| COMPLEX LITIGATION DOCUMENT PRODUCTION
AND TRACKING: IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME!!!
BY JIM BARBER, CP
A light breeze kept the temperature quite pleasant as I strolled to
opposing counsel’s office this late Utah summer afternoon to
conduct a document review. Stopping at a crosswalk, I thought about
the planning and strategy meeting of last week, wherein we discussed
what specific items I needed to look for in the anticipated three
to five thousand page document production of opposing counsel and
how quickly I could have those detailed items copied and returned
to our office for use in a motion currently being drafted. My thoughts
were piercingly interrupted by the audible crosswalk sound for the
visually impaired at which point I continued on to opposing counsel’s
Upon entering the reception area I was asked to take a seat and politely
advised someone would be down in a minute to escort me to a conference
room where the document review was to take place. Moments later a
paralegal colleague appeared who escorted me to the conference room.
Upon entering the conference room I noticed several banker’s’
boxes around three walls of the room, with two banker’s boxes
on the conference table. Anticipating only one banker’s box,
and at most two, it struck me as rather odd for all of these other
boxes to be in the conference room.
“Before I could
verbalize a question, opposing counsel entered the room; we exchanged
greetings; he then uttered those unexpected words: ‘Along these
walls you have 75 banker’s boxes of documents, with an additional
16 expandable file folders on the window sills and 203 banker’s
boxes shrink-wrapped in our clients’ warehouse. Where would
you like for us to have those delivered for your review?’ All
I remember saying is, ‘Pardon me, would you please repeat what
you just said very slowly?’ It was at this very moment my work
life dramatically changed for several months to come.”
Over 200,000 documents were contained in the banker’s boxes
and expandable file folders that day, not counting the estimated 600,000
documents contained in the 203 shrink-wrapped banker’s boxes
and 300,000 documents expected as a result of subpoenas. Some of the
200,000 documents had been placed on CD’s and DVD’s as
single-page, non-searchable, tagged-image file format, more commonly
known as tif images. A tif image is a picture, which format is used
extensively for traditional print graphics.
Complicating matters further, although the documents contained Bates
stamp numbers, the documents did not contain a Bates stamp numbering
sequence specific to our case. In fact, opposing counsel adamantly
stated it would not provide a Bates stamp numbering sequence for these
documents specific for use in this case. As it turns out, the majority
of these documents were produced in other litigation by opposing counsel
and other parties, and contained Bates stamp numbers unique to those
cases leaving me with approximately 30 different Bates stamp number
sequences to follow.
Considering all of this it was imperative that I remember 18 subpoenas
were pending service to various individuals, businesses and government
agencies, where I had assigned an additional Bates stamp number sequence
specific to each subpoena. Now I was facing almost 50 different Bates
stamp number sequences to track.
Having gathered the background information concerning opposing counsel’s
documents, documents yet to be produced and the overall size of this
project, I needed to form a plan which would allow me to effectively
accomplish the enormous tasks associated with handling a large document
After providing a detailed report and my plan for a solution, to my
supervising attorney and subsequently to the firm’s administration,
where I was charged with the responsibility of carrying out my all
inclusive economical plan which not only accomplishes the firm’s
document needs related to this case, but also the firm’s needs
in the future, where the majority of all document production would
be provided to opposing counsel electronically via the internet.
It was also incumbent on me to keep in mind the firm must not only
meet its specific document needs in Salt Lake City, but also the needs
of the client located in Pittsburgh, the insurance company located
in New York, national counsel whose offices are located in Los Angeles
& New York, other counsel in Washington D.C. and a party of interest
near Tallahassee, Florida.
Realizing the document production received thus far in this case,
combined with the estimated documents on the way, would be virtually
impossible to control manually, I knew I would need to steer this
project into the world of electronic imaging, a world where the firm
possessed short range plans to go within the next couple of years,
but had not actually started the steps to get there.
Facing this reality, I immediately sent e-mails to various paralegal
colleagues seeking advice; posting requests for advice on paralegal
bulletin boards; and participating in paralegal e-group forums. Additionally,
I contacted national and local paralegal associations, including the
paralegal divisions of various state bar associations. I received
an overwhelming response containing excellent thoughts, suggestions
and comments. As a result of those responses I began a journey down
the path to what I refer to as “software world.”
Software world is a place where every software vendor has the answer
to any and all of your needs, for a price which typically exceeds
your budget. Upon arriving I began researching and testing software
product after software product. After having researched over ten different
software products, I decided the best and most cost effective solution
for our needs was the askSam SDK Engine for user network software
Major factors involved in the decision to select the askSam software
were: 1) its searchable free form database format, 2) ability to manually
code documents, 3) speedy search results over the internet of gigabytes
& terabytes of information, 4) ability to search within results,
5) versatility, 6) ability to add customization at any time, 7) price
(once you pay for it you own perpetual licensing rights, no additional
fees unless you request additional services), 8) unlimited users included
in base costs (do not have to pay annual per user license fees or
user port fees), 9) accessible anywhere in the world you have an internet
connection and 10) customer satisfaction money back guarantee (some
Remembering a previous litigation case where I received exceptional
coding assistance from Bret Laughlin (email@example.com) with the
Litigation Document Group an outside coding vendor assisting firms
across the United States, who coded our documents (coding which basically
consisted of inputting bibliographic and keyword information into
the electronic form of the document). I thought it would not only
be a cost saving but a great value if, as documents are initially
imported into askSam, the askSam program would automatically populate
the bibliographic fields and assign master keywords to a document.
I began working on a “logic flow” for custom programming
by the askSam development department to achieve that goal.
The first “logic flow” project went so well, I began a
second “logic flow” project for the sole purpose of automatically
assigning categories to certain documents. To achieve this goal, I
requested my supervising attorney to provide me with a category name
such as “fraud” and fifteen “fraud” category
keywords. Using this information, when the documents are initially
imported into askSam, the askSam program with a match of any four
or more of the fifteen “fraud” category keywords within
the document, automatically assigns that document to the “fraud”
category. Of course, categories and category keywords may be added,
modified or deleted at any time. By implementation of these custom
programmed logic flows it drastically reduced and in some cases eliminated
coding costs altogether.
As with any project, certain nuisances become apparent and this project
was no different. While traveling this path I learned in order for
any software to be able to search single-page tif images, those images
must first be converted using an OCR method into searchable images
so certain software can read them. Once this was accomplished, I learned
you have to be concerned about multipage tif images, versus single
page tif images, which creates the need for document unitization.
At this stage, one very important item I learned was to ensure you
have Bates stamp number matching; otherwise your electronic documents
will contain one number and the actual tif image of the document another.
Incredibly through the invaluable assistance of Boo Bendinger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with IKON Office Solutions, who offers document efficiency solutions
throughout the United States, the nuisances were overcome with ease.
Should an enormous document project ever be assigned to you, first
and foremost, stay calm, keep your wits about you, and don’t
overlook your paralegal colleagues, an invaluable information source.
With the information I received from my paralegal colleagues, I not
only saved time and steps, but was pointed in the right direction
of how to approach the challenge of complex litigation document production
This article captures my experiences concerning a large document project
assigned to me during the course of my employment. My experiences
may not necessarily reflect experiences of others who may have been
associated with the project. Notably, each document production project
is unique and should be considered with those specifics in mind. I
encourage every law firm, attorney and paralegal to seek guidance
from colleagues, coding vendors, document solution vendors, software
vendors and others regarding the handling of any large document project.
This article is not intended nor should it be considered legal advice.
Jim Barber is an accomplished author with articles published in various
legal publications and journals. .
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