Stop Blacking Out During Excel Redactions

Back to Blog Posts

A simple Excel file can contain extraordinary amounts of complex information. From lists of individual trades to construction bid budgets to generic drug development notes, Excel files often contain critical data in litigation and investigations. 

But, when it comes to reviewing and producing Excel files and ensuring confidential data is not disclosed, the process is impossibly complex with huge consequences. No associate wants their name in a public filing for inadvertently transferring 179 contracts not intended for sale simply due to an error with a hidden column — as happened in a 2008 bankruptcy case

With such stories swirling around in the back of every attorney's mind, it’s no wonder many feel a wave of dread when faced with Excel redactions. The process evokes complaints from all sides:  user frustration, administrative headaches, painstaking quality control (QC), and additional costs for third-party plug-ins (that may or may not work) in attempting to complete redactions.

The old way, and the DISCO way

DISCO knew there had to be a way to make redacting an Excel file less of a nightmare. DISCO streamlines how legal teams handle native Excel redactions, making the process just five simple steps (in other platforms, it can take more than 14 steps— and let’s not even talk about redacting imaged spreadsheets). 

Let’s take the example of redacting information from spreadsheets with multiple complex financial models. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. Review and redact in the native Excel as part of your regular workflow within DISCO
  2. QC redactions without flipping between views
  3. Add the spreadsheets to your next production (along with the rest of the docs ready to go)
  4. Run the production 
  5. Automatically generate an exportable redaction log

That’s it, you’re done.

Now let’s look at this same process in a legacy platform.  

Before users can even start redacting they have to research, identify, and purchase a third-party plug-in (not to mention implement it and train on it), because legacy platforms don’t have native redaction capabilities.  

After this, you still have almost triple the number of steps to redact documents as compared to DISCO.

  1. Run a search for every possible iteration of every non-responsive, proprietary financial model and every reference to such models in comments, meeting minutes, etc.
  2. Create a saved search with the resulting spreadsheets
  3. Create a separate workflow for reviewing and redacting the non-responsive, proprietary  financial models and any associated text, charts, notes, and data
  4. Review and redact documents
  5. Hope that there are no problems with the spreadsheets (such as being too large for the viewer). If there are, prepare to add the following additional steps:
    i. When problems come up, call the legacy vendor who will say it’s not their problem since you’re using a third-party plug-in not their system
    ii. Attempt to get the third-party vendor support on the phone
    iii. Give up on getting through to the third-party vendor on the phone instead come up with your own workaround (most likely adding yet another workflow to the process)
  6. Send any spreadsheets that had to be redacted completely out of the legacy platform (even with the plug-in installed) to your ediscovery vendor for ingestion
  7. Create a QC stage and coding panel specifically for your natively redacted Excel files
  8. Assign a QC reviewer who will have to flip back and forth between the redacted native and the unredacted native to identify whether the correct information is indeed redacted and/or ensure responsive data was not redacted
  9. Manually move the redaction boxes that were not applied exactly where needed to the correct position (a millimeter off and you’re just asking for a motion to compel)
  10. Create a production set in the third-party plug-in to tell the legacy ediscovery platform which version of the spreadsheet to produce (so you don’t produce the unredacted native after all that effort)
  11. Create a production set in the legacy ediscovery platform
  12. Run the production
  13. Perform additional QC to ensure that the correct version of the redacted spreadsheets was produced
  14. Manually track the redactions, redaction reasons, and Bates numbers for your privilege log (and pray you don’t transpose any of the Bates numbers)

Getting to producible documents with a legacy provider is a time-consuming, multi-step, costly, and error-prone process. And that’s just for a simple spreadsheet.

DISCO — an end to Excel redaction headaches

With DISCO Ediscovery’s all-in-one Excel viewer and redaction tools, you can stop stressing out over your Excel redaction workflows and stop wasting time with tedious, painful tasks to get your documents produced, all while maintaining the confidentiality of information you want to protect and eliminating yet another line-item cost.

Learn More: DISCO for Excel Review

Subscribe to the blog
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.