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Requesting Native Files
Though requesting native productions is generally considered the smart move for e-discovery these days, it’s a process that must be approached carefully. These productions tend to be faster, more efficient, and are better at maintaining data fidelity—but here are a few key points that attorneys should be aware of.
1. When you say “native” what do you mean exactly?
The term native seems simple enough—files in the original format created by the authoring program. However, there are actually several varieties of e-discovery formats used in legal review, each offering varying amounts of “native” file properties.
- True Native: Copies of the original files in their original format. Metadata is kept intact. This is the primary format for what most of us consider to be “native productions.”
- Near Native: Less concretely defined than true native, these files are generally documents that have electronically accessible contents and metadata. Relational databases or email can also be included in this category.
- Near Paper: TIFF and PDF files that cannot be searched or indexed, preventing ESI from being categorized and reviewed by software tools.
- Paper: Original paper documents or electronic files that have been printed out.
Attorneys should be aware of these differences when requesting native files. The quality of metadata and variety of file types you’ll receive will greatly depend on how native files are defined in your case.
2. Native file productions may contain non-standard formats.
Native reviews can pose problems not found in other productions. In Florida we often see various CAD files that have layers of drawings and revisions not viewable with out a specific piece of software.
If opposing counsel produces native ESI with numerous databases, hidden cells, and worksheets, these deep fields may not be easily visible to users. Native file productions may also include broad ranges of niche file extensions that may not be recognized by basic review tools. ESI that involves these challenging formats can require significant manpower to review manually.
3. Redaction Challenges
Despite how messy it can get, it’s certainly possible to redact native files. This process starts causing issues when redacted data interferes with platform triggers, cell formulas, and other macros that are known to alter metadata. Special precautions must be taken when redacting unusual file types.
Common practice is to deliver redacted documents in image formats like PDF or TIFF, while producing the rest of the files in their original form. Tools like Eclipse, by IPRO allow Tiff-ing on the fly. The platform only creates a Tiff when redacting is present and excludes that native and the related Metadata from the production.
4. Native documents and numbering
Even though native files can’t be directly Bates stamped, other reference and tracking systems can be used to create a similar effect. These files can be manually catalogued and tracked in separate programs, allowing reviewers to input reference data into headers or footers of printed pages. Parties are also beginning to use court-accepted Unique Production Identifiers to simulate Bates stamping by including structured reference data in the filename.
Going native is easy and productive if you understand landscape of the files you are requesting and have a powerful review tool like IPRO Eclipse www.iprotech.com. These file reviews tend to produce less cluttered discoveries and do well at producing ESI without degradation. The way native productions may affect your discovery varies across each case. Make sure your team understands the limitations of these productions—and how they can be used for more efficient discovery.