How to Find Specific Emails in Your eDiscovery Case

18 December 2021 by UV eDiscovery email

Takeaway: eDiscovery software can help you search for keywords, names, dates, etc., across a range of file types – e.g., PDFs, Word docs, emails, spreadsheets, and more. Start by using the ‘quick search’ feature, but then hone in on specific emails using ‘advanced searches.’ Finally, tag your search results so that they’re easy to find (and produce) later.

Email applications like Outlook can help you search for keywords, but they aren’t enough for eDiscovery.

You could use Outlook or Gmail to run a search for specific emails. And yes, it would work. But in the larger context of eDiscovery, this isn’t enough. That’s because you’re not just going to be searching your emails. You’ll also be searching through Word documents, PDFs, Excel sheets, and other types of electronically stored information (ESI). So, you’ll need a single search engine that can search across all file types, instead of having to switch back-and-forth between multiple apps and their search engines.

So, how can we use eDiscovery software to search our case for emails?

To build a case, you’ll need to uncover its ‘story.’ And this means answering questions like, What happened here? Who was involved? What did they do? And how are they connected to others in the case? For this, you’ll use the following steps and tools.

Step 1: Import your emails.

The first task is to import emails into your eDiscovery application. Most small and midsize law firms prefer cloud eDiscovery software, and the process here is pretty simple. For Outlook, you’ll drag-and-drop your PSTs into your eDiscovery/web browser. And services like Gmail and Yahoo! have guides to help you export emails from their applications. (For example, here’s how you’ll export emails from Gmail into GoldFynch’s eDiscovery software)

Remember, with cloud eDiscovery, you get near-unlimited storage space.

The Cloud is perfect for eDiscovery because you can upgrade your case in seconds to get hundreds of gigabytes of storage at rock-bottom prices. This is perfect for when a client suddenly sends over thousands of new emails from a forgotten custodian.

Now that your emails are loaded, you’ll run a few ‘quick searches’ using your eDiscovery software’s search engine. It works the same as a Google search, in that you’ll explore your case by typing in a keyword, name, topic, or date. For example, if you’re interested in the email exchanges custodians John Anderson and Sally Nedry had with each other about the severance package, you’ll type in some of those keywords and scroll through the results. Your eDiscovery application will suggest related searches in its dropdown menu, and it’ll isolate emails from other files like documents, images, spreadsheets, etc.

Remember that you can search metadata.

Each of your emails come with contextual information like who sent the email (and when), who received it (and when), what route it took to reach the recipient, etc. This bonus information is called metadata, and it can be vital in building a defensible case. (For example, the ‘date’ metadata field can tell you whether an email was sent before or after a pivotal leak of confidential documents.) The best eDiscovery search engines don’t just search an email’s contents – they search its metadata, too. So, in our example from above, if we searched for ‘John Anderson’, it would bring up emails where people mention his name, as well as emails where he is listed in the ‘sender’ or ‘recipient’ metadata fields. Learn more about metadata.

You can search email attachments, too.

When you upload an email that also has an attachment, your eDiscovery software categorizes them as being part of the same ‘file family.’ I.e., it sees them as associated files, with the email being the ‘parent’ and the attachment the ‘child.’ This grouping means that you can search attachments for keywords, too, and your software will also catch the parent email. For example, say a custodian sends an email with the subject ‘The requested document,’ body text that says ‘Here you go,’ and an attachment titled ‘John’s severance package’. A quick search will find the keyword ‘severance package’ in the attachment, but the parent-child link will pull the parent email up as well, even though it doesn’t have the keyword in its body content.

Now that you’ve run a few keyword searches to feel out your case, you’re ready to dig a little deeper. An advanced search lets you combine keywords to zero in on specific emails. So, you can ask your search engine to, ‘Find all emails that John Anderson sent Sally Nedry about the severance package. But which were sent after April 2018.’ It’s a complex command using Boolean operators, but the best eDiscovery applications simplify the process. You’ll build the search in stages using simple dropdown boxes. (5 steps to creating an advanced search.) And once you’ve built it, you can test it on a small sample of files in your case and tweak it based on the results. Once you’re happy with the search command, you’ll be able to save it to reuse later or share it with your team.

Once you’ve found responsive emails, you’ll want to group them and/or highlight them for later. Here’s where ‘tags’ come in. They’re virtual post-its you can tack on to emails without altering the email’s data/metadata. Once you’ve tagged a few emails, you’ll be able to pull them all up later (e.g., to produce files) simply by clicking on the relevant tag. And when you’re skimming through emails, their tags will tell you how they fit into your larger case strategy. Learn more about eDiscovery tags.

Note: Make sure your eDiscovery application has the right ‘tag’ features.

You’ll want three key tag features. First, you’ll want ‘quick’ tags. I.e., tags that are automatically set up and ready to use with a single click. For example: ‘Non-Responsive,’ ‘Irrelevant,’ ‘Important,’ and ‘Confidential.’ You’ll also want to make sure you can convert ‘custom’ tags that you create (e.g., the tag ‘ACP’ for Attorney-Client Privilege) into quick tags. Next, you’ll want a ‘group tags’ feature that lets you tag entire file families in one go. And finally, you’ll want to be able to add ‘tag notes’ when needed – i.e., short descriptions that add context to each tag you create. These descriptions make it easier for your team to understand why you chose a particular tag for a given file. See how easy it is to create and add tag notes.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use search engine to sort through eDiscovery emails, consider using GoldFynch.

GoldFynch is an eDiscovery service designed for small and midsize law firms. We started by building the software around a powerful search engine and other key eDiscovery tools. But we then worked on keeping the tech easy-to-use and affordable. Here’s why GoldFynch might interest you:

  • It costs just $10 a month for a 1 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. 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 charges only for storage (processing files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (1 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch 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 trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?