eDiscovery for Small Cases: No Platform vs. eDiscovery Software

Published on July 9, 2019

Keith Wilson

As a transplant from eDiscovery software to eDiscovery service, Keith brings a deep understanding of automation to eDiscovery process design. He has worked with Fortune 500 and AmLaw 100 clients to gain efficiencies in the redaction process and alternative eDiscovery workflows.

For most people, handling small cases is a headache. eDiscovery software can be expensive and more time than it’s worth. But manual reviewing documents without a platform is inefficient and a big issue if the case unexpectedly scales up.

After observing both sides of the spectrum, I’ve heard dozens of issues with both. Here are five things you should do to make eDiscovery valuable for small cases:

Avoid Analytics

I never thought I’d be saying this, because I am a huge fan of applying Analytics to almost every case, but Analytics should not generally be used on small cases. Email threading, technology assisted review, clustering, or data visualization is going to add to the cost while taking the attorney longer to learn than the amount of time it would save. Be aware of the people pushing anything, no matter the size of the case, because they are just going off standard best practices instead of changing their approach for your needs.

Create a Template with a Very Simple Review Panel

With small cases, there are going to be significantly fewer coding decisions. While each practice may have different requirements, most of these small cases only require 3-4 coding decisions. Anything more can be overkill and will take too much time compared to the value that you will get out of it.

Limit the Team and the Permissions Available

Small cases require as little overhead as possible, so smaller teams and fewer software options keep things simple and reduce the risk of miscommunication. Generally, on small matters, we recommend that only two people have access to the database – one paralegal and one attorney, and that the permissions are limited to: redact, review and produce. Permissions beyond these frequently create complications and rework.

Standardize Reports Across All Matters

Reports are valuable. End-clients like them. They help attorneys visually contextualize the database and use point-and-click prioritization of review. Custom reports, however, can take more time to configure than they save. We recommend simple, intuitive consistent reports across all cases. Our favorites are (1) review progress (2) email domain analysis (3) file data type analysis. These are all quick reference reports that help attorneys gauge progress and ways to reduce review volumes.

Negotiate Fixed Monthly Fee Agreements with Your Service Provider

Small cases typically have tight budgets. And there’s nothing more frustrating than discovering unexpected expenses in a budget. With Items 1-4, the review workflow should be standardized and simple enough that your service provider can provide an affordable fixed monthly fee per matter.

The above techniques can create a repeatable, simple affordable approach to eDiscovery that can be used on a high volume of small cases to great results. The key to successfully deploying the above techniques is ensuring that you are on a technology that can work on small cases, and scale if a small case significantly increases in scope. Acorn has created Acorn Review Light for small cases, which can scale to serve any size matter. There when you need it, not when you don’t.


Be Sure to Follow Me for the Latest Content and Subscribe For the Latest Acorn Insights! 

About Acorn 

Acorn is a legal data consulting firm that specializes in AI and Advanced Analytics for litigation applications, while providing rigorous customer service to the eDiscovery industry. Acorn primarily works with large regional, midsize national and boutique litigation firms. Acorn provides a high-touch, customized litigation support services with a heavy emphasis on seamless communications. For more information, please visit