The legal landscape is intricate where precision and accuracy are the supreme deal. As litigation and legal process deems exchanging huge volumes of sensitive information and documents, there is a need for an eye for detail with legal knowledge that warrants professional judgment. This is what the legal document review process encompasses.
As stated, every legal document requires utmost attention to detail and careful examination as a minor mistake can have substantial impacts in a business environment or in an individual’s life. Signing a faulty legal document has the potential to make one’s life miserable.
This adds up an indeed need to examine the documents and review for any potential loopholes in the equation. There is also a need to check whether all the collected data documents and information are relevant to the legal issues.
Organizing such voluminous documents has always been a nerve-wracking job, but thanks to technological evolution and electronic discovery, legal document management just got simpler. Yes, e-discovery has been a viable solution to handle the documents in an organized manner.
However, the complexity associated with the legal document review process has remained the same as the most focus-demanding and labor-intensive phase of legal regulatory activity. Read on to know the prime purpose of document review and its importance in the legal landscape. This article introduces you to the strategies/processes involved in legal document review to navigate through the vast document repositories. Let us start!
What is a Legal Document Review?
Legal document review, simply termed as document review in a legal context, involves deep and careful analysis of legal documents. Document review ensures the relevance and privilege of a legal document. Review is the final stage before a document is produced for litigation purposes. This review is usually accomplished by a person who has expertise and experience in the field and deals with such documents on a daily basis.
The legal documents can be a contract, regulators, pleadings, or agreements /discovery files. The reviewer assesses the document for the key information that could claim or defend the case requirements. The professional also checks for any potential loopholes or other compliance pitfalls by understanding the factual implications made by the document. The reviewer also focuses on language, content, and any other changes made in the document. Usually, the review is done by a lawyer and checked for the scope of discovery.
The document collected is interpreted for the key data that could strengthen the argument and segregate the data that would weaken the claim. This enables the litigants to draft the final legal document with relevant information to build their case, provide legal advice to their clients, and present it in court with precision and confidence.
For many decades, all these activities were meticulously performed by the attorneys and it was so tedious to handle them accurately and on time. Today, sophisticated technologies have made all these activities easy and manageable and provided a financially feasible option to carry out the review online( attorneys can review the online document from their home/ anywhere) or hire external reviewers at times of large requests.
Purpose of Legal Document Review
There are broader purposes for the document review in legal aspects. The legal documents take various forms like contracts, transactional logs, policy documents, regulatory filings, or other legal agreements demanding the review to be multi-faceted. According to the legal document the review can be assessed for internal or external litigation purposes for due diligence or regulatory compliance or purposes like subpoenas or other modifications.
Review in any context refers to checking for the factual implications in the document and the legal document review also warrants checking for the pertinent information in the document. Legal document review intends to assess the relevance of the collected documents ( checking whether they are pertinent to the particular case).
There are scenarios where such collected documents are to be disclosed to the opposing party for review before starting the trial and prior assessment helps lawyers to be aware of whether disclosing the information to the opposing party could breach the confidentiality factor. The opposing party can ask for records on medical evaluations, insurance claims, repair receipts, etc.
So, a review should be accurate with immense attention to detail while also protecting the confidentiality of the sensitive information.
Bringing a comprehensive understanding to the reviewer, the objectives of the review extend to other purposes of extracting information that is relevant to the case while identifying the risks and mitigating them to protect the interest of the client. All the legal documents are evaluated for compliance obligations while support documents are reviewed with diligence to identify the supporting evidence. This allows the litigator to organize the documents that have the privilege of data for building a strong case/evidence.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure outlines the need to produce the relevant documents (it also warrants withholding items that are privileged despite their relevance). Anyhow, the take on the relevance and privilege completely relies on the reviewer’s decision which requires a document review!
The review also involves strategies looking for any contradictory information in the claims and clauses. Thus, the review becomes the duty of the legal professional to be accomplished before submitting the document to avoid any future penalties from the legal bodies and disputes among the clients. In this way, the litigator gathers all the information that can support their claims and segregates any potential information that can challenge the opposing parties’ claims.
In essence, legal document review helps make informed decisions to protect their client’s interests and develop strategies that help successful navigation in the legal landscape.
Process of Legal Document Review
Generally, the legal document review is carried out by a lawyer or teams of attorneys or paralegals that have exercised in the legal paradigm for years. Traditionally the review process is carried out manually and whoever is reviewing a document has to put in their time and focus on huge volumes of paper documents to extract the key points by skimming a lot for hours.
It is said by the legal experts that junior lawyers who are new to the field are generally employed in this activity and they inform the litigant. There have been times when these junior lawyers and trainees were locked up in a room with piles of documents as they didn’t want them to be withheld by the opposing party to a claim.
As technology advances, now this is dealt better with workflow automation tools and human experts. This has saved the experts’ time that was spent reading the documents line by line and organizing them. Now, there is a revolution with automation technologies in which documents are organized and your expert role is to categorize the documents based on certain criteria and identify the privilege implied in the document.
As discussed earlier, the reviewer filters out the documents for relevance to the case at hand. Some use filtering techniques like adding tags to the documents based on the degree of relevance. Even though the documents that are collected may not be relevant or include any form of privilege, you have to review each and every file before the trial.
The documents that hold privilege can be tagged and withheld from the other party. There are tags that are case-specific while few reviewers use tags based on the review protocol. Retaining helpful tags like positive, neutral, or negative can save time when the document is involved in multiple cases.
