Here at Altlaw we always champion the use of technology when appropriate, however, there are often situations in which applying the latest technology doesn't work in your favour.
When dealing with the specialised tools within eDiscovery you will find that they have usually been created to solve a niche problem or to mitigate a particular set of circumstances. What this means is that there are circumstances in which your data might not be suited to a tool you wish to use. These tools require the right kind of data or the right circumstances to work, without these, these tools often fall short.
One such tool is Email Threading, and like many other tools, there may come a time when Email Threading (ET) just isn’t going to stand up to its reputation of saving time and simplifying reviews. With this in mind, let’s talk about three possible scenarios when this ubiquitous structured analytic offering may fall short for you.
- Complicated email chains or diverging topics: In some instances, email threads can become convoluted and difficult to follow (depending on reviewer experience or aptitude). This is especially onerous when multiple participants join or reply to a conversation, if the email chains are excessively long and involve numerous participants, it may be more efficient to analyse and review each email separately, rather than relying on email threading. Just as challenging is when email threads diverge into multiple unrelated topics, threading could blur the boundaries between these distinct conversations. If the emails within a thread discuss separate subjects or issues, as with complex email chains, it may be better to just treat these as separate conversations to ensure accurate analysis and understanding. Using an Altlaw Managed Review team could allow you to side-step this issue altogether, as we can build QC, precision, and recall review rounds to ensure the output is within your expectations.
Here is an example of a more convoluted thread. As we have most documents within this thread etc, this would not necessarily be a bad thread.
- Incomplete or spoiled thread structure: Occasionally, email threads may lack consistent formatting or have metadata irregularities, missing or misplaced messages, forwarded attachments, or replies in separate threads (in-line replies). These anomalies will disrupt the threading process, leading to incomplete or inaccurate output. When this situation occurs, it is best to discuss an applicable workflow with a project manager to correctly analyse or evaluate each email separately, to avoid misinterpretations or errors in review coding.
This image shows what you might see when files are missing from your thread. Again, this is not necessarily an example of a bad thread.
- Privileged and confidentiality concerns: If the email population contains a high percentage of privileged or confidential material, email threading could potentially complicate a redaction exercise prior to disclosure. In such situations, it is best to process and review each email individually, however, Altlaw can build a review workflow to minimise redactions, and a further solution is to ask Altlaw to not process email threading thus decreasing the requirement to consider redactions.
In this thread, if the initial email is relevant and the missing email contains privileged information, we would have to redact email 3
as this is the email reviewers would see. If we had chosen not to use email threading we could simply produce email 1 and save the
time spent redacting email 3.
If your data meet any of these conditions then it might be that ET will not do you justice in your review, if not, it is highly likely that ET can be used to great effect to help speed up review, provide greater context and organise your data. Unfortunately, there isn’t any one method of knowing when to not use ET.
Altlaw Project Managers are able to give a fair indication as to the benefit of ET when talking you through the email threading report, as this is usually completed prior to setting you off on a review workflow, at a point where we have been able to analyse your data more thoroughly. This would be the best time to assess and adjust your review accordingly.