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June 13, 2008

Tusker Group Review of Inference's ALR

Editor's Note: This unedited review is submitted by Tusker Group. Comments are encouraged. 

Document Reviewers’ Perspective of Inference’s Accelerated Legal Review Software
New version expands clustering and search capabilities; lacks reporting tools

By Dario Olivas
VP/GC, Tusker Group

Evolving Document Review Technology
Since the amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were implemented in late 2006, controlling litigation costs today means bridling the expenses of electronic data discovery (e-discovery) and document review. 

In today’s legal environment, working with electronically stored information (ESI) presents many challenges beyond the case itself. Thankfully, developments in technology continuously offer new opportunities to effectively strategize tactics when managing the voluminous amount of ESI involved in complex litigation.

As various litigation software technologies evolve, so do their best uses.  In document review, software has evolved to a point where industry-leading review teams continuously monitor and test changing tools, with an eye towards achieving the highest efficiency and quality and lowering overall costs.  No longer viewed as a single solution, choosing the right software product(s) is a major consideration that forms part of the overall litigation strategy and often happens with pre-discovery planning.

It is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Legal teams need to identify the necessary technologies that best suit the legal matter at hand.  As a result, when choosing document review platforms, corporate legal departments, law firms and document review specialists are moving toward an agnostic approach.  Proactive teams frequently test new versions of review platforms against each other, all in an effort to measure performance attributes and the overall adaptability to different types of cases and/or objectives. 

The Review Subject:  Inference Data
There are three major components to kicking off a smart and successful document review—people, process and technology. If one leg fails, the process will be troubled from the start.  Keeping current on the technological developments in document review tools is as important as using the tools themselves.  Through constant evaluation of new tools, leading document review firms are able to chose the best technology that blends seamlessly with the attorneys conducting the review and the process they have established to maximize results.

When evaluating new or updated document review software offerings, the Tusker Group has established four key performance areas: 1) interface; 2) usability/speed;  3) search/technology; and 4) audit/reporting features.

Recently, Tusker Group’s offshore review team evaluated Inference Data’s web-based e-discovery analytics and review platform. Inference’s latest release builds upon the signature use of prioritizing mid- to large-size document collections into responsive and non-responsive folders.

A main consideration for the team was the ability to segment data in an easy and logical manner.  The review team performed a thorough evaluation based on the four key performance areas previously identified and utilizing 517,000+ records of data provided by Inference.

1)    Interface
Overall, Inference’s interface was user-friendly, engaging and intuitive. The review team found that commands within Inference are familiar, descriptive and consistent with the overall nomenclature and patterns of most products.  At the time of this evaluation, Inference did not have full reporting features for auditing purposes. This created minor difficulties for the review teams as they moved through different phases of the large database.

2)    Usability/Speed:
The large and lucid view of documents, coupled with its interface and straightforward commands, allowed for easy and quick navigation from one document to another.  For example, after reviewing a document, the reviewers were able to save and move to the next document with a single click of the mouse.  This simple “save and next” command was very popular with the team.  Additionally, using a single keystroke or mouse click, the customizable quick key coding made it possible for reviewers to code documents based on defined fields such as “high priority” or “non-responsive,” and instantly add multiple-field coding within seconds. Importantly, the reviewers noted that because of the combination of an intuitive interface and well-structured options, they were able to reduce the need to repeatedly return to previous screens. 

Inference’s architecture proved to save significant time when performing both Boolean keyword and concept searches. Built on the Autonomy IDOL engine, Inference employs a completely scalable distributed architecture. Through its query parser technology, multiple queries can be executed within the tool, searching across the entire dataset without degradation in speed or responsiveness. For example, a group of reviewers focused on keyword searching were able to execute searches with results returned without hindering those groups executing complex queries or performing clustering. Moreover, Inference’s architecture not only maintains system responsiveness in querying- Inference’s complete review toolkit, including redaction and production, is maintained regardless of other operations being performed within the application. 

3)    Search/Technology:
This is where the team felt the tool truly performed.  One of the leading strengths of the tool is its clustering capabilities.  The reviewers were impressed by Inference’s ability to identify concepts from across the entire dataset which enabled reviewers to separate irrelevant or non-responsive documents from responsive documents.

Inference’s intuitive concept searching and advanced clustering made segmenting and prioritizing documents a relatively quick and manageable task, which may be useful for large corporate suits and regulatory matters where the vast amounts of data and deadline pressures can be crippling.

Inference notes that it can take data from any source and add new data sets without having to reprocess the entire database.  The tool’s ability to view attachments while looking at the parent document also streamlined the review.  A useful feature for first-level review, the results of search term queries are shown within the entire sentence to provide context. 

Although not analyzed, Inference offers foreign language capabilities.

4)    Administration/Audit and Report
At the time of the review, Inference’s support team had limited availability. The company’s support hours were based on traditional EST business hours.  After our review, we learned that Inference had expanded its customer hours, but the new hours still raise potential support issues for offshore teams.

Inference’s overall workflow management allows greater folder creation and assignment capabilities. However, the tool also had limited reporting capabilities—this underdeveloped feature impacted the ability to fine-tune the team’s process through the review and to develop a results-driven matrix.  Like the expanded support hours, Inference has responded and is designing an extranet portal that will provide a separate interface containing new report generation features and functions to be introduced in newer versions.

Closing Evaluation
As all of us in the legal community can attest to, ESI continues to be a growing and moving target.  The number of available electronic discovery software solutions also continues to increase, which adds to the growing complexity. In many cases, investing in an e-discovery software solution is an expensive undertaking that will impact the people conducting the review and its overall process.

Overall, the Tusker Group review team was impressed by Inference’s interface, usability and the analytics that power the platform’s clustering capabilities.  Web-based and hosted, the data-clustering capabilities and workflow features were geared toward large-scale matters with voluminous amounts of data.  Many of Inference’s enhancements allowed for a streamlined deployment of first-level documents for a robust and accelerated review.


Dario Olivas is actively involved in overseeing Tusker Group’s advanced document review operations and a frequent speaker on offshore document review.  His  legal experience has centered on international corporate and transactional disputes; both as an attorney working in international jurisdictions and as a two-time Fulbright Scholar recipient focused on international business, legal and social issues. 

Tusker Group specializes exclusively in offshore legal document review for corporate legal groups and their outside counsel.


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