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Code of Conduct: Designing Coding Panels for Efficient Document Reviews

image of ediscovery document review software coding panelSetting up a proper coding panel in document review software is an oft overlooked task that may impact the quality and efficiency of a legal document review.  The coding panel in document review and e-discovery software provides the issue tags or codes that may be applied to organize and categorize individual documents.


Organizing the coding panel should be a deliberate and thoughtful exercise. However, when preparing for a document review, project managers often rush through coding panel preparation.  Big mistake. The coding panel sets the tone for a document review and strongly influences review speed and accuracy.


It’s all about Choices


Have you ever been to a restaurant where they had so many menu options you didn’t know where to start? You start scrolling through the menu and see some noodles that sound delicious but as you move on, the chicken starts to sound a little better but so does the burger.  You get lost; uncertain of anything.


Although document review is far removed from feeding a ferocious appetite, similar problems arise with too many choices on a coding panel.  Reviewers may lose focus on main questions and waste precious time deciding on options of lesser importance.  A coding panel should not be confusing, (nor should a restaurant’s menu but that’s a topic for another blog).


When building a coding panel, try to minimize the number of choices to only those necessary. You will find that limiting coding choices produces a faster and more accurate review.


Not only is it important to minimize the number of coding choices, how coding options are displayed is also important.  E-discovery and electronic document review platforms are often customizable and allow coding panels to be arranged in ways that best suits the review.  (You may be able to view choices in a drop-down list, a check box, a pop up, etc.).


Clicks = Time


The more time review attorneys spend on the selection of coding options, the more time they are spending on the review.  As a result, it is generally a best practice to require reviewers to make the least number of clicks as possible.


For example, if document coding choices are arranged in a drop-down list reviewers must click once to open the drop-down list and click again to select the document coding choice. However, if a coding check box is used, document reviewers click only once on the appropriate code and then move on. While this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, time spent making extra clicks adds up and more clicks also means more opportunities to make more errors in the process.


Logically Speaking


Another thing to consider is the order of questions on the coding panel.  Each review is different and each coding panel must be tailored to the needs of each document review. Coding decisions should be presented  in a way that flows with how reviewers will arrive at the answers posed by the coding options.


For example, the attorney notes section (used to capture information not necessarily gathered by coding choices) should not occupy the first position on a coding panel. The notes section generally should appear at the end of the coding options. That way the document reviewer has answered all coding questions before determining whether attorney notes are needed.


Additionally, consider putting easily answered questions closer to the top of the coding panel and questions requiring reviewers to dive deep into a document later in the panel.


Utilize sectioning and tabs features in your document review software to organize your questions.  The sectioning feature allows you to group questions within a section of the coding panel.  This allows you to organize the panel in a way that the reviewer can locate and answer these questions faster.  For instance, you can keep all metadata related questions in a section, any responsive related questions grouped in another section and any privileged related questions in a separate section. If you are noticing that your sections are lengthy consider using tabs to section off your questions.  These tabs will allow the reviewer to just click on the tab at the top of the coding panel instead of scrolling and trying to locate each section.  


Use Event Handlers


Event handlers (as they are referred to in Relativity) are a great feature to use to ensure reviewers stick to the review protocol and do not overlook choices on the coding panel before moving on to the next document.  Event handlers are triggered when a certain event occurs. Such as when inconsistent or incomplete coding is to be saved for a particular document. An error message is generated when the reviewer tries to save the coding. The reviewer must correct the error before moving on to the next document.


For example, if your review protocol requires attorney notes for any documents tagged as important and the reviewer tries to save coding and move onto the next document without leaving attorney notes, the reviewer will see an error message reminding them to enter attorney notes.


Similarly, if a reviewer tags a document as being irrelevant to a legal matter, but also applies issue tags, you can create an event handler that tells the reviewer that there is an error in the coding.  This feature is great in reducing the amount of errors and keeping the reviewers on their toes as they go through hundreds of documents.  


When setting up your next review, take time to consider how best to set up your coding panel and I guarantee it will save you a bunch of valuable time and increase the efficiency of your review.



Posted on October 23, 2017 in Document Review, E-Discovery, Software

About the Author

Chad Main is an attorney and the founder of Percipient. Prior to founding Percipient, Chad worked as a litigator in Los Angeles and Chicago. He is a member of the Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program Committee and may be reached at cmain@percipient.co.