eDiscovery Daily Blog

We Are Family, I Got All My Attachments and Me: eDiscovery Best Practices

 OK, I know that’s not how the classic Sister Sledge song goes, but I’m such an eDiscovery geek that every time I think of that song these days, I think of keeping email and attachment families together.  One of the most common mistakes that I see clients make is that they forget to account for complete “families” in their email productions, which leads to an incomplete production to opposing counsel.

Having assisted a client with this just the other day, it seems appropriate to revisit this topic…

In most cases these days when an email or attachment is deemed to be responsive, the receiving party expects to also receive any “family” members of the responsive file (with the possible exception of embedded signature logo graphics, which are often considered extraneous and often removed before review).  Attorneys like to have the complete family when reviewing the production from the other side, even if some of the individual files aren’t responsive themselves.  Receiving an email without its corresponding attachments or receiving some, but not all, of the attachments to an email tends to raise suspicions.  Most attorneys don’t want to give opposing counsel a reason to be suspicious of their production, so parties usually agree to produce the entire email “family” in these cases.  Here’s a scenario:

The case involves an employment dispute over non-disclosure of company trade secrets by a company’s employees.  A supervisor at the company verbally requests copies of non-disclosure agreements related to several of his employees from his HR director and the HR director emails a copy of those non-disclosure agreements attached to an email with the subject “Requested files” and the body stating “Here you go…” (or something to that effect).  A search for “non-disclosure” retrieves the attached agreement, but not the email, which doesn’t really have any pertinent information on it.  Only part of the email “family” is responsive to the search.  This is common.

If it’s important to produce all communications between parties at the company regarding non-disclosure agreements, this email communication could be missed – unless your review protocol includes capturing the family members of responsive files and your review software provides an option to view the family members of responsive files and include them in search results.  There are rare cases where parties agree to limit production to actual responsive files and not produce the families, but that’s unusual.

If your case isn’t one of those rare exceptions, make sure you have a well thought out protocol and robust software for including family members in your search results and in your document reviews for responsiveness, as well as automated and manual Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) checks to ensure your production contains complete family groups.  Singing We Are Family doesn’t just make you a Sister Sledge (or 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates) fan, it may also make you an eDiscovery geek, determined to keep family groups together in your production.  :o)

So, what do you think?  How do you handle family groups in discovery?  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. 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.