In a previous article, I began a discussion about processing electronic discovery. Another step of the process is dealing with the exceptions. One result of attempting to process all of the electronic files is a list of files that were unable to be processed. We refer to these files as exceptions.
The service provider usually incorporates a quality control step that involves someone looking through the list of exceptions and troubleshooting why a particular file could not be fully processed. The processing software will try to provide an explanation such as “unable to extract text” or “unknown file type”. It might be a situation where an extra step needs to be taken before the file can be fully processed.
The goal is to make sure that all of the electronic discovery data is processed to the best of our ability. It is okay for some files to remain on the exceptions list, but we need to be able to explain to the legal team why the file can not be processed.
As an example, there might be a PDF file that has an exception error of “unable to extract text.” We might open the PDF file and realize that it is an image file and it needs to be OCR'd before the text can be extracted. We might manually OCR the PDF file and then extract the text.
A litigation support professional is responsible for requesting an exceptions list for every dataset that is processed. It is a good idea to review the list of exceptions and ask the service provider any questions you might have about why a particular file could not be processed. That way, if it comes up with the legal team, you will be prepared with a response.
Some other examples of a reason why a file could not be fully processed are:
- the file is corrupted
- the file is password-protected
- the file is a system file, like a DLL file
- the file is a database file, like an MDB file extension, which is an Microsoft Access database
- the file is an audio or video file
Typically, if a file can not be processed, the service provider will insert a placeholder into the document database for that file. The placeholder may include a message that says “exception file” or “file could not be processed.” There is no standard messaging to use. Any metadata about that file, including the filename, will also be included in the database, as well as a way to download the original file.