What Do I Have?
“Litigants can spend upwards of $18,000 to collect, process and review a single gigabyte of data,” according to Benedict Hur and Matthew Werdegar in September 2014’s issue of Corporate Counsel in "3 E-discovery Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore." Actually, I am sure they can spend more, but the point of this article is to look at ways of decreasing, not increasing, those potential ediscovery costs.
Not every firm is able or willing to purchase e-discovery software to use in-house. But even small dollar cases can involve gigabytes of electronic files. So, when your client or opposing counsel drops a gigabyte or two of data in email, pdf, Microsoft Office and other formats, how do you handle it? Some approach it by trying to open and read each file; some try to convert to PDF or other, familiar format; some still print to paper. There are even those who ignore what is unfamiliar and hope it will not matter.
There are cases where each of these options is viable and sufficient. However, what does the small firm or solo practitioner do when none of these options is enough and the volume of eDiscovery starts spiraling out of control?
Here are a few useful steps you can take immediately to help you corral this data beast. The first is to identify what you have. This may seem easy and obvious, but this step can mean a world of difference when it comes to the bottom line. Identifying what types of files you have (and how many) will help you decide where to begin, how to focus your efforts, and how to manage time and budget while getting to the documents you need.
A good place to start in identifying what you have is to map out what you have received. Get a directory print or map of both the files AND the directories. People include an amazing amount of data in just the file and/or folder names. Frequently, you can exclude certain files based on the folder name, filename or file extension. You may even find a gold mine of material in a folder titled “Smoking Gun” (not so likely, but still possible!).
Regardless of what you find, you now have an idea of what is on the drive, disc, or other media you have received. While file and directory names and file extensions are not guaranteed to be accurate, they can be a very useful place to start review. You now know if you have hundreds of PDFs or TIF files, a handful of PST files and dozens of AutoCad drawings. You can really begin to assess what you need to do locate and access useful data.
If you load that map or directory print into a database or even a spreadsheet, you are now managing your e-discovery, which, after all, is the first goal. You may still have a beast, but at least you are starting to tame it.
Susan Mayer is President and CEO of Litigation Abstract headquartered in Missoula, Montana. Since 1989, Litigation Abstract has provided litigation support services to a variety of public and private clients in both civil and criminal litigation in federal and state courts across the United States. Visit: www.litigationabstract.com. Susan can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.