Despite the exponential growth of electronic data, paper-based evidence remains vital in many legal matters. While electronic data can be captured and categorised with easily searchable metadata and text for analysis, turning hardcopy documents into similar case resources poses a unique challenge.
This is where experienced, professional litigation support providers, like LexTrado, come in. Through advanced litigation scanning technology combined with our expertise, we are able to far exceed the abilities and efficiencies of in-house or commercial scanning solutions.
How does it work?
LexTrado has strict processes in place to ensure the highest standards of data collection and analysis. Hardcopies are collected, usually in lever arch binders with pages and documents bound by paperclips, staples and other fastenings. This can include bound books and documents that also need processing.
With the understanding that at all times, documents remain the property of the owner, the utmost care is taken to ensure they are restored to their original condition through our meticulous process of preparation, scanning and reassembly.
Here’s how we turn hardcopies into digital evidence:
- All document fastenings are carefully removed to facilitate scanning.
- To ensure accuracy, barcoded slips are inserted between each physical boundary to ensure the scanning equipment captures these boundaries. The type of fastening used at each boundary is also recorded.
- All of this information from our litigation scanning software is used to reassemble the documents so they are returned as we found them.
Our scanning process is designed to provide the reviewing lawyer with high-quality images that don’t have any of the usual pitfalls and inconsistencies of standard photocopying. Our advanced scanning software is able to automatically:
- De-speckle – removes unwanted specks
- De-skew – straightens scanned images
- Orientate – changes page orientation from portrait to landscape and vice versa
All of this is done while our high-speed production scanners are scanning hardcopies at a rate of several thousand pages per hour.
In order to ensure the highest standards, we have two stages of quality control:
- Manual page-to-image check: Removal of black borders sometimes caused by copying
- Statistical check: Ensures no pages have been missed or duplicated, blank pages are removed, and boundaries have been accurately captured.
These processes are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to carry out in-house or by a company that does not have litigation scanning software and the required level of experience.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Once everything has been accurately scanned and captured, our software performs Optical Character Recognition (OCR). In this process, the text of each document is extracted to enable word or phrase searching. It’s important to note, however, that OCR will never be 100% accurate and no OCR software will produce the same results as another. There are a number of factors that affect the accuracy:
- Poor quality documents
- Faint text
- Missing characters
- Handwriting (which cannot be read by OCR as it only recognises individual characters)
In some cases, this comes down to the quality of the original documents, but it can also be affected by the quality of scanning and digitisation. LexTrado uses specialist, long-established, renowned OCR software that produces results which are on par with the highest global standards. Our software is also able to extract text in multiple foreign languages.
Exporting and numbering
After OCR has been applied, we can then export the images. In doing so, we apply individual page numbers (known as Bates numbers) as well as endorsements and messages per page. We also apply watermarks where necessary. The exported images can be either single or multi-page PDFs or Tiffs, depending on the specific case requirements.
There are many instances where simply picking up boundaries like staples or paper clips is not enough to actually determine the logical order or grouping of pages and documents. For example, imagine 20 pages stapled together in a binder for no reason other than to keep them together. In those 20 pages, there could be five different documents. Imagine also, for example, a fax cover sheet referring to other documents next to it which have not been stapled or clipped together.
This is where one of the most important aspects of processing hard copy comes in. Logical unitisation is the process of logically identifying the beginning and end of different documents, irrespective of physical fastenings or boundaries. This is absolutely crucial and without this process, there is a real chance of documents being missed on review.
After documents are scanned and logically unitised, we move to the final stage of hard copy processing – objective coding. This is a manual process performed by people who have considerable experience and who work from our precise methodologies to ensure consistency.
For example, in the case of a letter; the coder captures the properties of the letter such as author, recipient, CC, date, subject and more from the letter itself. These fields of information are populated so we have the vital information of each document within the collection.
By capturing these fields, we can not only search using OCR text for words and phrases, but we can also search, for example, for types of documents between one date and another and/or from one person to another about a particular subject. The value of this level of information to reviewing lawyers and their clients is immense and it greatly increases accuracy while saving both time and money further down the line.
The LexTrado difference
Through all of these expert processes, we are able to treat hard copy documents in the same way as electronic data when it comes to review and analysis for litigation – searchable by text and coded fields. Evidentially, this gives paper documents the same value as electronic ones.
Failing to choose an expert service provider for litigation scanning and digitisation makes the process of evidence gathering and analysing considerably faster and more accurate. LexTrado has an expert team of eDiscovery specialists available to assist. Contact us or request a free consultation today.