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How did they do it?

  • Organized and analyzed tens of thousands of multi-language, global contracts for a sale of holdings
  • Used Analytics to automatically group contracts and batch them out to reviewers based on content and language
  • Cleared all contracts and helped the client finalize the deal within one month


Reed Smith is an international law firm, representing leading companies in complex litigation, cross-border transactions, and crucial regulatory matters. With offices across the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the firm counsels 13 of the world’s 15 largest commercial and saving banks, 25 of the 35 largest oil and gas companies, and the three largest pharmaceutical distribution and wholesale companies.

Sharri Wilner is the east coast litigation technology services coordinator at Reed Smith. She works with both clients and attorneys to develop strategies and implement technology to manage issues regarding electronically stored information.

The Roadblock

A global financial corporation was gearing up for a multibillion-dollar sale of holdings. But before moving forward, the company needed to determine what kinds of restrictions and obligations each of their holdings was bound to given contracts with various third parties.

“With Relativity, we were able to clear all the contracts and finalize a multi-billion dollar deal in one month instead of six. Combining our innovation with a flexible and customizable solution helped us exceed the expectations of our client.”

SHARRI WILNER, Litigation Technology Services Coordinator

The contracts were stored in the company’s internal database, but not in a way that would make this task a quick one. Addendums, attachments, expired contracts, renewals, and so on weren’t necessarily filed away in an organized manner, making it difficult to know what the stipulations were, which contracts were current, and which contracts were out of date.

With billions of dollars at stake, the company brought in Reed Smith for help.

“At its core, this was a fact-finding mission to prioritize which business units weren’t buried in red tape and would be easiest to move,” said Sharri. “We needed to find a non-traditional solution to make this deal happen.”

The Parameters

It was mid-July when Reed Smith jumped on board, meeting with the client to better understand the parameters of the project and their needs. In total, they were looking at tens of thousands of contracts in various languages that needed to be analyzed and prioritized into different groups by August 16—less than one month away.

If the timeline weren’t enough pressure, there was a handful of considerations for the project.

First, because the analysis of these contracts included multiple layers—that is, not simple “responsive” or “non-responsive” decisions—the team needed an easy way for experts to review the contracts and make and track multiple decisions on each one.

To complicate things further, the deal involved nearly 300 stakeholders in 33 different countries, such as attorneys and subject matter experts involved in the potential sales of holdings. A centralized repository that could be accessed by hundreds of users across the globe simultaneously was essential.

Finally, once the contracts were reviewed, the team would need a way to help the client make the big decisions on the data.

“We knew we would need to be able to quickly slice and dice the data in different ways and say, ‘Based on these contracts, these are the business units the client should prioritize to sell off, these are the ones we need to do X, Y, and Z with,’ and so on,” said Sharri.

With all of these considerations in mind, the Reed Smith team decided they would use Relativity to get through the project.

“Relativity’s flexibility and customization is exactly what we needed in this case. The ease of use and ability to get a user trained on the system within 15 minutes was essential.”

“Relativity’s flexibility and customization is exactly what we needed in this case,” said Sharri. “Additionally, the ease of use and ability to get a user trained on the system within 15 minutes was essential. With any other option, we would have faced monumental lag time getting 300 users up and running.”

Analytics Meets Dynamic Objects

Once the company was able to get all 10,000-plus contracts to Reed Smith, the team got to work.

First, they loaded the contracts into Relativity and ran language identification and clustering in Analytics on the data set. Clustering, which requires almost no user input, automatically grouped the conceptually similar documents together, allowing Reed Smith to see which contracts were aligned with one another. For example, one clustering group would contain contracts between one of the client’s holdings and a software vendor, while another would contain real estate contracts for a particular building the company owned.

Once Analytics clustered contracts logically into groups, the team was able to easily batch contracts out to the appropriate review groups. Non-English contracts went to reviewers in Japan, China, Russia, and other countries, while English contracts were assigned accordingly to two different review groups—one trained to review real estate contracts (a big portion of the data set) and the other assigned to all other contracts.

While Analytics did its work, Sharri, using Relativity’s dynamic objects, took 15 minutes to create custom questionnaires that her review team could use to record decisions about each contract. For example, would consent be necessary? What kind of consent? How many days does the vendor need to respond? Does consent need to be done in writing, or is verbal consent acceptable? Each review team had access to different questionnaires with questions targeted to their assigned batch of contracts.

Within just a few days of receiving the contracts, review teams across the globe were fast at work on the project.

Saving the Deal

In the end, the Reed Smith team was able to answer all of the client’s big questions within their one-month deadline, helping them successfully close the deal.

“With Relativity, we were able to clear all the contracts and finalize the deal in one month,” said Sharri.

“Combining our innovation with a flexible and customizable solution helped us exceed the expectations of our client.”

The team estimates they would have needed twice as many lawyers to complete this task without Relativity, which would have cost their clients millions in additional fees. But that’s not the most important savings, according to Sharri.

“We did in one month what I don’t think they could’ve have ever pulled off. The real kicker is if our corporate client didn’t get through this project, the deal would have fallen through, and they would have lost that multibillion-dollar opportunity.”

How Did Sharri Create Her Questionnaires?

Sharri used Relativity’s dynamic objects to create customized questionnaires in 15 minutes. But what does that mean?

Every Relativity workspace consists of interconnected objects that securely store different types of information. For example, a document object for a project like Sharri’s could contain fields for coding decisions, custodian, or the contracted company’s name.

Relativity admins like Sharri can create Relativity dynamic objects (RDOs) and link them to other objects in the workspace.

In this particular matter, Sharri created various Question objects and linked them to the appropriate Document objects for the different document clusters (e.g., real estate contracts and contracts with particular software vendors). Reviewers could then answer the questions associated with the different types of contracts to help the team make decisions about the sales.

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