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What is Processing?

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If you work with an eDiscovery vendor more than likely you have heard the term "processing".  You might have thought to yourself "Okay, so my data is processing, that's good - I think." So, what exactly does that mean? Is that just a techie term we throw out at you to make you think that we are doing work? No, actually the word "processing" is the best non-tech way we can describe what we are doing.  I mean, if you REALLY want us to give you the details you might need to have an Excedrin bottle nearby.   Processing means that we are taking the data which you have provided to us, and we are using our software tools to convert it and organize it in a way to make it easier for you to manage.  With the enormous volume of data now, you will need some help with it.  Many years ago, it was only paper and all we had to do was scan the paper and covert the text to make them searchable.  It is a lot different today with media files, different file formats and we

Do You Want a Career in eDiscovery?

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I did not grow up dreaming of becoming an eDiscovery Specialist.  I wanted to be an astronaut but to be fair, there was no such thing as eDiscovery when I was a child and I was not on a career path to become an astronaut either.   My life path took me in this direction.  My career evolved from legal assistant to IT Specialist to Litigation Support Specialist to eDiscovery Engineer.   That's where I am today. This is not exactly the kind of career field which gets an invitation to speak on career day at school.  It wasn’t the career path I chose but it was one that chose me.  It is something that has been a fit for me at this time in my life.  So how does someone get into eDiscovery? Although you can’t get a college degree in eDiscovery, you can start in a field related to Computer Science or Legal. As an eDiscovery Specialist you need knowledge in both the computer technology and knowledge of legal procedures.  If I were advising someone interested in eDiscovery as a career, I woul

What Is Culling?

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Your client has dumped terabytes of data on you and now you have to go through it all and determine what is important to the case.   In the eDiscovery world we call this culling.  There is nothing really technical about it, culling is simply the process of removing content that is irrelevant while searching to identify content which is relevant. When someone uses the term "culling" I often have the image of a miner with a pick.  That's exactly what this is.  You are looking for the important stuff.  To do that, you must chip away the stuff you don't need to get to it.  Chances are that over 75% of the data you collect will never be produced.  Hundreds of hours are spent every year reviewing data.   Culling helps you in the front end to narrow down to data that you truly need. There are generally three types of culling: DeNISTing - Yes, this is a big time techie term but this is the method of removing all of the junk data such as systems files or other file formats wh

What Is a PST File?

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If you have to work with e-mail data, one format you will need to be familiar with are PST files.  These types of files are associated with Microsoft Outlook e-mails. PST is a "personal storage table" which is created by Microsoft Outlook to store data and items such as email messages, calendar events and contact information.   This data can be very valuable to you in your case.   How can you obtain a PST file from Outlook? Within Microsoft Outlook, click on FILE Select Open & Export Choose Import/Export option Choose Export to a file Select Outlook Data File (.pst) Select what you want to export Choose the location where you want the file to be saved. The next part is the tricky part of PST files.  How are you going to review them?   The most obvious answer would be to import them into your own Outlook.  STOP!  Think about this for a minute or two.  Importing another PST file into your own Outlook could taint the metadata.  You run a high risk of altering the data.  For

The Key To Unlocking Locked PDF Files

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PDF files are a convenient way to share electronic files as well as securing them but what happens when you encountered PDF data which has been locked down to prevent you from printing, editing or annotating them? In my experience, this has occurred when I have received bank records.  Bank of America is notorious for locking down their PDF files.  This is a good thing to protect the data but it can be challenging when you have to process them to meet discovery deadlines.  You COULD try to ask the originator to provide the password but good luck with that.  I have never had success with that method.  So is there a way to workaround locked PDF files? First, trying saving the PDF file as a .TIF file and then back to PDF format.  If this doesn't work, try this: Select the PDF to print Change printer to MICROSOFT XPS DOCUMENT WRITER Open the version created by Microsoft XPS Document Writer and then save back to PDF format. If you try to use Adobe's PDF printer driver, it will detect

How To Set Up Auto-Highlight Row for Reviewing Excel Spreadsheets

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Let's be honest.  Document reviews of Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets are a pain in the - eyes.   In the old days, you could just print them out and use a ruler to keep your eyes focused on the line you are working on.  Today as the data makes it nearly impossible to print them out, you need something similar on your screen to save your place while reviewing them. There is a little programming involved but don't freak out....if I can do it, you can do it too. 👉Go to top left corner and select the entire worksheet  👉Click on Conditional Formatting 👉Select New Rule 👉 Use a formula to determine which cells to format 👉Format Values where this formula is true: =OR(CELL("row")=CELL("row",A1)) 👉Click on Format , then fill to set the color, press OK 👉Click OK Now for the programming: 👉Click on Developer   (if you don't see this option, go to File > Options > customize ribbon > look in the right box and add check in Developer the click OK.) 👉Click

