Search for Profanity

Search for Profanity

Imagine the associate attorney sitting in front of their computer staring at a database containing tens of thousands of documents. It is the beginning of the litigation matter and no one on the legal team has a good sense of what is in the document collection yet.

At some point, the legal team will want to know if there are any documents that may have a significant impact on the direction of the case. In the old days, we used to create a tag in the database for “Hot documents”. Over the years, litigators have come up with other terms like “Important” or “Interesting”.

I was working with an attorney at my last firm that asked me to create two tags called “Helpful” and “Harmful”. Genius! Now there is no confusion about whether the “hot document” is in our favor or not.

Many experienced litigators (who embrace database technologies), experienced litigation support professionals, and experienced paralegals, have developed their own list of search terms that have appeared within “hot documents” in previous cases and as such might return some “interesting” documents worth reviewing for helpfulness/harmfulness in the current case.

Some of the database technologies have the means to detect “the tone” of the language in the documents. For instance, the ability to search for documents that contain “angry words” or “fearful words” or “frustrated words”.

Another trend we have developed over the years is to simply search the database for profanity. It is amazing what professionals will type into an email these days. We had a case at my last firm where a simple search for a swear word “on a whim” resulted in locating a very important “hot document”.

Do you have a standard list of search terms that you use to locate “hot documents”? Do you have a cool list of tags you like to use for these documents?

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    • Chassidy King

      I love the idea of “helpful” and “harmful” tags! So simple, yet I never thought of it.

    • Abby Jaffe Rosenbloom

      Profanity and terms of ‘negativity” are one of Marc’s favorite things to suggest – I will make certain we start using the helpful and harmful tags! So easy to do and yet – did not cross my mind. Thanks Amy!

      • Marc is a smart man indeed. Please tell him I said hello. Have fun with the new tags!

    • I agree… the Helpful/Harmful tag is brilliant! It’s amazing I haven’t come across this sooner!