How Do eDiscovery Search Engines Work? And Which One Should Your Law Firm Get?

06 June 2020 by Anith eDiscovery search

Takeaways: You’re only as good as your eDiscovery search engine because defensible cases are built on well-crafted ‘advanced’ searches. So, make sure your eDiscovery software’s search engine, (1) Is intuitive and easy to use, (2) Error-proofs your searches, (3) Lets you save your search queries, (4) Gives you a wide range of search options.

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 software’s search engine just seconds to pull up files with the keyword ‘accident.’ And now you’ve got something to work with.

But we can get a little more specific. We can start combining keywords.

For example, searching for ‘accident AND car AND February’ is more specific than searching for just ‘accident.’ And it saves you time because otherwise, you’d have to do three separate searches. You’d search for ‘accident,’ then you’d search those results for ‘car,’ and you’d look for ‘February’ in what’s left.

And then the magic begins, with really ‘advanced’ searches.

For most cases, we want to get even more specific. We may not care about all car accidents in February. Instead, maybe custodians ‘Pam’ and ‘Jim’ discussed the latest car crash right before Pam emailed custodian ‘Dwight’ a summary of her findings? And perhaps we want to know what Jim said to Pam? The right eDiscovery search engine can pull up their relevant email exchanges in seconds, with a single search query!

So, how does all this happen? What’s behind the curtain of these advanced searches?

All searches revolve around ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. So, for our earlier ‘basic’ search for the keyword ‘accident’, your eDiscovery search engine scans each file in your case asking, “Does it have the word ‘accident’?” If the answer is ‘yes’, it pulls up that file, If ‘no’, it moves on. And it repeats the process till it’s cycled through all your files. Advanced searches also use the ‘yes/no’ approach – they just group a bunch of these ‘basic’ queries.

Here are the building blocks of advanced searches

  1. ‘Conditions’. These are how you tell the search engine where to look and what to look for. A ‘condition’ tells your software what kind of files to search (e.g., only emails, or only PDFs), where in the file to look (e.g., the ‘subject’ lines of emails, or the file’s tag), and specifies other factors (e.g., search only documents where ‘pages < 20’). So, in our earlier Jim/Pam example, one ‘condition’ can be to scan all email addresses for the names ‘Jim’ and ‘Pam’.
  2. Operators. For an advanced search, we’ll usually need more than one of the ‘conditions’ we just discussed. For example, we may want to combine our earlier condition (“look at email addresses for ‘Jim’ and ‘Pam’“) with another one (“also, look for the phrase ‘car accident’ in the body of each email”). We combine conditions using ‘operators’ like ‘AND’, ‘OR’, and ‘NOT’ (learn more about operators). With ‘AND’, both the conditions it connects need to be true. With ‘OR’ it’s enough that either of the conditions is true. And ‘NOT’ allows one to be true but not the other.

Learn how to build an advanced search

What makes some eDiscovery search engines better than others?

Any search engine can find basic keywords. And many can do a decent advanced search. But the best ones have these important features.

1. Building a search query should be intuitive and easy.

You’re going to be building complex searches, linking multiple ‘conditions’ through multiple ‘operators.’ But luckily, the best eDiscovery applications transform this potentially complicated process into something easy to learn, and fun. They let you build your search by dragging-and-dropping ‘conditions’ and ‘operators’ into place and then moving them around to create the right hierarchy. Think of it as eDiscovery lego. And the process is so much more intuitive and simple than typing out a complicated math-like equation.

2. Your search engine should error-proof your queries.

Your job becomes so much easier if your eDiscovery software can do the following.

  • ‘Undo’ and ‘redo’. You want to be able to quickly backtrack on errors without having to recreate the search.
  • Expected text suggestions. Your search engine will help you along by listing characters, parameters and operators you can use.
  • Slop searches. Instead of searching for an exact phrase, your search engine pulls up results even where the keywords aren’t right next to each other. So, a ‘car accident’ search will pull up ‘car head-on accident’ results too, if you want. This is perfect for when you want to broaden your search net

3. You should be able to save searches.

It takes time to fine-tune a search until it’s just right. So, you definitely want to be able to save it when you’re done. This way,

  • You can build on an existing search without having to start from scratch
  • You can use the same search across different sets of files
  • Your teammates can use the same search, too.

4. You should have enough search parameters to choose from.

The more parts of a document or email you can search, the better. So, make sure your eDiscovery search engine offers you the following:

  • Complex operators. We’ve seen the basic operators AND, OR, and NOT. But your software should go a step further and give you options like ‘DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY OF’ or ‘IS ALL OF’. Learn more about complex operators.
  • File metadata. Metadata is a file’s digital fingerprint (learn more about metadata) and can often tell you more about a file than the file’s contents. So, advanced searches should be able to include file metadata, too. This means metadata fields like the filename, which custodian it came from, when it was created, what tags are linked to it, whether it’s been redacted, the number of pages, etc.
  • Email metadata. Emails have metadata, just like regular documents. This includes information like who sent the email, to whom they sent it, when they sent it, when it was received, etc.

Need eDiscovery software with a powerful-but-simple search engine? Try GoldFynch.

It’s a tried and tested eDiscovery application that prioritizes things that matter to small and midsize law firms. That’s why:

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s much 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?