There are a variety of acceptable production formats, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. To determine the best fit for your case, look down the road and consider the scope, goals, and methodology of your review.
An ‘electronic search’ approach to discovery requires that all documents be converted to an electronically searchable form and that a method of searching across all files is available. For electronic documents delivered in native file format, search is usually possible in some form or another. This is particularly true for standard Microsoft Office documents. Email presents more difficulties, as email attachments may need to be deconstructed from the electronic file holding the email to be searched. Paper-based documents must be scanned and OCRed to make them searchable as electronic files. The OCR process inevitably introduces OCR errors, which diminishes the effectiveness of the electronic search, as compared with the search of native files or electronic documents based on native files.
The ‘electronic search’ approach also requires that all documents are addressable as a collection from a single search query. Litigation document repositories may be established to make all documents accessible and searchable, often between multiple parties in different locations. These systems may be comprehensive and expensive. Alternatively, a law firm may make documents searchable from a file server on its local area network, or run LAN-based case management software, which may allow for indexing and searching of litigation files. For a very small case, all documents might be stored on a single CD or DVD, or kept on a portable hard drive, and searched from the Windows operating system.
Attorneys are now taking several approaches to e-Discovery when searchability or metadata are important. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages.