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It is hardly going out on a limb to say that the handling of electronic data discovery is fraught with complexity. And that’s likely to increase when one considers the leading edge issues, such as corporate retention policies, data residing in remote or obscure places, dealing with information lodged in document management systems, or the implications of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. But it’s the nuts-and-bolts basics of handling electronic discovery that law firms are wrestling with on a daily basis — how data is processed and delivered to support the work attorneys must undertake to review and produce that data. Coincidentally, the e-discovery service industry, still in its infancy, is struggling with the basics, too. So it’s no surprise that some law firms remain uncomfortable with the basic issues of processing e-discovery, and, from one vendor to the next, law firms can experience a widely varying grasp on the same basic issues. Considering this, how do law firms best gain control over the product they receive? It begins with the discussion that is necessary before a vendor even begins processing a firm’s electronic data. This is when a firm gets maximum mileage out of paying attention to detail in establishing expectations about nitty-gritty processing issues. After all, what goes into a vendor’s process may not exit that process in appropriate form. (Appropriate form being defined as one that complies with the client firm’s requirements as well as avoiding or withstanding adversarial challenge.) Think of this initial discussion phase as an exercise in getting inside the vendor’s “black box.” COMPLETENESS Of course, for many reasons firms should ensure that the vendor has handled every file. How is a vendor’s compliance with their commitments monitored in the area of completeness? Taking advantage of reports is one way to monitor how a vendor’s compliance with their commitments stacks up. It pays to find out what reports a vendor can provide, and when they can provide them. Then, at agreed upon intervals, hold the vendor to its reporting commitments. Here are some useful report expectations: Upfront: A vendor should be able to provide a snapshot of the content of the data collection — in essence, a “preflight” report generated before any conversion or outputting is undertaken. A good preflight should tell you:

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