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Craig Ball: ESI does not equal Native Data

Posted by rjbiii on September 27, 2007

Craig Ball writes that electronically stored information is not necessarily native data.

Reviewing the correspondence between the counsel, I spotted the problem. The e-mail was there, but in rich text format. Like many lawyers new to e-discovery, defense counsel regarded electronically stored information and native data as one and the same. They’re not.

The IT department had dutifully located responsive e-mail on the mail server and furnished the messages as RTF, a generic format offering easy access and electronic searchability. Any computer can read RTF, so it’s a reasonable choice. But it’s not the native format.

He goes on to explain that e-mail’s native file is the container file in which the message is stored. At the enterprise level, that might be and MS exchange database (extension = .edb) or a lotus notes database (extension = .nsf). On workstations, the container file will likely be an outlook database (.pst). By the way, an outlook database is merely a modified MS Access database. The messages are just entries in database fields, so the “native format” of a message is something of an exercise in creative deduction.

And because of that, Mr. Ball states:

How, then, do we realize the considerable benefits of native production for e-mail? The answer lies in distinguishing between production of the native container file and production of responsive, non-privileged e-mail in electronically searchable formats that preserve the essential function of the native source, sometimes called quasi-native formats.

I’ve not heard the term “quasi-native,” but it seems a reasonably serviceable name for the concept. The rest of his article discusses the way in which a quasi-native production would work.

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