Document Review in Foreign Languages [An Investigator’s Guide]


Foreign language document review is becoming increasingly more important as companies expand globally and encounter more cross-border legal disputes. According to a recent survey conducted by the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), 60% of legal professionals reported that their organization had encountered foreign language documents during the discovery process.

In this blog article, we will cover some basic definitions of document review within the context of internal investigations and eDiscovery. We will then share some best practices and guidance on successfully identifying foreign languages in your documents, and explain the value that modern end-to-end eDiscovery platforms provide for more streamlined document reviews in foreign languages.


Document Review Basics
How do you identify foreign languages in your documents and datasets?
How can you ensure accurate and complete foreign language document reviews?
AI-powered translations: Why modern end-to-end eDiscovery platforms are the future of successful foreign language document reviews? 

Document Review Basics

What is document review?

Document review refers to the process of reviewing and analyzing electronic documents and data that have been collected as part of the legal discovery process in a lawsuit or investigation. The goal of a document review is to identify relevant information and determine whether the documents are responsive to the discovery requests or subpoenas that have been issued.

Given the increasing volumes of data generated by corporations, the complexity of the document review process, especially in multiple foreign languages, has grown dramatically. 

To streamline the process, eDiscovery software and tools are often used to assist with document review, such as advanced search capabilities, document clustering, and predictive coding.

What should be included in a document review?

Document review process normally consists of multiple steps, including data collection, data processing, data review, and data production. During the review stage, legal professionals, such as attorneys and paralegals, review the documents to identify relevant information, such as evidence of wrongdoing or evidence to support a legal argument.

More specifically, the following elements should be included within a document review:

  1. A comprehensive list of all relevant documents that are potentially responsive to the discovery requests or subpoenas. Those can include emails, contracts, financial records, memos, and other types of electronic data.

  2. Search terms and criteria that will be used to search through the documents to identify those that are potentially responsive.

  3. Document review protocols, particularly the guidelines and procedures that will be followed during the review process. For example, these may include instructions on how to flag or tag responsive documents, how to handle privileged or confidential information, and how to handle foreign language documents.

  4. Outline of the review team roles: Listing of the individuals who will be responsible for reviewing the documents, their roles, and their responsibilities.

  5. Quality control measures: checks and balances that will be put in place to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the review process (spot-checking, second-level review, and sampling).

  6. Reporting: includes the documentation of the review process and the results, as well as reporting to legal counsel and other stakeholders.

What are the types of document review?

Depending on the goals that the document review fulfills, one can differentiate different types of document review processes:

  1. Responsive document review: This type of review involves identifying documents that are responsive to discovery requests or subpoenas. The goal of this review is to find documents that are relevant to the legal matter at hand and should be produced to the opposing party.

  2. Privilege review involves identifying documents that are privileged and therefore exempt from disclosure. The goal of this review is to protect privileged communications between attorneys and clients from being disclosed to opposing parties.

  3. Confidentiality review involves identifying documents that contain confidential information, such as trade secrets or personal identifying information. The goal of this review is to protect confidential information from being disclosed to unauthorized parties.

  4. Redaction review involves identifying information within documents that should be redacted, such as personal identifying information or privileged communications. The goal of this review is to protect sensitive information from being disclosed while still producing the relevant documents.

  5. Foreign language review involves reviewing documents that are in a foreign language. The goal of this review is to accurately translate the documents and identify relevant information that may be responsive to discovery requests or subpoenas.

  6. Early case assessment (ECA) review involves conducting a preliminary review of documents to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a case. The goal of this review is to identify key issues and help determine the most effective legal strategy.

The following sections of this blog article will dive deeper into performing efficient foreign language reviews. 

How do you identify foreign languages in your documents and datasets?

Many eDiscovery platforms use language detection algorithms to automatically identify the language of a document or dataset. This is done during the initial data processing stage, where the software analyzes the content of each document and assigns a language code based on the most likely language.

Language identification is a feature available within ZyLAB ONE that allows document review teams to identify and then translate documents right at the beginning of the process. 

