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Renumbering Offers More Than Compliance with Australian eDiscovery Rules

Organized folders of documents

In case you missed it, we recently announced the release of a renumbering feature in Nuix Discover®. In a sense, it’s a return to the future. The renumbering feature delivers the document and page numbering required for the Australian market while also maximizing flexibility and cost reduction of modern eDiscovery workflows.

A Bit of History

To help understand why renumbering is an important advancement, a little history lesson will help.

Although hard copy documents were the primary format used in legal cases pre-late 1990s globally, supporting litigation cases in Australia around the turn of the century required easy identification of documents to be included within the litigation case and the ability to transition from physical copy to a digital format.

Those within the legal industry would review the hard copy document and place a colored tag on the document. This tag (green, red, blue, etc.) identified if the document  was relevant, privileged, part-privileged or confidential. The legal team—or more to the point paralegals or litigation support—would photocopy the document and paginate the copied version with a numbering format such as:

  • Rel-xxxxxxxx where the document is relevant
  • Pri-xxxxxxxx where the document is privileged
  • Con-xxxxxxxx where the document is confidential
  • PPr-xxxxxxxx where the document is part-privileged

The xxxxxxxx reference represented the sequential numbering from page to page across documents. The paginated documents were then digitized to single page B/W TIFF format where the images were named in accordance to the document pagination.

Through communication across the legal sector within Australia on how best to handle and manage hard copy documents for litigation, it was agreed to use the following number format. The numbering format, or Document ID, became PPP.BBB.FFF.NNNN, with each segment defined as:

  • PPP – Client acronym
  • BBB – Box label
  • FFF – Folder label
  • NNNN – Represents the document in page sequential numbering and is limited to 9999 pages; if the page exceeds 9999, the folder level increments by one.

So, for example, page number one of a document for client “ABC” located in box number one, folder number one would be numbered ABC.001.001.0001. Each document for client ABC used within a litigation, arbitration, or investigation case would use this numbering schema throughout the case lifecycle.

Early Ringtail Numbering

When Ringtail (now Nuix Discover) was originally developed in Australia, the accepted practice was to use similar numbering and document presentation for electronic documents. Since the review of native files was rare in Ringtail’s early phases, electronic files were processed and presented in two file formats: single page TIFF image files and a combined PDF file. The Ringtail format allowed the PDF file to be positioned to display first, whilst the following page references were the single page TIFF image files.

As the physical numbering format represented the Party.Box.Folder.Document (sequential page) format, Ringtail referenced this format into a “Levels Structure” that mirrored how files were stored hierarchically on the file system and reflected the document identifier. For instance, a document whose starting page was numbered 777 and whose pages were stored in the folder structure ABC\002\003 would have a document identifier ABC.002.003.0777. If this document had ten pages, the next document would be numbered ABC.002.003.0787.

Evolution Over Time

This process created certainty for document identification. This was followed by the introduction within the Australian Federal Court of the 2006 Practice Note CM6 on Electronic Technology in Litigation, defining how documents were to be referenced and identified.

As Australia matured its numbering format, Ringtail users were not limited to using numeric levels, but could also use alphabetic characters. Over time, Ringtail users in Australia used the level structure to designate producing parties, custodians, and witness/expert statements and reports. These practices, along with the use of the standard Ringtail load file, which could be edited in Microsoft Access, became part of mandated discovery practices.

This works well for discovery and other work product where documents and pages are referenced. Authors of these disclosures or work product could be certain that those identifiers would always uniquely reference a specific piece of evidence, but also allowed both internal and external legal teams/counsel to use the document number across their witness statement, pleadings, expert reports, etc. while knowing that the associated reference to the document would NOT change at any point during the case.

Given the flexibility with the Australian numbering format and how it was represented within Ringtail, there were cases where the numbering for witness statements and expert reports were referenced as follows:

    • WIT – Witness statement
    • PPP – Client acronym
    • CCC – Associated witness name
    • NNNN – Statement version (as a witness can produce more than one version of a statement)
    • EXP – Expert reports
    • PPP – Client acronym
    • CCC – Associated expert name
    • NNNN – Expert report version (as an expert can produce more than one version of a report)

The same approach would be used for the reports generated by experts within a case, and where the expert is also associated to a representing client party.

When defining the Australian numbering format to electronic data, there are of course some downsides to this approach. For example, not all native files work well in a paginated form. Excel files can generate thousands of pages and are best reviewed in their native form. We’ve seen $250/hour attorneys/lawyers spend hours redacting TIFF renditions of an Excel file. Generating TIFF images also expands storage requirements. Even as the eDiscovery market has moved closer to using non-image-based PDFs, text-based PDFs also increase storage and require compute resources to generate.

Recapturing Control in Nuix Discover

With Nuix Discover’s renumbering feature, users can postpone the decision to renumber, opting instead for native file review that doesn’t require PDFs. Legal and investigation teams use native file review to conduct early data and early case assessment to cull data. Legal teams can choose to renumber after these data reduction steps, saving time, compute resource, and hosting volume.

The renumbering feature can be used at a page and/or document level, but also includes smart filtering to prevent the creation of PDFs that don’t image well, such as Excel files.

Many of our Nuix Discover clients across Australia have commented on the ease and speed in which they can apply the Australian numbering format across their cases within Nuix Discover. This feature has enabled our clients to facilitate the numbering workflow directly, helping build internal efficiencies within their organization.