Document Separation Issues During eDiscovery

Throughout every phase in the electronic discovery process, it is inevitable for counsel to encounter the proverbial fork in the road. Making the wrong decision can have many repercussions The processing phase of an engagement can be particularly harrowing for those not fully informed about the potential issues that may arise. By taking a proactive approach during this phase, counsel can eliminate much of the risk and complexity often associated with data processing.

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Organization is Key to An Efficient Review Process

The Parent-Child Relationship is the term associated when a document contains attached or linked electronic documents. Most often an email is a primary document which contains attached electronic files that often support the discussion in the email.

For example, Bob Smith sends an email to his associates attaching newly revised lease agreements for review and approval. The email from Bob is the parent document, the lease agreements are the children. The email may be responsive to discovery requests and the attachments as well. If one is separated from the other it can be disastrous.

The Parent-Child Relationship in eDiscovery is a crucial aspect that should be understood by attorneys and their staff so that everyone involved is on the same page and the correct decision is made to remove additional burdens and barricades during discovery.

In the early stages of the litigation, counsel must address and negotiate how to handle document families in order to accurately collect and process electronically stored information in a manner that preserves family relationships. Document families should be managed consistently during discovery from preservation, collection, review, and production. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, Rule 26(f) provides for a meet and confer to discuss electronically stored information among other issues. It’s the perfect time to develop an understanding and figure out the Parent-Child Relationship for your litigation case.

Trim Unnecessary Documents to Reduce Your Review Time

The data processing phase ensures that all documents are processed in a manner that will allow an attorney to initiate a well-managed review.

Processing occurs in three phases:

  • The early phase is when data is collected and indexed.
  • The next phase is the actual processing – extracting text and metadata and often generating an image of the documents.
  • The final phase includes an export or deliverable for review in a database.

Read More on Process, Review, Analyze: EDRM eDiscovery Best Practices

Most often costs determine the separation of your primary document and attachments. If this determination is made without discussion, the ramifications could be: original data is no longer available, associating attachments back together with their parents can be more costly than simply maintaining the relationship from the beginning.

An example of accurately removing attachments from the parent might be social media gifs or jpegs that when processed extract as a separate document and have little to no value in discovery. During processing, counsel may agree to remove these during the QC process to reduce the volume of documents.

Generally, if a responsive document is an email, an attachment “child” is produced together with the email. However, if during the review cycle a parent document is deemed responsive but the attachment privileged, this may cause heartburn for legal counsel. Normally, you never “separate the family” but in this scenario consider applying bates numbers to an entire set so you are consistent in the production but then “withhold” the attachment as privileged and disclose in your privilege log.

Another term associated with Parent-Child Relationship is embedded objects or documents. Generally observed in Microsoft applications or Adobe PDFs, the parent document contains a link within the file to another electronic file. For example, a PDF that contains a reference to an Excel spreadsheet where during the processing phase, the Excel spreadsheet may be extracted from the PDF thus creating a Parent-Child Relationship.

In the last phase of data processing, data is exported to a desired review tool format. If the review involves native files, then the export process will generate a single load file that contains a record entry for every native file and all of its associated metadata. The load file also contains document relationships such as parent-child and a link to the native file itself. Next, the native files are gathered and built into a structure that is compatible with the load file generated so that when the native file link is selected during the review, the proper native file appears.

Processing electronic data can be an extremely expensive task; however with a thoughtful strategy in place from the outset, counsel can effectively manage processing costs. Expenses for this phase can be mitigated by instituting a few simple measures: determining a relevant date range for the data collection; establishing a concise search term list to limit the production of unrelated and/or irrelevant documents; and developing deduplication strategies

Legal Eagle is an end-to-end legal service provider for the Carolinas. Headquartered in Greenville, SC with offices in Columbia, SC, Legal Eagle provides eDiscovery, Forensics, Document Management & Trial Services. Tim Thames is the eDiscovery Director and brings 25 years of litigation experience with 15 years of concentrated eDiscovery knowledge to your projects. Contact Tim for more information about how to leverage Parent-Child relationship success. We are excited about providing informative lunch-n-learns to attorneys, paralegals, and legal professionals.

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By | May 16th, 2019 | eDiscovery | Comments Off

About the Author:

Tim is a veteran of providing legal services and brings more than 28 years of hands-on litigation experience to the table, along with 14 years of concentrated eDiscovery knowledge.

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