Social Document Review: Collaborative Annotation

connectionsWBG-200-CorGroup document reviews usually aren’t particularly ennobling. And in recent years we’ve learned that they can sometimes produce results that are worse than what we’d get from a well-trained machine.

That can change. We can use social technology to make group document reviews better, faster, and less costly, while making the reviewers’ work more professionally rewarding to them and more valuable to their employers.

The technology is collaborative annotation. In a collaborative annotation workflow, group discussions about a document are shown on the face of the document itself, as annotations to whichever parts are being discussed. Collaborative annotation is familiar to people who use collaborative tools to analyze or create documents. See, e.g., these videos about collaborative annotation in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Adobe Acrobat. The other main alternative for holding document-centric discussions, email, works poorly at best.

word-you

google-youacrobat-youIn litigation, review team members can use collaborative annotation to discuss whether or not particular documents are responsive and why. They can also discuss core case information such as key players, idiomatic phrases, and key events. Everyone benefits, especially since what seems to be responsive or important changes as the group learns more.

Almost no document review platform or case management platform provides for collaborative annotations. The only exception I’ve found is Magnum case management software from Opus 2 International. Among other things, Magnum helps litigation teams create collaborative annotations easily and flexibly.

(Magnum is a Finalist in the “Best Collaboration Tool” category in Legaltech News’ Innovation Awards. The winner will be announced on July 14, 2015, at Legaltech West.)

Opus 2 offers Magnum as case management software. However, litigators could use it in document reviews. Magnum’s collaborative annotation technology scales from the smallest cases to the largest. Its transcript-annotation functions are already integrated with Relativity and Xera.

The heart of Magnum’s collaborative annotation system is its minimalist Toolbox. The Toolbox is instantly intuitive and dead simple:

collaborative annotation - Opus 2 Magnum toolbox

(Screenshot © Opus 2 International. Used by permission.)

The team member opens the Toolbox at the selected point in the document. Then she types or pastes the comment. She selects which users and groups should have access to it and whether they should receive an email notification. Finally, she selects any applicable tags and inserts any relevant hyperlinks.

Thereafter, team members can use the Toolbox to add their own responses, either to the original comment or to responses by other team members. These are displayed in a threaded list:

collaborative annotation - Opus 2 Magnum dialog

(Screenshot © Opus 2 International. Used by permission.)

A team member can organize these annotations in folders, and can filter and search them by tags, users, and keywords.

Vendors offer many secure social collaboration tools for enterprises, from Facebook and Linkedin clones to wikis, RSS feeds, and blogs. Enterprise is repurposing ediscovery analytical tools to help with information governance and other collaborative tasks. However, litigators have not yet explored the potential of enterprise social collaboration tools in document reviews. It’s time to start.

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