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Litigation Support

: E-Discovery In the Trenches

Waivering, To and Fro

By Jerry Bui

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Crafting a list of keywords that will retrieve a maximum number of responsive documents on your matter requires planning and knowledge. Skilled practitioners in our field understand that it requires interviews with relevant custodians (to understand organizational lingo), and a firm understanding of the specific search technology that's employed. We also know that this methodology shouldn't only apply to the keywords within a document, but also in the TO and FROM fields in email metadata as well. Almost everyone has, at minimum, two email accounts - one for work and one for personal communication. Some of us have more and I've seen as many as twelve corporate email addresses for the same person at an organization. For example, "customersupport@xyz.com", "marketing@xyz.com", "helpdesk@xyz.com", "accounting@xyz.com", etc. While e-discovery typically targets work and personal email, this will certainly grow once other types of "e-communication" accounts are brought into the fold, such as Instant Messaging and cellular text messaging accounts.

If you are required to search email communication by one or more individuals and the available custodian information won't suffice, you will need to capture all variations in the TO and FROM fields (and possibly the CC and BCC fields). The format of these fields can vary widely by including just the email address (jbui@xyz.com), the display name (Jerry Bui), or some combination of the two. You might also observe some of other formatting wildness, such as the following:

CCMAIL: Jerry T Bui at XYZ_US
MS: XYZ/US/JTBUI
X400:c=US;a=CONCERT;p=XYZ;s=Bui;g=Jerry;i=T;

If you're looking at personal email accounts, then all bets are off. These tend to look like any of the following:

prettyflower_1963@yahoo.com
ifixmustangs@gmail.com
jb74_forensicexpert@msn.com

In this scenario, searching the TO and FROM fields for elements of the person's name just won't work. Keep in mind, too, that individuals can change their DISPLAY NAME alias numerous times over the course of owning an email account. Realize that you will need to tease this information out during custodian interviews and you will also need to sample the material yourself; look at the email headers and note the variations. You will want to include all variations of a person's name, email address, and display name alias as part of your search term list. Otherwise, any misunderstanding of what's included in the TO and FROM fields could cause you to overlook relevant communication.

Full post as published by E-Discovery In the Trenches on November 08, 2007 (boomark / email).

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