Design Thinking for eDiscovery

By December 3, 2018May 9th, 2022No Comments

Design Thinking for eDiscovery: A Creative Holistic Approach to Addressing Client Needs


Is it enough to simply meet your eDiscovery obligations? Producing responsive documents, on time, does of course satisfy a legal requirement.

But at what cost to the business? How much stress does your current solution place on you and your team? And are you happy with the outcomes?

If these questions give you pause thinking about your typical e-discovery experience, then perhaps it’s time to consider a Design Thinking approach.


Design Thinking Starts by Putting Clients First
Design Thinking is a creative and collaborative process for problem-solving that holistically considers the spectrum of issues faced by clients.

A solution designer adept in this approach commonly takes a step back from conventional thinking in order to engage closely with their clients for an unfiltered, raw perspective about issues. A creative design process then ensues, and the end result can often be a rather remarkable solution.

Here is what a typical Design Thinking process looks like:



For me, the most critical step in this process is the first one: Empathize. The customer experience is always the target.

Vans provides us with a great example. The company has been customizing shoes ever since it was founded in 1966. But several years ago, after engaging with their customers using a Design Thinking approach, Vans gained a greater appreciation of the value their customers place on creativity and self-expression.

So in response, Vans launched an online customizer for shoes to enable their customers to create, preview, and order classic Vans shoes, customized by the customer from a palette of 800-million possible pattern combinations, including the ability to upload their own artwork and photos.

Here is an example of a Vans Custom Shoe, courtesy of ProSearch’s Creative Director, Brent Puls. And yes, I have already ordered a pair.


Vans also noticed that the art community was very receptive to the customizer and so the company took things one step further by hosting design competitions for high school arts programs. Art students were encouraged to enter their own creative designs for a chance to win much needed art education funding for their schools. This initiative has been a resounding success, and is gaining increasing popularity, because students and the wider community care about art education.

More than creating an option for consumers to buy customized shoes, Vans has ignited a custom culture in which their shoes have tapped an emotional need of their clients. Vans put their customers’ interests at the front by addressing a customer desire for self-expression and helping to solve a problem for art education funding.

I believe Design Thinking can similarly transform the eDiscovery experience for legal clients too.


Design Thinking in Action at the EDI Leadership Summit
The ProSearch team recently participated in a Design Thinking panel session for the EDI’s Leadership Summit held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in October.

Before I go any further, I want to thank the amazing panel of experts for their incredible contributions during the entire process, including Gene Eames of Pfizer, Owen Keough or JPMorgan Chase, David Moncure of DaVita, Jack Thompson of Sanofi, and our moderator Tess Blair of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. I was quite honored to be a co-panelist with such as prestigious group.

We wanted to focus on providing conference attendees with as meaningful and memorable of an experience as possible. So rather than following a classic approach of presentation slides and discussion, we elected to try something different. We opted to actually apply the design thinking process to creating our Design Thinking panel!

We began by surveying registered attendees to better understand their primary reasons for attending the conference and perspectives on what aspects of the event they liked most. Empathize!

We also asked registrants about how they typically became aware of educational sessions and what influenced their decisions for which sessions to attend.

We mapped all the survey responses (98 in total), and our own experiences into an Attendee Journey Map.

What we learned from this map guided us toward three questions How can we maximize 1) Attendance, 2) Engagement in the session, and 3) Post-session value? Define!

Brainstorming ideas for these questions was incredibly fun, and we think we came up with some creative solutions. Brainstorm!

In order to boost attendance, we created themed promotional buttons, which our entire panel wore the evening prior to our session. It may have helped that the buttons lit up, and were quite visible from across the room. As curious individuals asked about these twinkling lights, we took the opportunity to invite them to our panel.  Prototype and Test!

Looking at the attendee perceptions about their overall experiences prior, during, and after sessions, we also realized that attendees would be more interested in our session if it clearly offered value, and even more fun, than the potential alternatives.

For something fun, we incorporated a game of “buzzword” bingo into the session, which also helped to illustrate key learning points.

We also held a brainstorming exercise during the session, and handed out books related to Design Thinking as an added value, so that our attendees could bring back what they learned to their workplaces.

By taking the time to understand this conference from an attendee’s perspective, we were able provide a more compelling session (we hope!) that attendees would really want to attend and that they would stay engaged with throughout the session.

We enjoyed the opportunity to participate in this session and our thanks again to everyone who attended!

Designing Better E-Discovery
At ProSearch, we rarely call our approach “Design Thinking”, it’s just what we do. We have long had a customer forward approach to solving our clients’ e-discovery challenges. It goes back to our belief in offering fixed fee arrangements wherever possible. In our eyes, this builds an incentive to use the best technology on every matter, and maximizes efficiency, instead of hours of work. By doing so and by listening closely, we have been really fortunate to build meaningful partnerships with many of our clients.

To bring it back to Design Thinking, here is a recent example of a solutions development process at ProSearch

  • EMPATHIZE: An analysis of our work showed that we run an incredible number of search requests per matter. We observed that, frequently, the resulting counts were reported and subsequently terms were then modified. However, the goal of “effective search” remained elusive since counts alone do not indicate the effectiveness of the search. (How many relevant documents exist?) This process was often frustrating since complex search queries can make it more difficult to anticipate how any changes will affect the resulting counts or performance.
  • DEFINE: Reviewing these findings, we asked, how might we enable a more effective and efficient search term development process while improving the experience – less frustrating through delivery of clear, actionable information.
  • IDEATE: Bringing together our Data Science team and other internal experts, we brainstormed ideas on how to enable our defined goal, along with what information might be needed to create a solution.
  • PROTOTYPE: We manually executed a number of processes on prior data sets, built scripts, attempted visualizations, and created a full reporting of the results to discuss with users.
  • TEST: We discussed the approach and results with clients and partners too. Some of our original ideas stuck, others sank. During the ongoing conversations, we continually uncovered process, reporting and information gaps.

(Note – nothing about the way this project actually developed was quite so clean as the phases outlined above, but that is one of the tenets of Design Thinking, it’s a non-linear journey.)

Based on the initial results (and extensive trials, fixes and follow-up conversations), we developed an application that enables a sampling-based approach to search term development. The tool identifies appropriate keyword combinations using precision and recall validation methods to ensure that search terms are performing at an adequate level of effectiveness. We’re proud of the results to date, but we know we aren’t finished yet. As it goes with Design Thinking, the iterations continue.

On a separate track, we’ve been working on improving the review process too and we have some exciting news about this coming in the near future. Stay tuned for further updates!


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