The Power of People: Find Critical Communications Faster in Internal Investigations

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Finding the handful of critical communications in an internal investigation can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Even after you’ve eliminated all the Grubhub order notifications and calendar invites, you are still left with thousands of emails sent to/from thousands (or more) of participants.

But what if you only care about a very narrow set of people of interest? In a workplace harassment case, you’re likely looking for emails between only the alleged harasser and the victim. If you’re investigating corporate price-fixing, the critical emails will likely be between your prime suspects and one or potentially two other individuals. (As one of our customers pointed out, “If you are doing something illegal, you don’t tell many people about it.”)

Isolating these key communications used to require multiple, error-prone steps that may or may not have gotten you your desired results. You had to rely on double-negative searches or complicated search strings with every permutation of to/from/cc certain individuals you could think of, knowing you’d never be truly exhaustive. 

All that has changed with DISCO’s new search syntax that makes it easy to precisely target specific participants in conversations. This syntax introduces three new concepts that limit search results to certain individuals or a specific number of people: 

  • Participant: Individuals on the email, in any form 
  • ParticipantCount: The number of individuals on the email, in total
  • RecipientCount: The number of recipients on the email (which excludes the sender) 

For example, in a workplace harassment case, a user could search for communications only between the harasser and the alleged victim using the syntax: participant("John@company.com" & "Aaron@company.com") & participantCount(2). This would return emails between John@company.com, Aaron@company.com, and no one other than those two participants. 

If you are just starting a review and are not sure whose data is going to be the most relevant or who the key actors might be, simply run keyword searches limiting the total number of participants under the presumption that important information or conversations will probably be limited to a small number of individuals. For example, a user looking for evidence of price-fixing might search for competitor names & participantCount(<5) to find conversations about setting prices based on an agreement between competitors. 

When you’ve identified a key actor and want to find all the people they communicated with, search for participant("John@company.com") & participantCount(<15). Then use DISCO Ediscovery’s visual search tools to see who is most frequently directly involved in communications with your key individual, while excluding mass emails that may be less relevant.

Analyzing the participants who pop up most frequently and who they correspond with the most can help to narrow down your documents for review and help create targeted workflows to find the most important evidence faster.

Use filters and search visualization tools to explore relationships and key actors in  your data set.


Interested in learning more about how you can use people-based metadata to streamline your document reviews? Check out this whitepaper on using email metadata to reduce risk and boost your review or set up some time to chat with one of our experts.

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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.

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