E-Case Management: Introduction to ESI Item Life Cycles


A piece of electronic information arrives to a case. In can be a video, an audio file, a document of any kind, text messages, emails, or images. That piece of electronic information is an ESI Item. That ESI Item is processed into a client file, and is eventually either produced, used in litigation, or specifically left out. That is the lifecycle of an ESI Item.


A document within a case has a lifecycle. But in order to properly account for that lifecycle, litigation teams must at all times, properly identify, catalogue, and track the information within any given document. It is not enough to save documents somewhere and it is certainly not enough to re-name them accurately. Much more goes into this process.

  • Saving in a “Receiving” Folder: When an ESI Item reaches an attorney or paralegal inbox, it will normally be saved “in the client file.” What that means, though, varies widely. It shouldn’t. When an ESI Item arrives, it should be saved in a receiving folder (which can be called Client Documents or Client Inbox). Within that folder, there are two subfolders: processed and unprocessed. An unprocessed file is of no use to the case, yet. Before anyone uses it for anything, it has to undergo a four step process. Once those steps are completed, the untouched original file is moved to “Processed,” which indicates it should not be used but it exists, somewhere else, bates labeled, re-named and catalogued.

  • Bates Labeling or Numeric Identifiers: When an ESI Item arrives at a firm, it is either bates labeled or it isn’t. If it doesn’t, it is imperative that it receive a bates label immediately. A bates label is a critical component of proper ESI Item tracking because it provides each ESI Item a unique numeric identifier. This is far more effective at recalling and using ESI Items later.

  • Re-Naming: Refer to “Naming Files,” above, for how to do this.

  • Re-Save the ESI Item: The bates labeled and re-named ESI Item is saved in a different folder (e.g. Plaintiff’s Bates Labeled Document) and catalogued.

  • Catalogue the ESI Item: There are a myriad ways to do this, but the simplest way is a good old excel spreadsheet.

(Creating a “Document Tracking Sheet” or "ESI Item Tracking Sheet" is a course of its own by Geek Like a Girl and we strongly encourage you to check it out).

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