Scanned Paper (part IV)

Objective Coding:

“Who, What, When” will help you figure out “Where and How”

One definition of the word objective I found online is:

“uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices; presented factually”. 

This is accurate when it comes to the objective coding of documents in the not so objective world of litigation.  While you may believe that having OCR for .pdfs or associated text for .tiffs gives you the searching capabilities that you need, having documents objectively coded will really allow you to refine those searches and hone in on the specific documents you are looking for. 

OCR and associated text allows you to search for keywords through the entire text of the document, whereas objective coding allows you to choose specific fields where the name, word or date you are looking for exists.  You also are allowed to create a list of document types (i.e. Email, Financial Record, Police Report, Memo, etc.) specific to your case so that you can identify a specific subset of documents for review.  You can also combine information found in different fields to even further refine your search. 

The standard objective coding fields are:

  1. Author
  2. Recipient
  3. Copyee
  4. Date
  5. Title
  6. Document Type

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For example:

Your search results for a document authored by “John Smith” on “January 1, 2010” would differ tremendously depending on whether you used OCR or objective coding to run your search. 

If you only used OCR for your search, you would find every single document that not only was authored by “John Smith” but in which his name appears.  You would also retrieve every document in which “January 1, 2010″ appears, even if it was simply mentioned in the body of the text.  This could result in an unwieldy subset of documents and not really help you identify the particular subset of documents you are looking for. 

However, if your documents were objectively coded, you could simply search in the Author field for “John Smith” and in the Date field for “January 1, 2010” and find any documents that specifically fit that criteria. 

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If you don’t get objective coding with your discovery, ask for it.  Objective coding contains objective information – facts, not opinions or ideas about a document.  Opposing counsel would not be revealing any information about their case, about their case strategy or about the strengths and weaknesses of the discovery by sharing any objective coding they have done.  No privilege would be breached and no attorney work product would be turned over.  Rather, a win-win situation is created when the cost of capturing factual information that will equally help both parties organize and review the discovery is shared. 

Up next:

Part V: Running a Document Inventory

Scanned Paper (part III)

Unitization:

Where One Document Ends, Another Always Begins

When you receive a set of scanned documents as part of your discovery, you should be able to visualize how those documents were kept in the original custodian’s desk drawer.  You should be able to identify which documents were kept together within a file folder or binder and where one document ends and the next begins.  Being able to recognize the order and organization of your discovery means that the documents were properly unitized.  

Having properly unitized documents is key to being able to effectively review scanned discovery.  You can efficiently move from one document to the next, as well as get a sense of how the documents relate to each other.  It is almost impossible to only work with just loose pages, so you should always ask for discovery to be produced to you with its proper unitization. 

Keep in mind there are two types of unitization: 

1. Physical Breaks:

A document can simply be defined by its physical breaks.  This includes staples, paper clips, binders, folders, etc.  Unitization by physical breaks is usually done at the time of scanning, as the scanning operator is able to see where the breaks exist.  If you choose to unitize documents by their physical breaks, no relationships between documents are captured but it will be clear where one document ends and the next begins. 

2. Logical Document Determination (LDD):

What is logical about a stack of paper that has sat in somebody’s desk for years you might ask?  Whether we want to admit it or not, the way those documents were kept is often a major part of the story a litigation team is trying to tell.  A common way to describe documents that are related is to say they are part of a family of documents. 

for example:

If you know that a spreadsheet was clipped to a memo, even though the memo made no mention of any attached spreadsheet, you have learned a telling piece of information about the relationship between those documents.

 

If the documents are given to you with a load file, the load file will act as your roadmap.  Typically, a production of single page .tiffs that would reflect a huge stack of loose paper if printed are accompanied by a load file that lays out where the document breaks are.  If the documents have been logically unitized, the load file will also identify the parentchild attachments.

If the documents are not unitized when you receive them, you may want to contact the source and ask them for a untized set.  If the source does not have a unitized set, the best option is typically to contact a litigation vendor who is familiar with the process of unitization.  They usually have teams of people trained in using software specifically designed to create document breaks as well as identify document families.

Up next:

Part IV: Objective Coding – “Who, What, When” will help you figure out “Where and How”