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Years after Judge Andrew Peck declared it to be “black letter law” in Rio Tinto Plc v. Vale S.A., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24996, 8 (S.D.N.Y. March 2, 2015), technology-assisted review has finally entered the mainstream among a growing suite of technology-driven e-discovery tools. It is taking a bit longer, however, for practitioners to fully recognize that document review over large data populations is an information retrieval (IR) task.

Why does this matter? For one thing, it is important to understand that the scientific disciplines now marshaled for an effective information retrieval effort (data science, linguistics, and statistics) are essential to the successful conduct of document review. Once document-by- document manual review was augmented—or in some cases supplanted—by technological tools, it became a different exercise altogether; one that relies upon knowledge and expertise to properly execute. This understanding has been affirmed in the recently published ISO standard on e-discovery (see ISO 27050-3), which put it as follows:

An ESI review…is fundamentally an information retrieval exercise; an effective ESI review will therefore draw upon, as appropriate, the kinds of expertise that are brought to bear in information retrieval science. (emphasis added).

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