eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Throwback Thursdays – Circa 1978, We Lived in a World of Paper


Back before desktops, laptops and tablets, the business world meant paper.  Lots of paper. And that meant that litigation preparation activities revolved around paper.  Paper documents. Paper logs for tracking activity. Paper coding forms for recording document information. Paper reports.  Our supplies for litigation support activities were pens, pencils, pads of paper, staplers, staple removers, rubber fingers, white-out, post-it notes, boxes, manila file folders, and yes, even Band-Aids (paper cuts were a common work-place ‘injury’).

Although it was a very different world, some things were the same.  In fact, if you look at the EDRM graphic, every phase on the chart also applied to paper.  It was the way things worked back then, if you took the word “Electronic” out of the title and simply called it “Discovery Reference Model”.  Here’s a summary of how the phases of the EDRM applied, prior to the early 1980s:

  • Information Governance:  Businesses managed information and paper.  Employees maintained paper files in filing cabinets in their offices.  Important documents and those of common interest were stored in departmental central files (typically a common area with rows of filing cabinets or shelves of files, maintained by a secretary).  Old documents were boxed up and sent to warehouse facilities for long-term storage.  Indices of the files in those boxes were maintained on paper logs.  Many businesses had document retention policies in place, which included schedules for when documents were to be shredded.
  • Identification:  Responsive documents needed to be located, so that meant identifying custodians, central filing systems and warehouse facilities that were likely to house responsive materials.
  • Preservation:  Potentially responsive paper documents needed to be preserved…  which meant ‘stop shredding’.
  • Collection:  Paper documents were collected.
  • Processing:  Usually, ‘processing’ meant photocopying potentially responsive documents.
  • Review:  Documents were reviewed for responsiveness and privilege.
  • Analysis:  Document content was analyzed, documents were categorized around witnesses and issues, and hot documents were identified.  Most attorneys created a physical binder for each witness, fact and issue in a case, and a single document might be photocopied a number of times, once for each binder into which it was filed.  In the late 1970’s, for some large, ‘bet your company’ cases, documents were coded and document information was loaded into a database. Building a database, however, was by no means commonplace in the late 1970’s.
  • Production:  Documents that were identified as responsive were turned over – in paper form – during discovery.
  • Presentation:  Paper documents were used as exhibits in hearings, depositions and at trial.

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at a typical document collection project circa 1978.

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