It is a standard practice to incorporate coding into the review system alongside the images (TIFFs or PDFs) of paper documents. Coding can be classified into two categories: Objective and Subjective coding. Generally, paper documents have a minimum of Objective coding applied.
Objective coding refers to information that can be directly extracted from the document. This typically includes six fields:
- Document Date (with an additional field indicating whether the date has been estimated).
- Document Title.
- Document Type.
Subjective coding, on the other hand, is information added by a suitably qualified individual, addressing aspects such as relevance, privilege, trade secrets, and personal data.
The necessity of applying Objective coding to Electronically Stored Information (ESI) is a subject of debate. Emails, for example, do not require additional coding, as they inherently contain the date, title, and addressee information. However, coding is sometimes added to Word documents, as it can be challenging to identify objective information from a Word file’s metadata. Nevertheless, given the sheer volume of ESI, coding, even when performed by an offshore Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) provider, can significantly increase costs.
An important consideration when working with ESI metadata is the presence of multiple dates, such as date created, date last printed, and date last saved. The standard practice is to use the “date last saved” as the date for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, or PDFs, but this may not correspond to the date displayed within the item. There is no straightforward solution for this discrepancy; it is crucial to be aware of the limitations when relying on metadata for dating items.