Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

Dealing with Search Criteria

Posted by rjbiii on November 8, 2007

A recent post of ours cautioned readers to be careful on formulating, and to use some method of verifying, their initial assumptions. We refer to initial assumptions with respect to EDD as assumptions on keywords, effective date ranges, and data sources that must be preserved for an electronic discovery project. has posted an article discussing keyword searches, and calls attention to one danger of not carefully considering the formulation of search criteria:

The results of a recent e-discovery keyword search should have come as no surprise. Working on a case related to a specific transaction, the attorneys requested production of all documents containing the word “buy.” Despite being cautioned against this broad search, they were reluctant to heed the warnings, and many unrelated documents were incorrectly deemed responsive. Unfortunately, it takes a $750,000 mistake like this one for some people to understand the benefits of using a strategic approach to keyword selection.

If this had been my project…well, never mind. As I have said repeatedly, it is essential for the initial assumptions used in extracting data for review to be thoroughly vetted, because the filter ultimately determines what documents the reviewer sees. Searches that are too broad cost time and money. Searches that are too narrow will miss vital data, and could cost the client even more in the long term (by skipping over helpful information or by landing them in hot water with the judge). The importance of the process of building a verifying a list should not be underestimated.

That said, keywords are not the panacea. New technologies, using concept-based ontologies and techniques continue to evolve, and will move us beyond the era of the boolean keyword search.

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