As we've discussed before, each ESI Item should receive either a unique numerical identifier. In the case of documents in .pdf format, bates labeling is usually employed. (For more about bates labeling check out our bates labeling article).
Depending on whether your office chooses to use unique numerical identifiers or bates labels, the ESI Item Tracking Sheet will look a little different, The point, though, is the same: provide a unique identity to each ESI Item.
Decide Whether to Use Unique ID Nos. or Bates Labels
Commentators disagree as to whether using bates labeling or unique identifiers is best. As a practicing attorney, there is nothing like bates labels. I have been saved numerous times by bates labels when faced with large numbers, inconsistent page-numbering, no page-numbering, and sets of various documents collected into a single document. In the middle of an examination, whether via deposition or trial, being able to refer to a Bates Label is an immediate lifeline.
However, if your firm prefers unique identifiers those can work too. We would advise they come with a prefix. The prefix should provide information regarding source or custodian of the document.
Here is what it looks like:
The bates prefix and bates numbers are either those placed on ESI Items by producing parties or your own firm. Bates Beg is the first number on the ESI Item and Bates End is the last number on the ESI Item. If the ESI Item only has one number, the BatesBeg and BatesEnd are the same.
You can also arrange the numbers and prefixes vertically, as shown below:
This format makes it easier to fit the spreadsheet onto Letter or, if necessary, Legal, which are standard printing formats.
Note also that neither BatesBeg nor BatesEnd needs to include all the zeros you would see printed on an ESI Item. (For reference, bates numbers are reflected as follows on each of the pages MachineLLC000045-000047, BanksBank000064-BanksBank000084). The number does not actually include the zeros and the zeros do not need to be included in the spreadsheet.
The Numbers Don't Have to be in Order
Spreadsheets can be sorted and re-ordered. As a result, the entries don't have to be put "in order" because they can be re-ordered at the end. See below different ways the data can then be sorted, including alphabetically:
It can also be ordered alphabetically and numerically if the ESI Items were inserted in the spreadsheet out order (which they often are). The spreadsheet can also be ordered by date (more on this in another post).
Using Bates Labels for Non .PDF ESI Items
If an ESI Item is not a .pdf but, rather, an item that cannot be bates labeled page-by-page, you can still assign a bates number to the file and insert it in the file name. For instance, an excel spreadsheet in native format would just be given MachineLLC_000100, An audio file could be labeled Widget_000034 and Widget_000035. The same would be true of an audio file. This way, each time would still get a unique identifier within the bates labeling system.
Unique Numeric Identifiers
If your firm would rather not use bates labels, you can still organize and label ESI Items with Identification Nos. This number should be reflected in the file name itself so it can be matched up to the spreadsheet.
The above spreadsheet has both an ID No. and the bates labels for clarity. You can see that the ID Nos. are not in order. However, sorting them by ID No. takes a few seconds.
You've reached the end of the ESI Tracking Sheet tutorial section regarding using and recording bates numbers. Our next section will discuss drafting and inserting titles for ESI Items.