Legal teams often choose to prepare image productions accompanied by load files, and many of them make simple mistakes or bad choices that make it unnecessarily difficult for the recipient to utilize the produced information. While helping a firm sort out a disastrous incoming TIFF production, I was inspired to write this post with the hope that it may help someone avoid an unnecessary dispute. Assuming that the e-Discovery processing leading to the production was performed competently, here are a few quick tips for preparing a proper TIFF production:
How to Prepare a Proper TIFF Production
1. Understand your discovery agreement
Surprisingly, many law firms do not honor the agreed upon production format, or change the production specifications unilaterally as they see fit. For example, if you agreed to produce processing exceptions as placeholders with the accompanied native file, do not remove them from the production. Or, if you agreed to produce in Concordance v10 format, do not send out Concordance v8 load files.
2. Normalize the images before endorsement
Normalize produced images before endorsing them so that the output has consistent dimensions, resolution and compression. Furthermore, normalized images allow the endorsements to be applied consistently in terms of size and location. You should not send out a mixture of LZW compressed TIFFs, JPGs; 200, 300 and 600 DPI images; portrait and landscape pages etc.
If the data set contains oversize images (e.g. technical drawings) whose legibility could be affected during normalization, those images should be handled with care. Depending on the scenario, they could be normalized to different specifications or left as is.
3. Use legible endorsements
You should ensure that the endorsement process pads the images so that endorsements do not overlap with the contents of the documents and cover the actual image, or disappear on dark backgrounds. Furthermore, endorsements should be performed using an easy to read font face and size (Arial 12 Bold is usually a good choice). Some smart endorsement tools can alert you if some of your designations are too long and will run off the page or overlap with other endorsements.
4. Do not leave Bates gaps
Take the time to ensure that the documents are Bates numbered and endorsed sequentially, without Bates gaps or overlapping Bates ranges. If gaps are unavoidable (e.g. you had to make last minute changes to a very large TIFF production and the deadline does not allow renumbering the entire data set), provide both image and text placeholders for each excluded page as opposed to providing a single placeholder for a Bates range.
5. Organize and label your files clearly
Each component of the production should be separated into clearly labeled folders such as “DATA”, “IMAGES”, “TEXT” etc. Furthermore, load files should be named so that they contain the volume ID as well as a description of what type of file each one is. For example, “ABC001 Concordance Loadfile.dat”.
6. Review and load test the TIFF production
Even though the documents may have been meticulously reviewed in the review database, produced documents should be loaded into a new production database and examined. This would serve as an additional quality control step to ensure that the load files work as intended, redactions and designations were applied correctly etc.
7. Use sanitized delivery media
If the TIFF production will be sent out on a hard drive, make sure that it is securely wiped before the production deliverable is copied onto it. Simply deleting the old data and copying a new deliverable usually means you will be sending your opponent unintended files which can often be recovered effortlessly.
For example, let’s assume that you had sent your e-Discovery service provider a hard drive with 20 PSTs for processing. They processed the PSTs, hosted the processed data, prepared the production deliverable after your review and delivered it to you on the same drive along with the source PSTs. If you simply delete the PSTs and send out the drive, you would essentially be sending your opponent the original native PSTs along with your TIFF production.
8. Encrypt the data
Whether you are sending the production deliverable via electronic file transfer, or on a physical medium, using strong encryption can go a long way towards making sure your sensitive data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Imagine that the courier company lost the package with the hard drive containing your TIFF production. Wouldn’t you be relieved if you knew that the drive was AES-256 encrypted and was virtually impossible to decrypt using today’s technology?