While keyword searches for Google purposes, online shopping and even legal research are safely ensconced in the public consciousness, the use of keywords in e-discovery is drawing considerable fire from a range of opponents. As we enter 2012, keyword search is officially under siege.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck, in his recent endorsement of computer-assisted review in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Group SA, launched what is now becoming an increasingly typical salvo by stating “key words, certainly unless they are well done and tested, are not overly useful.” Judge Peck was rather tame compared to other noted e-discovery commentators, like Ralph Losey, who’ve been even more vociferous. Mr. Losey explains in his noted Secrets of Search blog series that:
And yet, there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, since keyword search can be a uniquely successful tactic to examine large amounts of ESI. Commentary to Sedona Principle 11 notes:
The selective use of keyword searches can be a reasonable approach when dealing with large amounts of electronic data… This exploits a unique feature of electronic information - the ability to conduct fast, iterative searches for the presence of patterns of words and concepts in large document populations.
The role of keyword searches in a predictive coding landscape
Ironically, several new advances under the umbrella of technology assisted review (TAR), including predictive coding, are causing much of the increased scrutiny over the role of keyword search. And yet, as seen in the workflow in the recently minted Da Silva Moore case, Judge Peck acknowledges the role of keyword searches as part of a larger predictive coding protocol: