Control Numbers vs. Bates Numbers


When training a newbie in litigation support, I always explain to them the concept of control numbers versus bates numbers.

In order to create a litigation document database, we need every record (document) in the database to have a unique identifier field. The criteria for the contents of this field is as follows:

1. The value in this unique identifier field is a number and it will provide the attorneys with a reference when discussing the document.

2. The value (number) will always have leading zeros (i.e. 00001) so that we can easily sort on this field.

3. The value (number) will increment for each document.

4. The value may or may not have a prefix (i.e. ABC00001).

5. The name of this unique identifier field might be BegDoc, BegBates, DocID, Control Number or some similar variation. It is the decision of the person creating the database.

6. If the documents imported into the database have already been produced, the most likely value in this unique identifier field will be the beginning bates number for each document in the production.

7. If the documents imported into the database have not yet been produced, the value will look very similar, but will be referred to as a control number.

I have learned over the years, through experience, to assign control numbers that will not be confused as bates numbers by someone new to the case. To do this, I assign “control numbers with no prefix” to electronic documents  (i.e. 0000001) and I use an HC prefix for all scanned unproduced hardcopy documents (HC00000001). I do this consistently across all cases so that the attorneys know how to differentiate this unique identifier field between unproduced electronic documents, unproduced hardcopy documents and produced documents.

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