How To Convert .CDA files to MP3

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I can't tell you how many times I have had legal staff call me and ask to troubleshoot why they can't play files with .cda extension they have copied to a folder on the network or turned over in discovery.  The problem with files with .cda extension is that they will not play unless they are on the original disc they were copied from.   The .cda files are specifically designed to only play on disc - similar to music CDs we once put into the CD player in our car or boom box. For more information about .CDA files, see "What's The Deal With .CDA Files?" The best way to handle the issue with .cda files is to "rip" them from the disc.   Here's how to do this: 1.      Insert the disc into your disc drive 2.      Open Windows Media Player 3.      Select the disc drive location in Windows Media Player   4.      Select Rip CD 5.  Files will be converted to .mp3 6.  If you want to find where the files have been ripped to or change the settings, click on Rip Se

Do You Need An eDiscovery Specialist?

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Do you need to hire an eDiscovery specialist to manage your electronic case data?    If your caseload is growing with more and more electronic data and you aren't a "techie" then you might want to consider your options.  One thing you should not consider is simply delegating this task to someone in your office who "knows" computers in an attempt to save money.  You've heard the phrase "knows enough to be dangerous"?  You don't want to make more of a mess of things for yourself. So what are your options? Depending on the volume and complexity of the data, you could hire someone in-house, a contractor or a vendor. In-House:   This is someone who you will hire as a permanent or temporary part of your office staff.  If you are receiving daily or weekly volumes of electronic data, you will want someone with experience with intake, loading, processing and producing the data.   Contractor:  This is someone you could hire on a temporary basis who may

Game Changers In eDiscovery

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Is it possible that gaming system such as Xbox and Playstation could contain valuable electronic information?   Without a doubt, gaming systems have come a long way since Atari and Pac-Man.  They have become quite sophisticated technology.  As I have said in other blogs, any electronic device that can store memory has the potential for electronically stored information (ESI) which could become discovery.  Gaming systems can network with other gamers, personal data and messages are just as plentiful as with personal computers or smartphones.   Today's top gaming systems are: PlayStation 5 Xbox Series 10 Nintendo Switch PlayStation 5 Digital Edition Nintendo Switch Lite PlayStation 4 Pro Xbox One X What kind of personal information do gaming companies collect through online gaming?  Here are a few things which could be stored on a gaming system: Player's name Birthdate Address Mobile Number Email address Credit card information Virtual currency transactions Screenshots Game strea

Do We Still Get Paper?

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I once scoffed at the term the "paperless office" but I have lived to see eDiscovery transform from paper to electronic data.  I'm officially old. When I first began my career in litigation support, everything was in paper.  It wasn't until about seven years ago that I started to see the ratio change toward more electronic data than paper.  Very rarely did I have to scan banker's boxes full of paper. Paper is still out there. So in this age of electronic data, how do you deal with paper coming in the door? First, you need to sort through what you have and decide what needs to be converted to digital.  Unfortunately many hours of work have been wasted when the decision is made to "scan everything" without first culling through the paper to determine if the documents are important.  If you miss something you can always add it later.  There's really no need to scan every piece of paper. My rule has always been to scan what you need and lock up the paper

Are Smartphones Making You Feel Dumb?

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They're everywhere.  People are glued to their tiny screens everywhere you go.  We carry a lot of our data on smartphones today.  It's convenient but it is also a pain in the arse when you have to sort through the data in litigation.  So how can you get the data off of the phone and into something you can use in court? More than likely, you will need a forensic solution to do this. One way is through Cellebrite. I will be honest, I often cringe when I hear someone is providing us Cellebrite data from smartphones.  The good news is that the Cellebrite data is getting better to work with. So what is Cellebrite? Cellebrite is a company that provides tools for collection, analysis and management of digital data.  They offer solutions that can help you to extract pertinent data such as text messages, videos, photos, etc. from smartphones.  The information is then compiled into a report which you can use to search the data.  The report hasn't always been user-friendly but it is g

Who Do You Call?

