Death of the TIFF Image?
Contrary to the opinions of many attorneys, productions have always been an ever-evolving landscape. When I started working in this industry many legal teams were still printing boxes of paper and their paralegals were sticking little labels with bates numbers onto the bottom of each page. There were a few who had me stamp the number on the document and print them out with the number already on them, but the production format was in paper.
If you remember those days, you know how horrible it was not only to prepare those productions but to try to go through them after you received them. When we received a paper production, we would scan it, OCR it, and then load it into Summation, often for the paralegals and staff to review as the attorney flipped through the paper. The question posed by many litigation support professionals and staff at that time was, “Why not ask for the production in TIFF format, with Summation load files up front instead of going to all of this expense after the fact?” Despite that point of view, that process remained the status quo for quite some time, because attorneys of that era wanted paper in their hands, and did not want to have to open a database to see their documents. Ultimately, case teams changed – not because they wanted to change, but because the size of data and productions forced them to change.
Just as it was in the days of paper, when teams were forced into TIFF review, we are now at a crossroads regarding the creation of TIFF productions as opposed to native productions. Productions in TIFF format have become the standard. Many benefits are cited, including the ability to stamp and number each page, the ability to redact, and the fact that data cannot be altered – what you see is what you get. The issue is that data sizes are increasing at an incredible rate, making TIFF processing and production extremely expensive. The cost and time differences between rendering documents to TIFF and processing natively is substantial. Many cases simply are not worth the cost of the document productions. When that is the case, native productions make more financial sense.
Secondly, documents are becoming increasingly more complex. Documents are now layered, include multi-media, and may be multi-dimensional, containing many embedded formulas, references, tracked changes, etc. TIFF images and load files simply do not have the ability to hold this detailed information and native files must be provided to allow the parties to view the entire document. Gone are the days when a document production simply required an image of the printed page.
Judges, especially those in federal court, are becoming more knowledgeable of the eDiscovery process and are no longer accepting TIFF productions. In a recent interview, U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis of New York’s Southern District commented that he is getting much tougher on lawyers who come before his court requesting that data be converted to TIFF images before it is handed over. Attorneys must be able to show that the original documents would harm the company before a TIFF request will be granted.
Similar to the evolution of the legal industry from paper to TIFF images, the standard is now shifting to native productions. Legal teams should embrace the cost savings and great enhancements this brings to viewing and searching produced documents. Doing otherwise would be the same as continuing to practice in the past, for no good reason other than because “that is the way we have always handled it.”