ESI processing for discovery is one of the areas in which legal practitioners need some level of technology competence to fulfill their duty. Although it is often given short shrift compared to the steps that come before it (preservation and collection) and after it (assessment, review, and production), effective processing is critical to the success of those downstream steps and includes a variety of important decisions to make.
Broadly speaking, there are four main activities that take place during processing: expansion, extraction and normalization, indexing, and objective culling. In this Part, we will discuss the first three of these activities, review how decisions made during them can affect later discovery activities, and touch on some of the tools commonly used to complete them.
Almost every processing effort encounters at least a few exceptions during processing that cannot be handled without some manual intervention (if they can be handled at all). Additionally, certain source types are special cases that routinely require custom work to process. The handling of these exceptions and special cases can affect both project costs and the completeness of your data set.
Processing also includes several types of objective culling that are used to reduce the amount of material that must be worked with throughout the subsequent phases of a discovery project, saving both time and money. The objective culling options commonly employed during processing are de-NISTing, deduplication, and content filtering.
In addition to the core activities of expansion, extraction, normalization, indexing, and objective culling that we have already discussed, there can be a variety of additional steps required during processing to prepare the materials for subsequent early case assessment, review, and production activities, including: creating custom fields, TIFF images, and load files; and performing some form of quality control validation.