Structured Data Analysis in E-Discovery

By on February 17, 2017

By Patrick Grobbel and Michael Busen, FTI Consulting

Electronically stored information can be boiled down to two types, unstructured and structured. Lawyers are most familiar with unstructured data (e.g., emails, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations). Structured data includes such things as transaction records or stock trading activity, and associated “fielded data.” While the concept may seem daunting, addressing it is a practical and defensible way to hone in on key information and inform case strategy for legal matters of any size. When made part of the standard e-discovery strategy, structured data can provide valuable information about document sets that might otherwise be invisible.

Structured data should be part of the early case assessment process. Counsel should address it at the meet and confer, to ensure the appropriate structured databases are included among the systems that will be part of the process.

Cross-team collaboration makes it easier to leverage various databases as the guide for document collection and review, and often one group already has key knowledge that can inform another’s case. Even in matters where paper documents, antiquated data sources (such as microfilm) or documents not in native form (such as transactional data provided in PDF format) are part of the review, structured data can play a role and be produced in an unstructured manner.

The key is for counsel to remain open minded about when and how structured data should be leveraged and begin thinking about it as a practical and critical resource for all matters.

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