The NZ E-Discovery Blog  Facilitating proportionate and efficient e-discovery

Don’t Press Print !

June 6th, 2014

One of the common issues that we still come across is law firms with clients that still insist on printing out electronic information. Printing documents that already exist in an electronic format is adding considerable (and unnecessary) burden and expense to the discovery process.

In this day in age where almost all documents originate in an electronic form, this may seem crazy, but it is happening – and probably happening more than we think.

When asked about why they received the documents in paper the responses generally include  –

“That’s how our client provided the documents to us”

“We only have the documents in paper”

“Our lawyers prefer to work with paper”

“We have always done discovery this way”

And then in almost the same breath we often hear “eDiscovery is expensive”.

What is expensive is not eDiscovery, but the reliance on paper and manual based methods to manage information that can be more effectively managed electronically.

What is happening?

The majority of paper documents are straight off a printer and are stored electronically elsewhere. There will always be a few documents that may no longer be available electronically, but these circumstances should become increasing rare.

Printing documents adds unnecessary burden and expense to the discovery process

Turning documents that already exist in their native electronic application is adding unnecessary steps to the process.

Effectively what many are doing is PRINTING electronic information, and then SCANNING the paper documents, so they can be produced ELECTRONICALLY. Throw into the equation the process of then manually listing the documents, when the metadata would have already provided this information.

This is largely happening because there hasn’t been a dialogue between the law firm and the client over the most effective method to provide documents.

Planning your discovery strategy

It is important to invest more time at the start of a matter devising a discovery strategy. The initial planning will prevent the chance of duplicating work which can lead to considerable and needless expense. Even on the smallest of matters, investing an hour or so at the outset can provide considerable value as the matter progresses, including considerable cost savings.

Part of any discovery strategy will be a plan of how to best identify and then collect documents from your client.

Historically the process of collecting information from a client may have simply involved a request to the client to provide all ‘relevant’ information. It is now more important to be pro-active with the client, to collect the documents in the most effective manner possible.

In earlier posts I have identified the benefit of a questionnaire (or checklist) to assist the dialogue between the law firm and their client. This questionnaire can be used to ensure that both the law firm and the client are on the ‘same page’ as far as identifying the most effective method to collect the information.

Reducing the burden and expense of the discovery process

Collecting information in its original native application (e.g. word, excel, outlook), can save considerable cost and complication. The metadata (data about the information held within electronic files), can then be used to populate the list of documents. This will save the needless, expensive and time consuming exercise of scanning and listing documents.

The Discovery Checklist in the High Court discovery rules highlights ways to reduce these costs –

“to reduce unnecessary costs of listing documents parties are encouraged to: 

a)     Use native electronic versions of documents as much as possible; and

b)     Use the extracted metadata from native electronic documents instead of manually listing documents; and

c)     Convert documents to image format only when it is decided they are to be produced for discovery; and

d)     If document images are to be numbered, only number those images if they are to be produced for discovery.”

In addition, the effectiveness of working with paper or (scanned images), will present significant issues as the case progresses. It will be difficult to accurately search and review the documents, which will prevent a thorough interrogation of the information. At the end of the day a scanned image is little more than a photograph of the actual document.

Much of the expense and burden of the discovery process can be prevented by investing more time devising your discovery strategy – which should always include a dialogue with your client about the most effective method to provide documents.

Advising them to at least ‘Dont press print’ will be a start.



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