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Expert Collaboration: The Key to Success in Investigations

Legal expertise + search expertise. For some pursuits, two expert teams are better than one. 

The notion of collaboration may seem quaint in these divisive times, but we were reminded of the strength that collaboration brings in our recent webinar “Winning the Race for the Facts:  How to Leverage Technology and Search Expertise for Investigations and Case Preparation.”  

Attorneys from Covington & Burling and search experts from H5 highlighted the nature of their own collaboration as they presented case studies showing how a legal team and a team of search experts worked together using a tested methodology to find critical documents in three different investigations — a collaboration that in each case let to a very successful outcome.

“We assembled a team of case experts, search experts and technology experts and used this methodology to achieve what I really consider to be a remarkable result,” said Aaron Lewis, a Covington partner.

The transformation of information from documents to data has made such collaboration not only possible, but vitally necessary. When the  practice of document review was a paper challenge, it was an uncomplicated, if unduly burdensome process: reviewers read documents in search of the most meaningful information. In a digital world, there are multiple layers of people and technology that lie between information and its assessment as evidence. This adds complexity, but it also enables methods of processing data that are useful for optimizing search, and search is the key to success when documents are data.

Unfortunately, many in the legal community haven’t quite figured out how to negotiate — let alone leverage — this reality, sticking with linear processes that make about as much sense as using a library card instead of Google to seek information. But, as the stories in the webinar illustrate, attorneys who have figured it out wield an undeniable advantage; a well-informed search strategy that can be quickly executed and adapted to change has been shown repeatedly to be a game changer.

Just as legal experts have tools they call upon in their work, search experts bring their own arsenal of tools to the table, exploiting capabilities that average users don’t have. For example, in one case study discussed in the webinar, H5’s search expert, John Kihlberg, described how the presence of a “shrug emoji” in questionable emails from a particular individual led the search team to index that emoji as a token class, thus making it searchable. Locating all of the emails with that emoji resulted in the identification of a host of “interesting” material that was directly relevant to the matter. It is unlikely that lawyers using their own search tools could have made, let alone been able to leverage, that observation.

Aaron Lewis noted that as a result of the collaboration with H5’s search experts, “… I was able to spend less time thinking about how to find documents and more time understanding what the key documents had to teach us about our client’s conduct, and organizing those documents to frame my client’s defense.”  In other words, in letting search experts take over the search burden, he could focus on what he was paid to do — apply his legal skills to represent his client. He summed it up nicely in this comment about the value of collaborating with search experts, “Compared to the way we used to do things, this methodology, in my view, is hands-down better, and I can’t imagine engaging in my practice without these tools going forward.”


To hear more from Covington attorneys about the case studies referenced above and learn about how legal teams and search teams can collaborate, watch the webinar by clicking here.

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