5 Annoying eDiscovery Problems You Can Solve with the Right Software

19 December 2019 by John eDiscovery Software

Takeaway: With the right eDiscovery application, you get key software features that solve these 5 annoying eDiscovery problems: (1) How do you handle paper documents? (2) How do you get rid of duplicate files? (3) How do you open rare files? (4) How do you protect vital metadata? (5) How do you quickly find the documents you need?

Is there a simple solution to these annoying eDiscovery problems?

[Hint: Get the right eDiscovery software, and they’ll all go away]

1. How do you handle paper documents?

Your case is only as good as the data you have to work with. And even though most of your data will be electronic (Word files, PDFs, email, etc.), you’ll still have some paper documents. So, what do you do with them? Well, you’ll scan them, of course. But remember that even though the scanned document has text, to a computer, it’s just an ‘image’ of text. So you won’t be able to edit it or do a keyword search. The solution: Make sure your eDiscovery application comes with inbuilt OCR (Optical Character Recognition) – a software tool that converts scanned documents into text files that a computer can process.

2. How do you get rid of duplicate files?

Many lawyers estimate that up to 50% of their files are duplicates. For example, a colleague emails you a file that you already have. That’s an ‘exact’ duplicate. Or, you correct a few typos in a Word document and save it as a different file. This is a ‘near’ duplicate – it’s basically the same, but not quite. So, how do you weed out these files? The solution: Use eDiscovery software that can detect duplicates. It’ll do this using the concept of hashing. Here, your software uses an algorithm to give a document a unique string of numbers and letters – e.g., c262935cfc3af3f0a5cc5c5cdf3c0b26. This string is called a hash value. And it’s like a digital fingerprint. So, instead of comparing all the text in documents each time you want to spot duplicates, your software just compares their hash values.

3. How do you open rare files?

Most files in your eDiscovery case come in a ‘native’ format. I.e., they are created by a particular application and you’ll need that application to open them. For example, you’ll use Microsoft Word to open Word documents, Adobe Reader for the PDFs, and Outlook for the emails. But what if you don’t have the right parent application for a file? How do you open it? The solution: The best eDiscovery applications convert all files into a common format. This means you won’t need the parent software to open them. Plus, it’s much more convenient. If you want to do a keyword search on native files, you’ll have to perform the same search multiple times – one for each parent application. So, one search for all Microsoft Word files, the same search for Adobe PDFs, and the same search for Outlook emails. Or, you could load them onto your eDiscovery software and do a single universal search across all file types.

4. How do you protect vital metadata?

When you create a document on your computer, the application you’re using (e.g. Microsoft Word) records a bunch of information about it. Things like who created it, when they created it, when it was last opened, etc. This ‘data about data’ (i.e. metadata) is a digital footprint which tracks the history of a document – giving it context. It often helps win cases. The problem is that metadata is fragile. For example, you can destroy it just by opening a file or forwarding an email. So, how do you protect your case’s metadata? The solution: Use special file viewers like FTK Imager to open and preview eDiscovery files. Or, find eDiscovery software that lets you use files without tampering with their metadata.

5. How do you quickly find the documents you need?

Every eDiscovery case has a story. That is: What happened? When and how? Who is involved? What did they do? How are they connected to each other? Why did things happen the way they did? And what were the motives? But to flesh out a story, you need to find evidence from among the thousands of files you’re reviewing. So, how do you do that? The solution: Use an ‘advanced’ keyword search. With a ‘basic’ keyword search, your software looks for a single keyword. For example, search for ‘John,’ and you’ll get all the PDFs, Word files, emails, etc., with the name ‘John’ in them. But one level up from a basic search, things get interesting. With an ‘advanced’ search, your software looks for multiple interrelated keywords. And it uses ‘Boolean operators’ like ‘AND’, ‘OR’, and ‘NOT’ to connect these keywords. This means you can give your software a very specific command. Like, “Find all emails John Anderson sent Sally Nedry, which mention the Pfizer meeting. And which were sent before 2015.

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