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Most attorneys recognize the importance of the growing body of law surrounding electronic discovery, but they lack information about the technology behind the law. The ABA recently completed a technology survey of more than 9,000 attorneys nationwide in which 94 percent of respondents said they had no e-discovery experience. Many attorneys incorrectly use the term electronic discovery as a catchall to refer to any process for reviewing documents that originated from clients’ computers. From there, the process may diverge into some combination of manual review of paper documents and electronic scanning of paper images to be reviewed in a standalone database. While this misunderstanding of electronic discovery is understandable, it hinders the development of best practices for handling electronic documents in the most efficient and advantageous manner. True e-discovery is characterized by technology that keeps electronic files in electronic form from start to finish. With this process, electronic documents are gathered from clients’ computers in many different file formats, processed to a uniform format for review (commonly PDF), and then hosted in a highly secure, Web-based database. The review team accesses the database from any PC with an Internet connection and uses a single interface to complete subsequent processes such as document review, annotations, privilege redactions, Bates numbering and categorization for production. If electronic files are reduced to paper format at any stage in the review process, the benefits of true e-discovery technology are diminished. While there is still some debate surrounding the pros and cons of the PDF and TIFF file formats for electronic discovery, it is clear that the courts favor PDF. The federal courts’ Case Management/Electronic Case Files project is being implemented in courts nationwide and requires filing of all court documents in PDF. For more information, visit www.uscourts.gov. PLAN OF ACTION Equipped with a greater understanding of the meaning of e-discovery, the next logical step is to create an action plan for putting the technology to work.

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