ESI Tracking Sheet Part 1: Dates, Dates, Dates
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Welcome to Part 1 of the ESI Tracking Sheet manual. The ESI Item Tracking Sheet is a versatile, powerful, tool which can also relatively low tech to create. However, regardless of whether you are using a specializes software to do it or a good old fashioned spreadsheet, a Tracking Sheet will forever change the way you manage ESI Items in your cases. As a lawyer I don’t usually make guarantees but I can guarantee that once you implement this tool into your cases you will never go without it.
Today we talk about the first step of creating and populating an ESI Tracking Sheet:
For purposes of this article series, we use a “demo set” of imaginary ESI Items: 1) Medical records; 2) Bank statements; 3) Text messages; 4) Email strings spanning several days; 5) A draft contract; 6) A fully executed contract; 7) A voicemail; 8) A video file; and 9) A hard copy handwritten page from a notebook, scanned into a computer.
Let’s get started.
Using Single Dates
When assigning a date to an ESI Item, the best practice is to prioritize a single date (day, month, and year). The most obvious example of this in our demo set is the executed contract. The date of the contract is the date of effectiveness or the last date of execution, at which point the entire contract is in effect. The point is to date the ESI Item at the time it becomes “live.” This will become important down the line.
For a draft contract, the question is a little trickier because a draft contract by definition is still “in progress.” In order to date it, you should look at:
Does the ESI Item have a date?
When was it last modified?
When was it created?
The first piece of information should be available from the face of the ESI Item. The latter two would be gleaned either from the metadata or from emails transmitting the contract itself. Again, the idea is to place the ESI Item in time as precisely as possible, especially if there are several iterations.
Voicemail and video files will have dates of creation and those should be used in the ESI Item Tracking Sheet.
Expressing Date Ranges
Some ESI Items have date ranges. The usual instinct is to just enter the date range, which sometimes is the right decision, but not always. The first principle continues to be that a single date is best. ESI Items that typically have multiple dates are: medical records, bank statements (this is a trick statement), text messages, and email chains.
Email chains are tricky because they often span several days. However, a “date range” is inaccurate, conceptually. The email chain does not cover a date range. It covers several specific dates over a period of time. In these cases, a good approach is to use the first date in the email string. The reason for this will become clear when the ESI Item Tracking Sheet is used as a case chronology. For those purposes, it is important to know when the conversation begins because that’s when it “comes into play.” If the conversation takes place over a few days, that information can be included in the Description. (More on that in a later article).
Medical records can span a single date of treatment, or weeks’ worth of treatment, or months or years. Obviously, a single date of treatment is easy to report. Lengthier periods of time can only be expressed as periods of time. As a rule of thumb, if the time period is less than six months I would use the exact first date and exact last date. For example: 1/1/2019-3/4/2020, or 1/3/2020 to 3/4/2020. If medical records span longer than six months, you should start breaking it up in inteligible chunks, depending on how “active” each of the time periods are. For instance, if you are talking about two or three years, your date ranges can span 3 to 6 months. If you are dealing with years or decades worth of records, you would want to break them up by year (1/1/2019-12/31/2019, 1/1/2020-12/31/2020). The goal is to create a date range that is granular enough so the team can find what it needs, but broad enough that you don’t end up with hundreds of entries you don’t need. The issue is that dating of medical records is case-specific. Sometimes each visit is important and needs to be listed separately. In some cases, that is not necessary.
Bank statements look like “date range” documents but they are not. A bank statement contains information about a date range but there is a bank statement date. That is the date which should be used in the ESI Tracking Sheet.
Text messages are good candidates to use the first-and-last date range, except if text messages span months or years. In that case, you may want to break them down by the entire month or the entire year like shown for medical records. In most cases, truthfully, my practice is to assemble all the text messages in a single file and enter the first-and-last date.
If a record applies to a year but is not dated, you should use the first date that corresponds to that record. Examples of this are Profit and Loss Sheets, Balance Sheets, or Annual Reports. In those cases, I choose the first day of that year (1/1/2018, 1/1/2019). The reason for this is that although the record may represent something generated at the end of the year, it contains information developed and “in existence” over the entirety of that year. In other words, the information in the record comes “into play” at the start of the year and therefore a reader looking at a chronology should know it exists at the start of that year.
Sometimes records are truly undated. If that is the case, you have two options: 1) find a date or 2) mark it as undated.
If the record appears undated, then metadata should be used to identify the “date of creation.” This locks the records in time.
If there is no date of creation but based on context the record can be placed in time contextually, then it should be dated on the first date of that time period. For instance, if an undated handwritten record is found in a notebook, efforts should be made to place it in a month or year. If it can be placed in a month or year, use the first day of that month or year to date the record. (An explanation regarding this decision should be included in the Description column to avoid misunderstandings).
If the record is truly undated then the ESI Item Tracking Sheet should reflect the word “Undated.” As a matter of process control, doing so indicates that someone has already reviewed the records for a date and found that it is undated. Leaving the field blank provides no information to the rest of the team regarding what was and not done. This is inefficient and creates confusion.
The Hierarchy of Dates
Based on the above, there is a hierarchy to dating ESI Items. Using the information available for each particular ESI Item. The goal is to place the ESI Items in time and give the reader the best information regarding date ranges. The hierarchy, therefore, is:
Earliest exact date