As an eDiscovery project manager and Director of Client services responsible for ensuring the successful management of my client’s eDiscovery needs, having in place solid processes and procedures that are repeatable and defensible are keys to my success, my team’s success, and most importantly the success of my clients’ projects individually and collectively. Quality Control (“QC”) efforts are a crucial component to my processes and to the success of any project and I strongly encourage you to build them in to your eDiscovery processes and procedures in order for you and your clients to have full confidence in your eDiscovery.
Price, reputation, and plans are all important things to question your eDiscovery vendor about, but so too is QC, and it is not something you should wait until the end of a project to discuss. All too often at the beginning of a project, people are focused on things like search terms and deadlines, and only turn to QC once the project is ready to wrap up, but really QC should be thought of from the start and should be built into any eDiscovery process, whether it be for preservation, collection, review or production (or any others). QC will have its greatest impact and save you the most time and money the sooner you start it. While it can be a cleanup tool at any time in the process, it can serve to prevent further error if started early in a project and its results are then used to identify points of misunderstanding or deficiency in your training or process. Particularly in review (although not exclusively), once identified, the lessons learned during QC can become examples to provide to your team and retrain them to prevent future error and minimize the amount of recoding or other rework needed at the end of a project, which could blow budget and deadlines.
How much QC you perform and how you carry it out are secondary to the fact that you are performing it; amount QC’d and method of QC are only means to the end, which is accuracy. If you are correcting the mistakes and have a clean product, that is ultimately what matters. That being said, there is no one universal QC method to employ in all cases or all situations. My teams have certain standard QC processes that we perform across clients and across projects, but for each project we also devise QC procedures unique to the purpose and idiosyncrasies of that project.
My team’s familiarity with our clients, the tools we use, and our eDiscovery subject matter expertise allow us to properly craft these. However, more and more eDiscovery tools are building methods and applications to assist even non-savvy users in QC. One such functionality that many document review platforms are starting to incorporate is a method for creating random samples either by front end users or on the back end by administrators. But even if you program does not offer this capability, you could use Excel to create a random sample of your material for QC; QC is not limited to only those who are technologically sophisticated or have the funds to afford expensive eDiscovery software.
To close out this article, I would like to again stress that while how you QC is important, the fact that you are doing it and doing it early in your project are what matters most. Although performing QC will still have utility if you start it late in a project (and indeed at times it may be unavoidable), in most instances the sooner you start the better, so you can identify issues and correct them before they perpetuate and potentially blow your budget or deadlines at the end. That is not to say that performing QC at the start of a project alleviates the needs to QC at the end, rather QC at the beginning sets up a successful, succinct, and efficient QC at the end of a project.
QC may not make your product perfect, and it does not mean mistakes will not happen and still may not be caught, but what it will do is minimize those risks, while also providing an air of reasonableness to your actions so that if something does go wrong you can stand behind your efforts to avoid the error and point to your repeatable defensible process.