Archive for May, 2009

Everybody is concerned with limiting the amount of data that needs to be reviewed.  It’s the number one cost in e-discovery after all. Clearly, the best way to conserve costs is to review less and there is a technique that we software engineers use every day that can drastically reduce the amount of documents in review. A concept from CS101 called normalization. Essentially, it’s a mechanism for ensuring the integrity and efficiency of a database and provides a framework for specifying the degree in which redundant data needs to be stored. Our goal is to remove redundant data while providing an elegant means of searching and reviewing hierarchical document sets in context.

So here is the typical example we see in e-discovery review.

Email 1 has two attachments, Attachment 1 and Attachment 2
Email 2 has one attachment, Attachment 1

There are much more complex examples of this as well, but this should illustrate the point just fine. Attachment 1 is a duplicate file, meaning it is literally the exact same file, with exactly the same metadata, and the same md5 hash. The only difference is that in one situation it’s attached to Email 1 and in another it’s attached to Email 2.

Most review applications will keep duplicate copies of the attachment and group with the parent emails, essentially flattening the attachment with the email and creating multiple versions of the same pages.  If you choose (or are forced) to review Attachment 1 as two completely different documents in this manor as most common review tools require, you are going to be significantly increasing the time to review, tag, and code that document. Not only that, but you are going to increase the possibility of a redaction not being applied to all versions of that document.

That said, it’s clearly important to look at emails and their attachments together to get the full context of the material. Using the above example, we’ll add titles to each of the docs.

Email 1 Q1 summary has two attachments, Attachment 1 Q1_financials.doc and Attachment 2 Q1_goals.doc
Email 2 Here are the falsified numbers you asked for Jim, Attachment 1 Q1 financials.doc

Even if Email 1 and Email 2 get assigned to different reviewers and they both have to review Attachment 1, the redactions, tagging, and coding information will be available for the other reviewer making the process more efficient than working on that attachment from scratch. You’ve saved yourself a big chunk of time. And in an ideal situation, the same reviewer will already be familiar with that document and see the additional context of both emails during his review. As he’s reviewing Q1_finanicals.doc he’ll know that it was sent out in a Q1 summary email and also in an email announcing that the numbers were falsified. So it’s not only more efficient, it actually sets a greater context for the document and provides additional valuable meta data.

Unfortunately, most review tools that we’ve seen don’t support this normalized relational database technique but our hope is that as more review tools extend to support native file formats this technique for organizing review databases will be available for all.  Our simple and powerful review platform maintains the relationships between all documents and allows for flattening or “reduping” on export or production.  It’s an approach that really provides the best of both worlds.

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It’s time we got serious on this blog.

The Nextpoint Lab is located in Madison, WI and like any good Wisconsin guys n’ gals, we look forward to a summer filled with some serious grilling out.  What better way to truly kick of summer than with the world’s largest grill?


Photo is from our lunchtime voyage out to Bratfest – where they sold 191,712 brats last Memorial Day weekend.  No, that is not a mistake: almost 200,000 brats!  We’ll all be doing our part this weekend to run that total up and help out the charities involved.

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Applying stamps to documents and exhibits has, historically, been a painful task: put a stamp on every page in this file cabinet.  For some shops, the process has actually become more cumbersome with the introduction of electronic evidence: print everything on this hard drive – stamp it – scan it back in.

In the past week I noticed a way to improve the process involving the purchase/use of Adobe Acrobat.  It takes a bit of setup and involves a (somewhat) manual process.  Some of that work can be reduced with custom scripts and load files and really, if the pricing on the automated solution looks like this… I’ve gotta say I’m more than willing to put in the effort.

Luckily, you have more options.

There are other free tools that can provide you with your customized stamps at a level of automation that will save you tons of time (and thus still more money) – all with a much friendlier interface… but you’re gonna have to do-it-yourself.  Here’s how we did it:

FREE tools we use to stamp:

  • GD2 – Image manipulation
  • PDF::Writer for Ruby – Create new/replacement PDFs
  • Ghostscript – PDF Interpreter
  • Ruby on Rails – We’re getting down and dirty with these tools but our clients shouldn’t have to.  Rails let’s us build an easy-to-use web interface.

So, why are we tipping our hand and revealing our secrets? Well, a couple reasons:

  1. We have a great app and provide a great service. We are quite proud of the application and service that we provide.  No installation (just need a web browser) and very easy to use.
  2. We’re not free, but we’re damn close. Check out our pricing.  We’ll charge you a little more than $50/mo for a GB of data and throw in the stamps (and MUCH more – stamping is just the tip of the iceberg) for free.  Just want to stamp and leave to avoid the recurring charges?  That’s fine – we’ll let you out after the first month – no charges for leaving and taking your data with you.

How can we afford such madness?  I just showed you what we’re using.  Our costs are low – why should yours be high?

Give us a call and we’ll setup a demo.  You’ll like it.

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Loading up the laptop?

Ensuring confidential/secure data remains confidential and secure is vital at every stage of litigation.  Nowhere are you at more risk than when data is literally in someone’s hands… their laptop.  We’ve posted before about how encrypting data on your laptop makes it harder to steal, but not impossible. Even strategies that are “unbeatable” today are probably just waiting for someone with the proper motivation to take them down.

I was reminded of this again today while reading “Laying Someone Off? Better Check That Laptop”, from The National Law Journal. When people get fired they get frustrated; and when they get frustrated they may do some things they normally wouldn’t do. If that something involves taking (or harming) electronic data — a lot of damage can be done; and fast.

This has been a problem for a long time. Occasionally, security will “walk someone out” to avoid a physical conflict but more often they’re making sure someone’s last hour of work isn’t spent downloading files and loading their briefcase. But what about when someone gets wind of the impending cuts a little early – or they happen to have forgotten their laptop at home that fateful day?

I’m not naive enough to think that your work laptop will have literally zero confidential data on it, but using a SaaS solution for your case management tool can certainly go a long way. You have literally millions of pages of evidence for your case — while no one has downloaded all of that (which is another reason why you are better served not depending on a laptop as your storage location, but I digress) … they might start looking for some key docs when they get the bad news. We can cut that access off in literally one second.

Piling on, Rocket Matter posted another great point about depending on your laptop as a data storage location today, Minimizing Downtime. If you’re without that machine for a few days: what does that cost you? … and that’s assuming you’ve been religiously backing it up.  Have you?

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Designating “related documents” can be a tedious task.  You know that anything containing your search terms should be designated, but even electronically – visiting hundreds of documents to add a designation is tedious (at best).

We’ve made some enhancements to make that process much less of a headache.


new "Apply to Related Docs" is circled above

Here’s what you’re asking for by checking either of the boxes:

  • Attached Docs – If there are any emails in the set you are editing:  You will also be designating their attachments.
  • Parent Emails – If any of the docs in your set were email attachments:  You will also be designating the emails they were attached to.

We’ve also added this feature to the tool for designating individual documents.


We really feel like this is going to improve the review and coding experience dramatically.  As always, we’d love to hear your feedback.

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