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Case Study: Large Online University

Managing documents, redactions and Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

The Opportunity

A leading online university needed approximately 270,000 documents to be redacted and reviewed for privilege in response to a federal regulatory defense matter. The project needed to be completed in five weeks or less.

Solution Summary

  1. Assembled a team of one Project Manager and 21 document review attorneys within 24 hours
  2. Performed a first-pass review to identify documents that needed to be redacted and re-batched these documents for a select team
  3. Worked closely with the client to monitor documents as they became available
  4. Hosted daily quality control meetings to identify potential issues and improperly coded documents


The project was completed on time with a cost-effective rate of 60 cents per document.

The Goal

To comply with the federal regulatory agency's inquiry without stretching deadlines or budgets.

Key Stats

269,000 Documents Reviewed

70,000+ Documents Redacted

21 Document Review Attorneys Assigned

97.2% Accuracy Rate

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One of the nation's largest online universities engaged Special Counsel to assist with a federal regulatory defense matter. This project consisted of nearly 270,000 documents, many of which needed to be redacted and reviewed for privilege before being prepared and submitted to counsel on a rolling deadline.

Business Challenges

The client's review platform did have the ability to keep up with the demands of the review. The large size of the team, combined with the volume of documents being reviewed, caused the system to crash multiple times. Despite constant slowdowns caused by technology glitches, counsel expected the Special Counsel team to deliver while adhering to very strict deadlines.

The document universe contained names and personally identifiable information (PII) of a half-million students who attended the University during the date range at issue. The documents needed to be redacted in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the case's protective order. The size of the document universe, coupled with the considerable amount and variation of information to be withheld from production, created additional challenges.

Our Solution

Special Counsel recognized the need to get the project off to a fast start and to keep the review team local. Thus, within 24 hours, we assembled a team consisting of one Project Manager and 21 document review attorneys. The project was hosted in one of Special Counsel's Turnkey Legal Centers, which was located nearby.

The Project Manager immediately addressed the inadequacy of the client's hosting platform and reorganized the team's workflow to accommodate the tool's shortcomings. Documents needing redaction were identified in a first-pass review and then re-batched and sent to a select team for completion. To further reduce the impact of the technological challenges presented by the antiquated review tool, the Project Manager closely monitored the team's progress and the platform's response. After noticing that loading certain types of files created periods of latency, the Project Manager conducted a search to isolate those documents and addressed them during off hours at the conclusion of the first-pass review. This solution increased the team's overall rate of review and the project was completed ahead of schedule.

Due to the project's continuous rolling deadlines, the Project Manager worked closely with the client to monitor the documents as they became available and to engage the appropriate amount of resources, ensuring that the client would not accumulate any unnecessary billing hours due to inactivity. For each rolling deadline, the Project Manager orchestrated team workflows to make sure that first-pass reviews and all quality assurance and control measures were completed simultaneously.

The Project Manager examined documents that had been properly redacted, searching for commonalities such as document type or emails from specific custodians. The Quality Control Team performed targeted searches to pull those documents from the responsive population for redaction and re-review. Additionally, a high percentage of documents underwent Special Counsel's standardized quality control process. Of the 70,000 documents that needed redactions, 17 percent underwent quality control.

The Project Manager held daily quality control meetings with the team to analyze problem documents and evaluate any inaccurately coded documents. This process led to enhanced quality assurance practices such as the addition of targeted searches and the implementation of improvements to the coding template. The Project Manager also subjectively refocused and adjusted team workflow to the custodians and documents seen by the team on a daily basis.

Outcomes / Highlights

Under the leadership of the Special Counsel Project Manager, the team met all deadlines and delivered the final work product five days earlier than necessary. The client was pleased by the accurate work product and asked the Project Manager to oversee the creation of the privilege log.

In total, Special Counsel reviewed 269,932 documents with 17 percent of documents undergoing quality control. Our approach resulted in an accuracy rate of 97.2%.

"Special Counsel demonstrated a strong sense of urgency and commitment and handled the intricacies of this job extremely well."

- Client

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