If a privileged document is produced accidentally to the opposing party, it is the duty of that party’s reviewer to return the sensitive data to the litigant of the former. The following steps are involved in the basic review of a legal document, though every reviewer has their own strategy to review the legal files/reports.
All the information related to the case is collected initially; e-discovery has made all these files organized in a place making it easy to manage for the reviewers.
Once the document collection is completed, the legal professionals examine all the files; if they find some data or information /proof is missing, they return to collect them and repeat the process.
This is a crucial step in the document review process as the lawyer identifies the potential loopholes or missing statements in the document. Reviewers can also check the factual background of the document by comparing the information and negotiations made by the client and the collected documents.
This step enables the reviewers to distinguish the wrong/incorrect data from the correct data. The incorrect information is marked for change by the reviewer while correct information is preserved and remains unaffected.
The data marked as incorrect is changed /altered as per the requirement by the reviewer. In case of a mutual agreement, the identified error is informed to the other party and when the opposing party agrees and acknowledges, the change is implemented in the contract.
The document is now free of incorrect information as every incorrect information is identified and changed as needed. Here all the prior steps are again accomplished to avoid any contradictions in the future. This also expedites the review process as it expels the act of documents being overlooked and verified again.
This is the final step in the review and approval process, where the lawyer has a keen observation of the changes made in the document and ensures to make the change aligns with the client’s needs. The documents are arranged in sequence and the attorneys analyze all the proofs to be present in the arrangement.
Advancements in technology have catalyzed the legal document review process as features like instant metadata search allow you to collect and filter the relevant files from the pool of documents. Thus you can acquire a high speed in reviewing the documents using the right legal document review software or contract lifecycle management solutions.
Benefits of Legal Document Review
Only the legal experts or attorneys working for a law firm can accomplish a legal document review, as they deal with such documents on a daily basis and their knowledge of legal policies and government norms makes their role irreplaceable in review activity.
In this way, they become well-versed to know what to check and where to find that or envisage any other change and their implementation as per the requirements. In this light, document review apparently becomes under the shadow of legal professionals and their charges to review, though can’t be overstated, still remain huge. Thus, legal document review has become the most expensive (almost 70%-80% of the total cost) in the e-discovery realm.
In the cost-cut measure, litigants may not be able to eliminate any documents from the review process or you can’t get a legal document verified by any other individual since this can be risky in all terms of getting you sued or penalized. On the other hand, reviewing the redundant documents elevates this extravagant cost to a new level. To eliminate this an efficient document review is needed and here is a brief about its benefits.
With the right legal document software,
- you can be at peace about the implications of the documents being factual, relevant, and verified by the experts.
- you will always comply with the latest government regulatory measures.
- no worrying about missed out clauses and claims.
- you can ensure appropriate amendments of the changes only after being agreed upon by both parties.
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Things to Consider While Performing a Law Firm Document Review
- Understand the protocol of the project/case you are handling. Know the nature of the case.
- Always look for details – name, date, reference number, signature, and any other specific instructions. Ensure all these match with the case in your hand.
- Determine the degree of relevance, privilege, and responsiveness of the document with appropriate tags. Organize documents of the same tags in a separate folder or a bundle.
- Determine whether the document aids or hurts your litigating statement.
- Mark data that supports your claim and also ensure to mark unusual claims, and missed/incorrect norms.
- Make sure the data aligns with your client’s statement before submitting it to the opposing party or before starting the trial.
- Review even after a minor change or modification.
- If working on an automated platform, ensure to define the criteria to highlight keywords, tagged content, route metadata searches, and automatically flag risks and potential loopholes.
Before Choosing A Legal Document Review Software…
- Saving time and money with no compromise on data integrity is a wiser approach to adopting any technology in your legal paradigm. Invest in a cloud-native solution to embrace this e-discovery strategy into a reality.
- The visible difference that an advanced legal review system can impart in your organization is organizing the document piles without any hassle in your digital framework. Look for a solution that provides a centralized data handling repository.
- Opt for a solution that allows you to define your criteria on approvals, search, and access.
- Make it a decision to invest in tools that can scale, integrate, collaborate, and upgrade with technological business advancements as required. This digital era has been surprising us with tools that can dwell on technologies like AI and natural language processing.
- Go for a tool that is versatile to accommodate multiple reviewers at a time to speed up the review process. It should be capable of tagging, filtering required documents, and flagging issues! It should be able to predict redundant data, highlight key terms, and provide tags based on priority and privilege. It should also encompass features to track the document access history and provide analytical reports.
With this comprehensive understanding of legal document review, it is evident that the process engrossed dynamic and iterative approaches which necessitate revisiting previous stages. It is also worth noting that technological advancements have an impactful role to play in the document review process. However, human expertise remains paramount in the process to make it accurate and reliable. So, a tool that allows immense flexibility and caters to streamline things under human control becomes a powerful choice as a legal document review solution.
With all these said, Cflow which fosters document managing capabilities is the winner for sure! Cflow, being a cloud-based workflow automation, allows you to design the workflows that progress as per the defined rules.
The approval workflows and version control features in Cflow maintain the integrity to be consistent throughout the review process. The centralized platform allows multiple users to work simultaneously which can be leveraged to expedite legal document review with multiple lawyers. Safeguard your client’s interests from any legal disputes by streamlining your review workflows with Cflow.
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