eDiscovery Daily Blog

Production is the “Ringo” of the eDiscovery Phases: eDiscovery Throwback Thursdays

Here’s our latest blog post in our Throwback Thursdays series where we are revisiting some of the eDiscovery best practice posts we have covered over the years and discuss whether any of those recommended best practices have changed since we originally covered them.

This post was originally published on December 1, 2011 – when eDiscovery Daily was a little more than a year old.  Back then, we had only 65 posts related to case law, now, we’re close to nine years old and have 689 posts related to case law (covering over 530 unique cases).  Case law has evolved over the years, especially since the 2015 Federal Rules changes impacted rulings on sanctions and proportionality, among other things.  And, we have seen more cases related to disputes over production format, as some (but not enough) requesting parties are realizing that requesting native productions gives them more metadata about the produced ESI (while also making it more “tamper-proof”).

We’ve noted that 80% of the costs associated with eDiscovery are in the Review phase and that volume of data and sources from which to retrieve it (including social media and “cloud” repositories) are growing exponentially.  Most of the “press” associated with eDiscovery ranges from the “left side of the EDRM model” (i.e., Information Management, Identification, Preservation, Collection) through the stages to prepare materials for production (i.e., Processing, Review and Analysis).

All of those phases lead to one inevitable stage in eDiscovery: Production.  Yet, few people talk about the actual production step.  If Preservation, Collection and Review are the “John”, “Paul” and “George” of the eDiscovery process, the Production phase is still the “Ringo” of eDiscovery phases, not talked about enough – even though it’s arguably the most crucial step of all.

It’s the final crucial step in the process, and if it’s not handled correctly, all of the due diligence spent in the earlier phases could mean nothing.  So, it’s important to plan for production up front and to apply a number of quality control (QC) checks to the actual production set to ensure that the production process goes as smooth as possible.

Planning for Production Up Front

When discussing the production requirements with opposing counsel, it’s important to ensure that those requirements make sense, not only from a legal standpoint, but a technical standpoint as well.  Involve support and IT personnel in the process of deciding those parameters as they will be the people who have to meet them.  Issues to be addressed include, but not limited to:

  • Format of production (e.g., paper, images or native files);
  • Organization of files (e.g., organized by custodian, legal issue, etc.);
  • Numbering scheme (e.g., Bates labels for images, sequential file names for native files);
  • Handling of confidential and privileged documents, including log requirements and stamps to be applied;
  • Handling of redactions;
  • Format and content of production log;
  • Production media (e.g., CD, DVD, portable hard drive, FTP, etc.).

I was involved in a case years ago where opposing counsel was requesting an unusual production format where the names of the files would be the subject line of the emails being produced (for example, “Re: Completed Contract, dated 12/01/2011”).  Two issues with that approach: 1) The proposed format only addressed emails, and 2) Windows file names don’t support certain characters, such as colons (:) or slashes (/).  I provided that feedback to the attorneys so that they could address with opposing counsel and hopefully agree on a revised format that made more sense.  So, let the tech folks confirm the feasibility of the production parameters.

The workflow throughout the eDiscovery process should also keep in mind the end goal of meeting the agreed upon production requirements.  So, you can adversely impact production long before you get to the production step.

Next week, we will talk about preparing the production set and performing QC checks to ensure that the ESI being produced to the requesting party is complete and accurate.

So, what do you think?  Have you had issues with production planning in your cases?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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