I have a lot of respect for Craig Ball’s insights into e-discovery in his monthly column in Law Technology News. It gets reprinted in online sibling Law.com and this month it’s a good one as Craig discusses the vast discrepancies in page counts you’ll find when looking at electronic media.
Craig tackles one of the most difficult topics in the industry. Difficult because it’s something that lawyers accept without question and vendors promulgate because it commonly means more money.
I don’t fault the vendors as much as the lawyers, because it’s the lawyers that demand a tangible page count so they can come up with a tangible number in tangible dollars. Unfortunately, when it comes to electronic data, lawyers can’t be bothered by the legal mantra “it depends.”
As Craig points out, it’s ludicrous to make a blanket statement like 1 GB = 500,000 typewritten pages, but that’s exactly what attorneys want to hear. Attorneys do not want to hear “well it depends on what resolution the documents were scanned with, and if they contained images, and if they were scanned in color or black & white;” or “it depends on if the documents were converted to TIF/PDF electronically, or if the Excel spreadsheets contained hidden columns, or if the Word documents contained images or tables.”
But all of these questions can significantly impact the file size of the data and should be thoroughly considered when providing a quote for an e-discovery project. A common practice today is to take a representative sliver of the data you will be processing and “sample” it through the system you’ll be using. This is really becoming one of the most accurate ways we have today for “guessing” what a project will cost.