Sedona Conference search and retrieval draft paper

22 Sep

I direct your attention to this very informative August 2007 draft/public comment paper by the Sedona Conference Working Group 1. In discussing best practices in the use of search and information retrieval methods in discovery, the paper advocates the use of automated search and retrieval methods as an alternative to manual search and suggests eight practice points.

Here are some key quotes made in advocating for automated search:

  • A consensus is forming in the legal community that human review of documents in discovery is expensive, time consuming, and error-prone. There is growing consensus that the application of linguistic and mathematic-based content analysis, embodied in new forms of search and retrieval technologies, tools, techniques and process in support of the review function can effectively reduce litigation cost, time, and error rates.
  • It is not possible to discuss this issue without noting that there appears to be a myth that manual review by humans of large amounts of information is as accurate and complete as possible – perhaps even perfect – and constitutes the gold standard by which all searches should be measured. Even assuming that the profession had the time and resources to continue to conduct manual review of massive sets of electronic data sets (which it does not), the relative efficacy of that approach versus utilizing newly developed automated methods of review remains very much open to debate. Moreover, past research demonstrates the gap between lawyers’ expectations and the true efficacy of certain types of searches. The Blair and Maron study (discussed below) reflects that human beings are less than 20% to 25% accurate and complete in searching and retrieving information from a heterogeneous set of documents (i.e., in many data types and formats). The importance of this point cannot be overstated, as it provides a critical frame of reference in evaluating how new and enhanced forms of automated search methods and tools may yet be of benefit in litigation.
  • There is no magic to the science of search and retrieval: only mathematics, linguistics, and hard work. If lawyers do not become conversant in this area, they risk surrendering the intellectual jurisdiction to other fields.

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