining TAR software is much cheaper. Plus, since TAR can get the work done faster, you save litigation costs and can start case assessments earlier.

What are the drawbacks of a technology-assisted review?

Here’s why TAR can be a problem for small- and medium-sized law firms

  1. Lots of upfront expenses. TAR costs very little to run, but you’ll spend a lot buying and setting up the software. You’ll probably also need to hire and/or retrain your IT team.
  2. Limited document review options. TAR works only with text. So it can review text-based documents like Microsoft Word files, emails, and PowerPoint slides. But it can’t process images, videos, blueprints, spreadsheets, etc.
  3. It needs human reviewers too. Someone needs to train the software doing a technology-assisted review. And someone needs to make sure TAR isn’t skipping important documents by mistake. That’s why the idea of any software handling the entire review by itself is not yet a reality.

So, is a technology-assisted review worth it?

It depends.

  • Are you a large firm with thousands of GB worth of files? Then, yes, TAR is definitely worth it. It’ll get the work done faster, will make fewer mistakes with the huge data set than human reviewers alone, and you won’t have a problem paying the upfront expenses.
  • Are you a small firm with fewer files? Then, no. It’s just too expensive and time-consuming to set up. And even once it’s running, you won’t have enough data to crunch to make it worth the cost and effort.

Solo, small- and medium-sized firms should focus on finding reliable eDiscovery software, instead.

Here’s what’s important when choosing your software:

  • It should be easy to use. Your software should have a simple and clear interface, basic actions should be intuitive, and it should come with good technical support.
  • It should be in the Cloud. This way, you won’t need to buy/maintain new hardware, won’t need an IT team to keep the system going, and will have access to your data on the go. Find out more about Cloud-based eDiscovery.
  • It should have transparent, up-front pricing. eDiscovery pricing can be complicated, with many hidden costs. So, find ‘per GB’ (or, ‘pay as you go’) pricing, where your bill will be calculated per GB of data stored. And make sure the pricing is prorated. Learn more about eDiscovery pricing.
  • It should have essential features like:

Want affordable, feature-packed eDiscovery software? Try GoldFynch.

It’s a fresh, adaptable eDiscovery application with all the features that a discerning small-to-medium size law firm needs.

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less–every month–than the nearest comparable software. And hundreds of dollars less than many others. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch has a flat, prorated rate. With legacy software, your bill changes depending on how much data you use.
  • 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.
  • It can handle even the largest cases. GoldFynch scales from small to large, since it’s in the Cloud. So, choose from a range of case sizes (3 GB to 100 GB, and more) and don’t waste money on space you don’t need.
  • You can access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud. And you can monitor its servers here.
  • You won’t have to worry about technical stuff. It’s designed, developed, and run by the same team. So, its technical support isn’t outsourced. Which means you get prompt and reliable service.

Want to learn more about GoldFynch?