1. Use language codes

Language codes can further be used to filter documents by language or to prioritize documents for review based on language relevance. A few examples of language codes used in eDiscovery tools to identify foreign languages include: "zh" for Chinese; "ja" for Japanese; "en" for English.

2. Search for foreign language keywords or phrases in documents and datasets

Those who’ve already adopted an eDiscovery software can perform keyword searches within the tool when dealing with documents that are partially in a foreign language or where only certain sections of the document are in a foreign language. The software can search for foreign language keywords or phrases and flag the relevant documents for further review.

3. Leverage machine translation features, if available

Some eDiscovery software platforms offer machine translation features that can automatically translate foreign language documents into the reviewer's native language. This can be helpful when dealing with large volumes of foreign language documents or when working with languages that are not commonly spoken by the review team.

4. Perform a metadata analysis

Metadata such as the language setting of a document or email program may be an indication of the language used in the document. Usually, eDiscovery software is capable of analyzing document metadata to identify the language of a document, so make sure to leverage that functionality to enable more efficient foreign language identification. 

How can you ensure accurate and complete foreign language document reviews?

1. Add appropriate dictionaries to your review

To ensure accuracy of your document review in foreign languages, you might want to consider adding dictionaries to a foreign language document review within your eDiscovery tool of choice. 

Within the context of foreign language document review, a dictionary is a tool used to assist in the translation and review of foreign language documents. It is a collection of words or phrases with their corresponding translations or meanings in the target language.

Though it’s not a single foolproof solution, dictionaries can be a helpful tool in foreign language document review if used efficiently in conjunction with other methods. 

If the eDiscovery tool being used doesn't have a dictionary for the foreign language(s) in question, or if the existing dictionary doesn't contain all the necessary terms, additional dictionaries may be needed. This can be determined by reviewing the documents and identifying terms or phrases that are not being accurately captured by the current dictionary.

Once the appropriate dictionaries are identified, they need to be formatted to work with the eDiscovery tool and ultimately uploaded within the eDiscovery software. 

2. Use multiple methods for foreign language document review

A document review cannot be complete if you’re applying one single method of review. Hence, it is important that you leverage human review, machine translation, and dictionaries if feasible. Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses, and using them together can help compensate for any shortcomings. 

3. Use quality control measures

Quality control measures, such as spot-checking (involves reviewing a random sample of documents to ensure that they have been properly coded and that the review process is working effectively) and random sampling (involves selecting a representative sample of documents for review, based on statistical analysis or other criteria), can be used to ensure that the document review is accurate and complete. This can help identify any errors or omissions and allow for corrective action to be taken.

Last but not least, continually update and refine your document review methods to ensure that they are effective. This may involve incorporating new tools or technologies, such as machine learning or natural language processing, or refining existing methods based on feedback and results.

AI-powered translations: Why modern end-to-end eDiscovery platforms are the future of successful foreign language document reviews? 

The adoption of AI-driven translations has been largely accelerated by the pandemic, as many firms struggled to outsource qualified translators on time and within budget. 

These days more and more legal teams have adopted AI-driven eDiscovery solutions to support their document review in foreign languages efforts. For example, many eDiscovery platforms now include built-in machine translation capabilities that can automatically translate foreign language documents into English or another desired language. In fact, the ZyLAB ONE platform is able to translate up to 125 languages, making all your data ready to be used in your legal discovery workflow in minutes. 

More so, the platform’s advanced search capabilities, represented by features such as faceted search, concept searching, and machine learning-based predictive coding, can help speed up the review process and improve accuracy.

Another key benefit of modern end-to-end eDiscovery platforms, and ZyLAB ONE in particular, is the built-in collaboration tools. These tools allow team members to communicate and share information with each other in real-time, which can be particularly useful for foreign language document review. This allows team members to discuss and resolve any language-specific issues that may arise, and can help ensure that the review process is transparent and efficient.

To learn more how ZyLAB ONE can enable efficient document review in foreign languages when you have no means to involve a translator, contact our document review experts.

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