Simple Tips to Avoid Headaches and Delays in Document Productions
You’ve collected the data, you’ve reviewed the data, you’re ready to make a production, but your vendor or litigation support department keeps hounding you with questions. “Just produce it!” you want to scream, but you can’t.
Here’s a primer on how to avoid the back and forth and back and forth so your production gets out the door as quickly as possible.
The Production Format
Have a clear idea of the production format. This section should shed some light on your options. Will you be producing single page TIFF with document-level text and load files? Non-searchable PDFs? Sometimes this is controlled by an Electronically Stored Information (ESI) stipulation or Discovery Order. If you have one for your case, be sure to provide a copy to your eDiscovery provider. Either way, the two formats below are very common in our experience.
TIFF format with Load Files
The most common production format is a single page TIFF, with document-level text, and DAT load files containing metadata. This allows the recipient to load the production into a review platform such as Relativity. This format provides the recipient of your production with an image of the file, associated metadata and searchable text.
Searchable PDF is another common format. If the format has not been discussed or specified with the recipient, Searchable PDF is a viable option. This provides the recipient with the image of the file, plus the ability to search its text. If metadata needs to be produced, however, a limitation of this format is that the metadata must be provided in a separate load file.
Have you agreed to produce metadata? If you have, what fields? Often, this is the source of some disagreement, or at minimum, ambiguity. Depending on your database set up, metadata fields may be named differently. It is important to communicate and come to an agreement about how each field is defined. Say, for example, you receive a request to produce “Document Date.” This is an ambiguous term that can mean a few different dates such as: Creation Date, Last Modified Date, or Date Created (yes, Creation Date and Date Created are different things!).
Having the field names, definitions and formatting ironed out ahead of time will reduce production headaches.
Native File Formats in the Production Set
While TIFF format is the most common production format, are there exceptions to this format in your production? Identify the files that need to be produced in their native format and let your eDiscovery provider know. Typically, these fall into two categories: corrupt or “unprocessable” files and files that are best reviewed in their native application. For unprocessable files, we produce the native and a slipsheet so the recipient can see the issue for themselves.
Files that are better reviewed in their native application are typically Excel, PowerPoint and audio/video files. Excel files are most commonly produced in native format, but more and more clients are also choosing to produce PowerPoint files as native files as well. Why? It’s much easier to review these files in the application in which they were created rather than in TIFF format. Also, audio and video files should be addressed. Will you produce those as native files, or slipsheet them? Knowing these answers ahead of time will reduce the back and forth between you and your vendor/ED department and get your production out the door faster.
A simple, yet common issue we encounter in productions is the starting Bates number. Are we starting at Bates_00001, or Bates_00156? Typically, we run into issues where someone runs a separate production such as a paper production without notifying others. There is a quick and simple fix: let your service provider know where to start.
Are we endorsing the production for confidentiality? If so, what’s the specific language to be applied? For example, should documents be branded “Confidential” or “Highly Confidential – Attorneys Eyes Only”? Determining the endorsement prior to production will prevent mistakes and reruns that will cost you valuable time.
There is, invariably, a sense of urgency when you’re ready to make a production. You want it out the door, off your to-do list, and out of your hair. Knowing what and how you’re going to produce is key to both lessening the sense of urgency and getting the production out the door.
ESI isn’t going anywhere, and there’s only going to be more of it (one day soon if not already, someone will pull data from your refrigerator and your lamp). Being aware of what you want to produce and how you want to produce, even if it’s just a general awareness, will put you a step or two ahead of the pack.
If your production is being made to a government agency, or in response to a government subpoena, please click here for an article for a more in depth discussion.
Warren Parrino, Director, eDiscovery Consulting
Warren Parrino is a Director of eDiscovery Consulting for Precision Discovery. After 10 years in private practice representing plaintiffs and defendants in civil and criminal matters, Warren moved into eDiscovery consulting. He has had a lifelong fascination in technology and how they progress from “disruptive” to mainstream. The first law firm he worked for had a law library that took up an entire floor of the building. Now, all of that information fits in the palm of your hand.
Visit Warren on LinkedIn.