eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Best Practices: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?


Does anybody really know what time it is?  Does anybody really care?

OK, it’s an old song by Chicago (back then, they were known as the Chicago Transit Authority).  But, the question of what time it really is has a significant effect on how eDiscovery is handled.

Time Zone: In many litigation cases, one of the issues that should be discussed and agreed upon is the time zone to apply to the produced files.  Why is it a big deal?  Let’s look at one example:

A multinational corporation has offices from coast to coast and potentially responsive emails are routinely sent between East Coast and West Coast offices.  If an email is sent from a party in the West Coast office at 10 PM on June 30, 2005 and is received by a party in the East Coast office at 1 AM on July 1, 2005, and the relevant date range is from July 1, 2005 thru December 31, 2006, then the choice of time zones will determine whether or not that email falls within the relevant date range.  The time zone is based on the workstation setting, so they could actually be in the same office when the email is sent (if someone is traveling).

Usually the choice is to either use a standard time zone for all files in the litigation – such as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or the time zone where the producing party is located – or to use the time zone associated with each custodian, which means that the time zone used will depend on where the data came from.  It’s important to determine the handling of time zones up front in cases where multiple time zones are involved to avoid potential disputes down the line.

Which Date to Use?: Each email and efile has one or more date and time stamps associated with it.  Emails have date/time sent, as well as date/time received.  Efiles have creation date/time, last modified date/time and even last printed date/time.  Efile creation dates do not necessarily reflect when a file was actually created; they indicate when a file came to exist on a particular storage medium, such as a hard drive. So, creation dates can reflect when a user or computer process created a file. However, they can also reflect the date and time that a file was copied to the storage medium – as a result, the creation date can be later than the last modified date.  It’s common to use date sent for Sent Items emails and date received for Inbox emails and to use last modified date for efiles.  But, there are exceptions, so again it’s important to agree up front as to which date to use.

So, what do you think?  Have you had any date disputes in your eDiscovery projects?   Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.