eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Trends: Scanning May No Longer Be Cool, But it’s Still Necessary


Frankly, I thought the fax machine would have been retired by now.  So many documents are generated electronically these days that I would have expected that most businesses would not only accept contracts and other documents via email but also no longer support fax receipt of those same documents.  But, many business not only still receive faxes, some still only accept faxes for key documents (or require you to hand deliver).  Progress is slow.

Likewise, most documents generated these days (as much as 99%) are never printed.  Hence, discovery has often become predominantly electronic discovery, as the documents are typically electronic.  Yet, I’m still surprised how many cases still have hard copy documents that require scanning and we still see a number of projects that have several boxes of documents that need to be scanned for discovery purposes.  If you still encounter hard copy documents in your discovery collections, here are some factors to consider if you’re going to scan them or hire a vendor to do so:

  • Document Preparation and Reassembly: To prepare documents for scanning, fasteners (staples, paper clips, etc.) must generally be removed.  Slip sheets are also often inserted in between documents with bar codes to tell the scanning software where the document breaks are – in some cases, the slip sheets are sophisticated enough to track master/attachment groups of documents. Reassembly involves returning the document collection to its original condition after scanning.
  • Deskew, Despeckle and Orientation Check: When scanning, you want to get the best quality scanned document possible not only because it’s easier and clearer to review, but also because it affects the quality of the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process used to capture words for indexing and searching.  You don’t want the image to be skewed, or have a lot of speckles or be in the wrong orientation (e.g., portrait when it should be landscape).  The poorer quality of the image, the poorer the OCR.  Of course, some original documents are poor quality and difficult to read, so you can only do so much to make the resulting image readable.  But, you want to ensure the best quality possible.
  • Quality Assurance: In addition to any automated checks performed by the software, a manual double-check is also a good idea.  Any documents with issues (such as those described above) should be investigated to determine whether a second scan pass can yield better results.
  • Optical Character Recognition: It’s important to note that, without OCR, an image is just a picture and the words on the page cannot be searched.  Lack of OCR could cause you to miss important documents for discovery.  Because OCR is not an exact science, you want to use an application that supports “fuzzy” searching of OCR text to broaden search results to include other possible “hits” for the desired search terms.
  • Bates Numbering and Endorsing: Bates numbers used to be applied by a Bates “stamp”.  Later on, pre-printed Bates labels became popular.  Today, Bates numbers and endorsements (such as “Confidential” stamps) are typically applied electronically and are either “burned in” to the image (so that they cannot be removed) or “overlaid” (so that they can be removed – this is done in some cases when producing the same document in multiple cases with different Bates numbers).  It’s important to consider your requirements when selecting a method.
  • Single or Multi Page Images:  When creating TIFF files, you can create single page or multi-page TIFF files (multi-page files are usually one file per document).  Some review applications prefer one or the other, so it’s important to know your review software preferences.  PDF files are typically multi-page.

Those are just some of the considerations when scanning hard copy documents.  When using a vendor to scan documents, it’s important to understand how they address each of the areas above.

So, what do you think?  Do you still have hard copy documents to scan in most of your cases?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.