Top 10 Document Review Skills

Older woman in office working on document review.

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Document review is a crucial component of litigation and the most labor-intensive part of discovery. As the document review industry has evolved, careers in this niche field have grown more plentiful and complex.

Document reviewers possess specialized skills to analyze complex information and make judgment calls with respect to relevance, privilege, responsiveness, and confidentiality. The skills required may vary, depending on whether the review team is conducting a first-level review, second-level review or later review. However, a number of core skills are essential to document review. Here are the top 10 document review skills necessary for success in this growing industry.

10 Document Review Skills

  1. Legal know-how - An understanding of the litigation process including the stages of a lawsuit and the process of discovery is critical.
  2. Subject matter expertise - Document reviewers must understand the specifics of the case or project to make intelligent decisions regarding the production of documents. In addition to an understanding of the applicable law, it is also important that the reviewer is well-versed in the more nuanced aspects of the project or case. This may include an understanding of keywords and phrases and how information fits into the overall case strategy.
  3. EDRM Knowledge - An understanding of the electronic discovery reference model (EDRM) is also important. Reviewers should understand how technology is applied to manage the collection, retrieval, processing, analysis, and production of documents. They should also know how their jobs fit into the EDRM scheme.
  4. Technical skills - Reviewers must gain proficiency in various document review tools and software programs including project management and quality control metrics. They should also be able to adapt to new technologies as the electronic review industry is always evolving.
  5. Attention to detail - Keen attention to detail is necessary in order to analyze large volumes of data and documents. A typical reviewer might examine hundreds of documents a day and thousands of documents over the course of the project.
  6. Project management skills - Document reviewers may manage teams of reviewers or specific projects. They must understand how to lead teams and oversee large document productions, privilege logs, and other projects.
  7. Communication skills - Since document reviewers routinely interact with vendors, clients, and other members of the legal team, strong oral and written communication skills as well as excellent listening skills are important.
  8. Foreign language fluency - The ability to read and analyze complex legal documents in foreign languages is important in projects involving multi-national documents and documents that require translation from other languages.
  9. Customer service skills - Some document reviewers have client contact and must know how to effectively interact with internal and external clients, attorneys, vendors, and others. A service-oriented attitude is often as important as technical skills and industry knowledge.
  10. Quality control - Reviewers must understand and adhere to quality control programs that monitor, identify and repair defects and issues. They must also understand the analytics and metrics relating to the document review process to measure and predict the speed and accuracy of reviewers' work.

Personal Traits Necessary to Succeed

In addition to the skills outlined above, the following personality traits are necessary for success as a document reviewer:

  1. Dependability - Document reviewers who are trustworthy and reliable will yield the most return on investment for law firms and organizations.
  2. Efficiency - Since discovery is the most time-consuming stage of the litigation, efficiency is crucial to keeping costs in check.
  3. Conscientiousness - Reviewing thousands of documents and sifting through massive amounts of data requires a careful, thoughtful, and deliberate analysis. The inadvertent production of a privileged or confidential document can destroy a case or alienate a client.
  4. Positive attitude - An upbeat, "can do" attitude is helpful in an industry where morale can be low and the work tedious.
  5. Team-oriented - Document review is a team-based process and the ability to work with other team members is essential.
  6. Strong work ethic - Since document reviewers are often monitored for speed and efficiency, those with a strong work ethic and willingness to go the extra mile help to keep costs down.
  7. Flexibility - Document reviewers who have the ability to accommodate last minute, time-sensitive projects will be valued members of the review team.

Interested in a document review career? Learn more about the document review process and document review work to decide a document review job is right for you.