How to Handle eDiscovery for Gmail

03 January 2022 by Anith eDiscovery processing

Takeaway: Gmail is perfect for emailing but not for eDiscovery. So, export your emails out of Gmail (as an MBOX file), import them into your eDiscovery software, and use key eDiscovery tools to sort through and prepare them for production.

Gmail is perfect for emailing but not for eDiscovery.

Gmail has great archiving and search tools to help tackle email. But these aren’t enough for eDiscovery. For example, its search engine can help you find emails with responsive keywords, dates, etc. But it can only tackle emails. So, you can’t search email attachments or documents like PDFs, Word files, and spreadsheets. And you won’t be able to tag, redact, and produce your emails either.

So, what can you do instead? Transfer your emails into an eDiscovery application and review them there.

Instead of using Gmail to review your emails, you can use a dedicated eDiscovery application. (Here’s how to choose the right eDiscovery application for your law firm.) Once you’ve got the software, follow these 7 simple steps to review and produce your Gmail mailbox.

Step 1: Export your Gmail mailbox

Gmail lets you export emails via an MBOX file. You’ll need to go to Google Takeout, where you’ll find a list of export-ready apps like Google Calendar, Google Drive, etc. By default, the entire list is ‘checked’ and ready for export, so you’ll want to first uncheck them all by clicking the ‘Select None’ button. Next, scroll down till you see the Gmail app, click the checkbox next to it, and choose the ‘export all emails’ option that pops up. Google will package your emails as an MBOX file within a ZIP file, and share a download link.

Step 2: Import the mailbox into your eDiscovery software

You’re now ready to import your mailbox into your eDiscovery application. If you’re using Cloud-based software like GoldFynch, you’ll simply drag and drop your MBOX file into your eDiscovery browser. GoldFynch will automatically unzip/process it, and use optical character recognition (OCR) to extract text from attached PDFs and scanned documents. GoldFynch will also keep file families together, making it easier to track attachments.

Step 3: Explore your emails using your software’s search engine

Now that you’ve loaded your emails, you’ll be able to use eDiscovery-specific tools. For example, you’ll now be able to explore your emails using ‘quick searches.’ That is, you’ll type in a topic, name, keyword, or date, and your software will pull up relevant emails. Remember, eDiscovery software can handle more than just emails, though, so you’ll be able to search any electronically stored information. For example, if you search for the custodian names ‘John Peterson’ and ‘Sally Andry,’ your software will pull up email exchanges, attached PDFs, Word documents, images, and more. Anything with those keywords (i.e., names) in them. It’ll also suggest related searches. And remember, you can search file metadata, too. So, in our John/Sally example, the software will look for the keywords in your emails’ body content and the ‘sender’/’recipient’ metadata fields.

Step 4: Zero in on responsive files using ‘advanced’ searches

After running a few basic searches, you’ll have a feel for your case. Now you can start digging a little deeper with advanced searches, where you’ll combine keywords to find niche files. So, with our John/Sally example, you’d be able to tell your software to ‘Find the emails that Sally sent to John between April 2019 and May 2020.’ You’ll do this by nesting Boolean operators via simple dropdown boxes. (See how advanced searches work.) And you’ll build each search in stages by testing it on a few emails, tweaking it based on your results, and testing it again. Once you’ve refined it enough, you’ll be able to save it to reuse later.

Once you’ve found responsive emails, you’ll begin tagging them, so they’re easier to review and produce. Think of tags as virtual post-its that you can tack onto related emails and files without changing any metadata. That way, you can pull up batches of files simply by clicking on the relevant tag. And they’ll add context to files, telling you how each file fits into your larger case strategy. Also, you’ll use tags to pull up the files you want to produce. Learn more about eDiscovery tags.

Step 6: Redact sensitive information

Electronic files come with metadata, so we can’t redact them by simply drawing a (virtual) line through sensitive text. (Remember, an expert can peel away superficial redactions and access hidden metadata.) Instead, we’ll need to ‘burn in’ redaction boxes and wipe out relevant metadata. eDiscovery applications like GoldFynch have a convenient redaction manager to track your work, a preview mode to overview redactions before finalizing them, and the option to redact entire pages at a go. Most importantly, they’ll convert native files to PDFs and TIFFs before redacting them. That way, you’ll still have the originals (and their metadata) in case they’re needed later on. Learn more about eDiscovery redaction.

Step 7: Produce and share your emails

The best eDiscovery applications guide you via a production wizard. With GoldFynch, you’ll be able to choose which emails to produce, which format to produce them in, and more. Your productions will get Bates-stamped automatically, and you’ll be able to share them via a download link. That way, you can invalidate the link at any point by clicking the ‘revoke’ button in your GoldFynch browser. (Learn more about producing files.)

Don’t yet have the right software for email eDiscovery? Try GoldFynch.

If you’re looking for affordable eDiscovery software that can handle any type of eDiscovery, give GoldFynch a shot. It’s a Cloud eDiscovery service designed for small and midsize firms like yours. That’s why: