In e-discovery, failing to understand data and how to apply tools can leave you vulnerable to poor results.
Spoiled by Google and legal research, lawyers are woefully unprepared for the difficulty of search in electronic data discovery. Search fails us in two, non-exclusive ways: Our query will not retrieve the information we seek, and our query will retrieve information we didn't seek.
Obviously, we want what we're looking for (high recall) and only what we are looking for (high precision). Recall and Precision aren't friends. Every time Recall has a tea party, Precision crashes with his biker buddies and breaks the dishes. It's easy to achieve a high recall of responsive electronically stored information. You simply grab it all: 100% of the data = 100% recall. The challenge is achieving precision. If one out of every hundred items returned is what you seek, 99 items are duds — 1% precision stinks.
Keyword search followed by human review is called "linear search," and for now, it's standard operating procedure in EDD — in part because linear search is mistakenly considered the safest course lest a party fail to produce something responsive, or turn over something that should have been withheld.
Linear search is time-consuming, so it's expensive. Worse, it doesn't work well. People make search and assessment errors, and making lots of searches and assessments, they make lots of errors. Mistakes can be subtle and hyper-technical, but most are not. If we eliminate bonehead errors, we improve the quality of e-discovery, and markedly trim its cost. Search will ever be a battle between Recall and Precision, but avoiding bonehead mistakes limits casualties.
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By: Craig Ball