Excel-erate Spreadsheet Review with Features in DISCO Ediscovery

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Excel has become ubiquitous in everyday life. People use it to keep track of things as complicated as a company’s general ledger and as basic as kids’ Christmas lists. Yet handling Excel files in ediscovery remains a major risk, not to mention a major headache.

A large pharmaceutical company accidentally disclosed out-of-date financial information in the metadata of a spreadsheet, resulting in an estimated $250M drop in their market cap. Because most ediscovery programs make reviewing spreadsheets difficult, legal teams often resort to downloading them to review within Excel or purchasing expensive third-party plug-ins to make up for missing review and redaction functionality in their existing platform.

To solve this problem, DISCO developed proprietary technology built into our document viewer. DISCO’s enhanced viewer for Excel provides a practically native Excel experience within a discovery platform — giving the user a better understanding of the context and content of the document while providing a faster, more streamlined review. 

Let’s explore some of the ways DISCO makes Excel review and redaction faster, easier, and more secure (plus, you’ll hate your life less):

More efficient, less expensive, faster review of Excel files

The very thing that makes an Excel file valuable to businesses — simple format able to handle complex and voluminous data — is exactly what makes Excel spreadsheets so difficult during document review. Each file contains a vast amount of information — just think about how much data can be in a single cell with cross-references and formulas — that traditional “replace pages in a Bankers Box” platforms are not designed to handle. As a result, reviewing Excel files takes significantly more time and, in many platforms, requires the use of separate workflows and third-party tools to expose and navigate the complex information within.

DISCO's native Excel viewer

DISCO’s enhanced viewer enables users to work with Excel files just as if they were reviewing them on their desktop — from auto-wrapping text to searching across sheets and formulas — making it faster and easier to read and understand the content within each workbook. Not to mention users get to take advantage of DISCO’s sub-second document to document speed (no more waiting 30 seconds or more for a large spreadsheet to load!) 

All this functionality (and more) is available in the same workflow as every other document, regardless of the size or complexity of the spreadsheet, reducing the time and burden to manage Excel-heavy reviews.

DISCO Ediscovery eliminates the tedious steps, plug-ins, and data visualization problems inherent in traditional Excel review, automatically resulting in a better user experience and faster  (and therefore, more cost-efficient) review.

Maintain confidentiality

One of the most high-profile examples of the dangers associated with attorneys reviewing Excel files is a large bankruptcy case. Contracts that had been marked as “hidden” in a spreadsheet when the client sent the file to their law firm were inadvertently added to the purchase offer when the law firm associates did not realize the hidden content existed. While this instance was a case of human error, it demonstrates the risks associated with hidden cells, how easy it is to hide data, and how merely looking at the surface of the Excel file is risky.

DISCO developed our enhanced viewer for Excel and native redaction tools to help tackle this very risk — ensuring users can identify, review, and, if needed, redact information in a spreadsheet with confidence, from a single platform. Hidden and very hidden content is exposed automatically when data is loaded into DISCO, making sure reviewers can review all data that may be produced. In fact, we highlight and call attention to invisible text — which even Excel won’t do when looking at files on your desktop.

The risks of failing to find the right search term to pull Excel files into a secondary review stage or failing to catch key information before production are eliminated. Instead with DISCO, Excel files are looked at in the ordinary course of the review along with the rest of the document population, while revealing the distinct layers of information contained in the spreadsheet. Taken together, DISCO enables teams to speedily and confidently prepare documents for production. 

Produce with ease

So you’ve finally finished reviewing, coding, and redacting your spreadsheets, now what?

Ask most legal professionals about preparing Excel files for production and they’ll describe the painstaking QC needed on each document to determine if:

  • Redactions are properly placed (even a few millimeters can result in “improper placement”)
  • Hidden content was properly assessed
  • Redactions obscured the right information
  • The third-party plug-in correctly tells the platform which version of the spreadsheet to produce

These QC and pre-production measures can be as manual and time-consuming as the process to identify these spreadsheets as responsive and perform the redactions. 

Designed by legal professionals for legal teams, DISCO understood the stress of preparing Excel files for production under a tight deadline. We designed our platform to minimize the effort needed to get production-ready documents. 

We eliminated the frustrating QC step of flipping back and forth between the redacted and unredacted versions of the document to verify redactions are applied correctly. In DISCO, applied redactions are translucent on the native — enabling QC teams to confirm the substance and placement of the redaction is correct. 

Redacting in DISCO's native Excel viewer

There’s also no need to create separate production sets for Excel files before preparing your documents for production. Excel files (redacted or otherwise) can be produced in line with any other documents ready to produce.

What does this mean for you?

Quality of life improvements notwithstanding, with DISCO Ediscovery’s enhanced viewer for Excel and native redaction tools, users can stop wasting time with tedious, painful tasks to get documents produced, reduce the risk of leaking information they’d rather protect, and cut down on the time and cost it takes to get to the evidence they care about.

Learn More: Download this one-pager about DISCO for Excel Review

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Caitlin Ward

Caitlin Ward is a product marketing manager at DISCO. She has more than a decade of experience leading ediscovery initiatives and advocating for the adoption of legal tech as an attorney. Since joining DISCO, she focuses on helping lawyers innovate to overcome their ediscovery and case management challenges.