What Are eDiscovery File Families? And Should I Be Protecting Them?

04 September 2019 by Anith Mathai eDiscovery file-family

Takeway: File families are groups of associated files. And splitting up these ‘families’ can spoil your eDiscovery data. The solution is to find eDiscovery software that can spot and preserve file families.

File families (or document families) are groups of associated files.

The primary file in this group is called the ‘parent’, and the others, the ‘children’. Here are the most common examples of file families:

  • Emails and their attachments. The email is the ‘parent’, and the attachments are the ‘children’.
  • Documents with embedded files: For example, a PowerPoint document which has slides with embedded video clips. When they’re separated, the video files will be the children, and the PowerPoint document the parent.
  • RAR ‘container’ files and their contents: Container files like RAR, ZIP and PST (for email) are convenient ways of bundling a bunch of files together and compressing them. So that they take up less space. The container file is the parent, and the compressed contents are the children.

File families complicate eDiscovery.

Imagine that your client asks a colleague to email her the details of a new policy change. The colleague sends the email with the subject, ‘The document you requested’, body text saying, ‘Here you go’, and an attachment marked ‘December policy change’. During eDiscovery, your software will spot the ‘child’ attachment as being responsive – because of the key phrase ‘policy change’. But it’ll overlook the email body. This becomes a problem when you’re producing files. Because opposing counsel will want the whole file family, not just the responsive attachment.

Where else do file families pop up in eDiscovery?

You’ll spot them when you’re deduplicating, searching, tagging, and ‘producing’ files.

1. Deduplicating files: You can’t always delete duplicates.

Deduplication is the process of removing identical, nearly identical, or similar documents from your eDiscovery case. Duplicate documents waste your time and raise costs. So, what do you do with them? You can’t always delete them – especially when it comes to file families. For example, if you have two different parent emails, but they have copies of the same child document, should one of those child documents be deleted? Or if that child document is also stored – unattached – on the recipient’s hard drive, should it be deleted? As you can see, breaking up and deleting file families gets tricky. So, you’ll need to decide which deduplication settings to use for these scenarios.

2. Searching your files: Processing an email attachment can split up file families

To find the keywords you’re searching for, your eDiscovery software needs to index your data. That is, it creates a database of your content. The thing is, indexing can mess with file families. Take email attachments, for example. To index an attachment, your software needs to extract it from its parent email. But what if it breaks the parent-child link while doing this? You’ll lose the context for any information the ‘child’ attachment may give you.

3. Tagging files: Remember to tag the entire family

You don’t want to have to keep running searches on your eDiscovery case. That’s where eDiscovery ‘tags’ come. They’re virtual ‘sticky notes’ that you attach to a document. And once you’ve tagged a bunch of documents, you can pull them all up by clicking on their tag. So you don’t have to keep ‘searching’ your case for them. And, just like real sticky notes, tags don’t alter the document. The challenge is to remember to give the same tag to every file in a family. Otherwise, they’ll get split up when you’re reviewing them. Luckily, the best eDiscovery applications let you automatically tag an entire file family.

4. Producing files: Families can get de-linked when changing production formats.

Should you produce files in their ‘native’ format? Or as a PDF? Each application you use creates files in a particular ‘format.’ Which means, it structures the file’s data in a specific way. So, for example, Microsoft Word creates DOCX files (a file with a ‘.docx’ extension). That extension is unique to Word. And it tells your computer to use Word to open the file. This is the ‘native’ format of the file. I.e., the format in which it was originally created. The thing is, if you produce files in their native format, opposing counsel needs to have the native software. But what if this software is hard to find? Or too expensive? Also, native files are easy to tamper with, or mistakenly modify. That’s why people often produce files as PDFs. The challenge is to keep parent and child files together when converting them to PDFs.

So, what’s the solution? Get the right eDiscovery software.

First, you need to set up a file-family policy. That is, decide in advance how you will collect, handle, review, and produce file families in your electronically stored information (ESI). And second, you’ll need software that can put this file-family policy into action.

Need eDiscovery software that preserves file families? Try GoldFynch.

It’s a next-generation eDiscovery application that’s affordable and easy-to-use.

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less – every month – than the nearest comparable software. And hundreds of dollars less than many others. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch has a flat, prorated rate. With legacy software, your bill changes depending on how much data you use.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. It runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free, fully-functional trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It can handle even the largest cases. GoldFynch scales from small to large, since it’s in the Cloud. So, choose from a range of case sizes (3 GB to 150 GB, and more) and don’t waste money on space you don’t need.
  • You can access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud. And you can monitor its servers here.
  • You won’t have to worry about technical stuff. It’s designed, developed, and run by the same team. So, its technical support isn’t outsourced. Which means you get prompt and reliable service.

Want to learn more about GoldFynch?