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When it comes to producing electronically stored information (ESI), eDiscovery managers can choose between multiple formats. To this end, native production is becoming an increasingly popular method for its ability to lower costs, improve accuracy, and ensure a speedy and efficient eDiscovery process.
Read on to learn what native production means through an eDiscovery lens, along with some benefits of using this format.
What Is Native Production in eDiscovery?
Native production in eDiscovery is the production and analysis of file types in their original format from their source location.
Viewing and processing native eDiscovery content requires a dedicated document viewer. However, it requires no additional time or effort to produce ESI natively, making it a preferred choice for many legal teams during eDiscovery.
What Is a Native File Format?
Just as the name suggests, a native file format refers to a document’s original file type. When a file is in its native format, it’s without conversion or modification. In other words, the file is in its original condition.
To illustrate, this may include Word documents in .doc or .docx format, Excel spreadsheets in .xls or .xlsx format, or PowerPoint presentations in .ppt or .pptx. Additional examples include emails as .eml or .msg, and online content in WARC or web archive format.
By producing files in their native format, you can present them as undoctored evidence. It’s a way to grant an opposing legal party a direct snapshot into what a file looks like in its original state—like an email that someone sends or a financial presentation.
It’s important to realize that native file formats don’t require their native applications. To clarify, you don’t need Microsoft Word to view a .docx file. Modern eDiscovery platforms make it possible to view files in their native formats without requiring their supporting applications.
FRCP Rule 34 and Form of Production
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 (FRCP 34) provides guidelines for the proper form of production during civil cases. This rule grants multiple options for producing ESI in court.
Rule 34 (2) (E) (i) says that a party must produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business. Or they must organize and label them to correspond to the requested categories. Furthermore, if a request doesn’t specify a form for producing ESI.In that case, the party must produce it in a form or forms that it ordinarily maintains or in a reasonably usable form.
For example, a court may order a plaintiff to produce native file formats instead of PDFs under certain circumstances. This may happen when a party produces documents in non-searchable PDF formats instead of native formats. In such a case, the opposing party may object to the file format and ask the court to compel the production of native-format documents.
This example typically happens with cases involving large volumes of data or information spread over a long period of time. Documents need to be easily accessible and searchable in order to discover information and reduce review times. That being the case, it’s a good idea to review your information before the court to determine how the opposing party may want to see and access the information. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to produce the documents in a specific way.
What Are the Benefits of Native Production?
Native production is advisable when producing spreadsheets, electronic presentations, and word processing documents during eDiscovery. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top benefits of using native productions during eDiscovery.
Native productions are typically more affordable because they don't require any image conversion, optical character recognition (OCR), or text extraction. On top of this, native productions avoid additional fees from metadata extraction and load file creation.
Because of that, lower eDiscovery costs benefit clients by requiring them to pay less for legal services. This improves client satisfaction and leads to better reviews and word-of-mouth referrals.
In addition to saving money, native productions also lead to more accurate search results. This is due to the fact that extracting text is superior to OCR, which can vary in terms of effectiveness and accuracy.
Native productions also ensure greater data integrity. Converting data into a static image usually leads to metadata loss and makes the data less useful as evidence in court.
More Efficient Reviews
Native production enables greater efficiency during legal reviews by allowing legal teams to quickly search and filter metadata fields. For example, a team may want to filter by document type or creation date. With this type of enhanced search capability, legal teams have an easier time culling data.
This is very important because eDiscovery needs to move quickly. Legal teams often struggle to move through early case assessments and wind up falling behind schedule. Thankfully, native production helps ensure speedy and accurate ECAs.
Stronger Case Analysis
Exchanging ESI natively enables legal teams to spend less time extracting and processing data and more time analyzing the key issues of the case. It leads to a smoother and more efficient eDiscovery process for both parties and increases the chances of having a fair, efficient, and civil legal proceeding.
eDiscovery Native Production Best Practices
As you can see, there are many reasons to use native production during eDiscovery, and most firms are now using this strategy. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind during this process.
Know When to Use Native Production
It’s important to make sure your production method aligns with the needs of your case. For example, certain situations may require you to scrub metadata when producing a document. In these instances, you’ll want to avoid using native production.
Use eDiscovery Platforms to Mark Up Native Documents
You no longer need to use PDFs or TIFFs to mark up documents. Now you can do so using most eDiscovery platforms without impacting their native form.
It’s a good idea to ensure that your chosen platform has a markup tool. This saves time and gives you the freedom to modify documents without converting them to PDF or TIFF formats.
Agree to a Format Ahead of Time
In general, it’s better to avoid asking opposing parties to switch their production formats during a case. When this happens, it slows down the legal proceedings. It can also create tension and irritate opposing parties.
As such, it’s usually advisable to attempt to agree to production formats ahead of time during a meet-and-confer session. In other words, you should try and talk to the opposing legal team and determine whether your production request aligns with their data. Asking for PDFs or native files ahead of time allows them to prepare for the hearing in advance, saving them time and stress.
Automate the Process with eDiscovery Software
Most legal teams are now using eDiscovery platforms to reduce the time and cost of native ESI production. With the help of an eDiscovery platform, you can centralize the management of documents and drastically reduce the time that it takes to upload and cull data and review information.
In this article, you've seen what native production means in eDiscovery, its benefits, and some best practices. You've also learned that automating the process with an eDiscovery platform can save time and cost.
If you're looking to take the next steps toward automation, Venio Systems is a one-stop-shop for eDiscovery, offering a purpose-built platform for producing and managing ESI. Venio offers a user-friendly self-service interface with unlimited throughput, data processing, and visualization tools. You can use Venio to produce ESI in whatever form you need—quickly, securely, and accurately.
To learn more about how Venio can streamline document production for your firm, request a demo today.
About the Author
Justin Reynolds, Akshita Singhal & Lianna Vaughan
This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling. This post was reviewed and published by Akshita and Lianna, the in-house team of Venio.