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So you are in a small law firm or solo practitioner and you don't have the luxury of having a litigation support specialist on your payroll.  Who do you call if you need an expert in eDiscovery or processing data?  What can you do if terabytes of emails are dumped on you?   If you want to do it right, you need to reach out to an eDiscovery vendor.  It's still going to cost you money but do you really have the technical ability to spend your time trying to figure it out on your own?  You may be a whiz at using your computer and whipping out pleadings but you could be limited in processing eDiscovery data. So where do you start? Google eDiscovery or litigation support vendors in your area.  If you live in a big city, chances are there is a company there you can have a meeting with to discuss your situation.   Also, don't limit yourself to only working with local vendors.  Working remotely with eDiscovery vendors isn't as difficult as you would think especially after last

What Does DAT do?

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When working with eDiscovery and setting up electronic data to be imported into a review database, you will sometimes hear the techie folks refer to a "dat file".  This dat file is probably something you would rather not add to the memory storage of your brain but you also can't help but wonder what it is and what it does. Simply put, a .dat file is a file which databases use to import data and tell the data were to go.  The .dat file is one of the most crucial pieces of setting up a document review database.  You can open a .dat file using notepad or Excel but you probably don't want to.  If you open it in notepad you will see a bunch of text and symbols.  You won't make much sense out of it.  The dat file contains all of the information about you data.  It also points the database to the location of you images, native files and text.  So, if you are in the document database and you want to see the image, the dat file will tell the database where to pull it up so

How To Excel With Excel Spreadsheets

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One of the dilemmas law offices face in eDiscovery is when dealing with Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet files. Excel spreadsheets are typically used to organize data and perform financial analysis.  It is used for various business functions and often contains crucial data of evidentiary value.  The problem is that Excel spreadsheets can become fairly cumbersome and span information than can be held in the normal 8 1/2 x 11 page (portrait or landscape).  If you have ever printed an Excel Spreadsheet, you are familiar with what I am talking about.  Just one worksheet could take several pages to print.   When making a decision in putting this data in some sort of review platform, the choices are to either image them or only provide them in their native format. So what does that mean? When you attempt to image an Excel spreadsheet, the software is going to attempt to do the same thing as. you would if you printed it.  The decision to provide it natively only means you aren't going to image

What the heck is a HEIC file?

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"How do we play this file?" is a common question I am asked on almost a weekly basis.  Most recently I was asked this question about a HEIC file.  One of my attorneys was provided some HEIC files from an investigator and could not open them on her computer. So what is a HEIC file? A HEIC file is an image file format used most by Apple products for its pictures on their devices.  HEIC stands for High Efficiency Image File.  This new image container format compresses photos in order to save space.  HEIC image files are available on iPhone 7 and later models running iOS 11 or later operating systems.  Unfortunately most other operating systems don't support these files so unless you have a Mac or other Apple device, you need to figure out a way to view or convert these image files.  If you are using a Windows computer, you can't open HEIC files but you can convert them using either an online HEIC to JPG conversion tool or download software to convert them on your PC.   H

Hidden Sources of eDiscovery

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We already know that electronic evidence can be found in computers, smartphones and tablets but what other places have potential eDiscovery that you normally wouldn't think of.   Consider this - ANY device that holds memory can have ESI.   So what are these hidden places which could have electronic evidence? Virtual Reality Goggles - VR technology such as the Oculus series contain memory and could reveal internet searches or other personal data about the user.  Copying machines - Copying machines are more than just copying.  They also hold memory.  Some even hold and release copy jobs for the user.   Activity trackers - Fitness bands such as Fitbit devices can track personal information as well as GPS location.  Smart TVs - Televisions are highly technical entertainment systems with ability to store data about the user other than just their viewing habits.  Internet ready televisions can also reveal searches and patterns. Ring doorbells - These devices are becoming more popular

What Is An .M4a File?

I have been seeing an increase in .M4a files coming into my office.  I am normally familiar with .wav or .mp3 files so when these started coming through, I was curious about them.  Like I said before, in the "old days" you just got audio cassette tapes so you knew how to play them but today it is a bit more complicated because there are many file types out there and it can sometimes be a challenge to find the appropriate media player to play them.   So what is an .M4a file? It is an MPEG-4 file which streams audio.  It was originally used by Apple to distinguish audio files from their video files.  This file type was intended to be an improvement over .MP3 files delivering better quality audio recordings.   Windows Media Player and VLC will generally play .M4a files without the need to download any additional files to update your media player. .M4a files are still the preferred format for all audio included in apps that are released on the Mac and iOS App Stores as well as Ni