Does Paper Still Play a Role in eDiscovery in the Electronic Age?

Does Paper Still Play a Role in eDiscovery in the Electronic Age?

Although the days of document review teams sifting through boxes filled with thousands of paper documents, flagging them with different brightly colored sticky notes for relevance, privilege, and “hotness,” may be over, paper hasn’t disappeared entirely from the review process. Sometimes contracts, handwritten notes, and other older documentation still arrive at the review room in paper form—especially for organizations that have not yet implemented an information governance protocol.

 Though it may seem simple to scan and load these documents into a review platform, there are still some caveats to be aware of when reviewing hard-copy documents in a digital environment. Here are a few tips that can ensure your workflows for handling paper documents are as seamless as your ones for data.

 1. Don’t forget to ask about hard-copy documents.

 In the crush of discovery and litigation deadlines, it’s easy to forget about the need to preserve and collect paper documents. But even the most sophisticated tech businesses probably still have a file cabinet or two of paper documents that need searching. Be sure to ask your custodians whether they have any hard-copy files that could be relevant to the matter, and include hard-copy documents among the documents listed in your legal hold for custodians to preserve. Otherwise, you run the risk of sanctions for spoliating evidence.

 2. Unitize your paper documents.

Scanning paper documents into a review platform wholesale leads to a huge problem: a lack of breaks between documents. When collections are scanned without defining where documents begin or end, pages may wind up bundled into a single, large document, or they may even appear out of order, complicating the review. Therefore, always ask your scanning team to separate the paper pages into individual documents before you scan them, following the natural document breaks that staples, paper clips, folders, and the like create. Waiting to separate documents until after they’ve been loaded into a review database can create nightmares.

 3. Use scanning technology to index and tag documents.

 Optical character recognition (OCR) technology can help speed the processing and review of paper documents. OCR recognizes scanned images as text, rendering them searchable so you can apply filtering and analysis tools on them. However, OCR software is not without its limitations: handwritten text can be hard for some OCR tools to decipher, and that’s particularly true if the document has anything but a perfectly clean background. Choose software that can convert handwritten text as well as machine-generated text to data that your review platform can analyze. That way, just as with digital data, you’ll be able to detect similarities to and connections among the formerly paper documents to facilitate early case assessment—as well as to create timelines and relationships between custodians and facilitate the coding of these documents for issues and privilege.

 The key to a sound, defensible discovery process—whether you’re contending with digital data or scanned hard-copy documents—is the right eDiscovery software. To learn more about how iDISCOVER can help you get better, faster results in your next eDiscovery project, get in touch.

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