The 10,000 Document Rule: The Unspoken Beginning of E-Discovery Understanding

By on September 3, 2012

August/September 2012

John Thacher, TechLaw Solutions

Much attention has been devoted to e-discovery technology and its impact on document review. What is not being discussed, the author says, is the level of human review necessary to evaluate a document set, regardless of technology culling capabilities. Accordingly, he posits “The 10,000 Document Rule.” It states that a review team does not have a reasonable understanding of a project until after it has analyzed approximately 10,000 documents.

One of the most often overlooked issues in the defensibility of document review systems is that they all depend on some level of early human interaction to set rules, write review protocols, train reviewers and automated systems, and perform other tasks. Applying the 10,000 document rule, the author observes that several of those steps often occur before anyone involved in the case has a meaningful understanding of the document collection. Since understanding – the people-heavy part of the process – cannot yet be automated effectively, the selection of people to run the technology and manage the process is critical. Technology to assist or supplant human-based classification holds great promise, but only when linked to understanding.

The good news about integrating technology into human-based processes, the author says, is that it should realize immediate cost savings. Application of the 10,000 document rule will reduce and organize documents; time spent in the early stages to selecting the right team and technology will pay dividends as a project progresses.

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