The word “inherited” brings to mind the classic rich uncle whose lawyer shows up after his death to inform you of the riches you will soon enjoy. Unfortunately, inherited data doesn’t always feel like a gift. Instead, inheriting a case and the associated files (including review database(s)) can be more like cleaning up the red-tagged house of your hoarder uncle after his passing.

Although it can be difficult, there are strategies to make this process easier.

Inheriting a case and all the associated files is never the same experience twice. There are many variables and so the approach to unwinding the morass of information should also be flexible, however, there are a number of points to keep in mind that will help you.

First and foremost, check the dates
Although somewhat unrelated to understanding the information, it can put the project in context and controls what aspects of the ingestion need to happen first.

Take an inventory
An inventory is a simple tool that can show where holes exist in your documentation. For example, if you have the first and third sets of responses to interrogatories it makes sense that you should have the second set too. Don’t forget to check the docket to compare against your inventory.

Also, check the documents
To ensure that you have unredacted versions (to the extent appropriate).

Understand the document collection and the database
Turning to the review database, it is important that you understand not only what you have, but how you got there.

  1. How was data identified for collection; are there collection logs;
  2. How was it loaded (e.g. was global deduplication used, were there date cuts);
  3. What is the organization of the database;
  4. Where was information captured (i.e. what fields were used for what);
  5. What review methodologies were employed;
  6. How were productions tracked; are there production logs;
  7. How were clawbacks tracked;
  8. What tools were used to process data and how will that affect new data being loaded into the system going forward.


Understanding the document collection and the database is the key to having full use of the information in the database. If possible, walk through the information above with former counsel and, if applicable, the service provider to understand the database and what documentation exists.

Ideally, include your new support partner
A good support partner can help you through this process and flag potential issues so partnering with the right team is key to ensuring a smooth transition.

Inheriting a case can be a lot of work but in the end, front-loading that effort will make the case run much smoother as you get closer to trial.